Originally Posted by Lorin Schultz
I get the strategy, and here's hoping it works, but I just don't see tablets really taking hold for most workers. The form factor just isn't as good as a plain ol' keyboard and mouse with a big screen or two for either looking at stuff or inputting stuff.
Admittedly there are all kinds of opportunities for new applications, like retail floor staff and nurses, but for jobs that don't require carrying a computer around with you, like a travel agent or stockbroker, a tablet is just more hassle to work with than a traditional PC layout.
Maybe if Apple creates some kind of dock (for lack of a better term) that lets users tie it to a real keyboard and maybe an external monitor it could take a real crack at the desktop, but I just don't think a tablet is particularly well suited to cubicle dwellers.
Either way, it'll be fun to see how hardware for the post-PC era plays out, whether the hardware evolves to accommodate working styles besides stab-and-swipe while holding the device, or if people will just adapt to interacting with flat computers.
Tablets are significantly more useful for certain things, but it's also a slipperly slope for a few others, namely:
1) Fast food, sit down family restaurants, pubs/bars, and pretty much any place that typically suffers from "poor customer service" due to understaffing.
- I was once at a McDonalds where they had someone come out and take orders from the people in line using a portable device so that all they had to do was pick up the food, half way there McDonalds, half way...
- Microsoft's original Surface technology, was a projection underneath a table, which suggested use would be food establishments, Microsoft pretty much got no traction out of that.
2) Conventions. I can't tell you how much more useful an iPad is over anything else. It lasts an entire day as a POS terminal or slideshow, even letting potential readers browse content that isn't at the convention. It also works to get sales leads.
- Most art conventions don't have power at the table/booths, and handing your cell phone to a stranger for Square/Paypal is a bit of a risk. But cash is riskier.
- Convention goers likewise can use tablets more effectively to take pictures of stuff they are interested in, and with comic/anime conventions, even store reference data for the artist to use.
3) Management/Supervisory staff in a business can use tablet devices instead of pushing paper forms around. I find it really sad that despite everyone having email at a call center, they still use any paper at all. It seems like they only print out stuff they want their employees to memorize, and then turn around and collect+shred it so it doesn't leak out of the company by employees taking it home.
- Some people even had two desktops, one for customer data, one for call center management/inter-office communication. The second desktop was entirely unnecessary as the customer data was via a thin client already.
4) Staff out on call/delivery
- Pretty much all civil servants were using RIM blackberries, entirely for email and nothing else. They had to tow around a laptop to view building plans or bylaw documents that was synced from a central server in the morning and when they returned to the office, wasting time.
- The local power utility uses Windows Surface RT's to read meters of those who's smartmeters aren't working. They hate them.
- A delivery company uses a Windows Mobile based cellular pen-based-touch/scanner/gps device, and had to reboot it 5 times before it would accept a signature, and even then most of the signing area was "broken"
It's a slippery slope when some businesses switch to tablets to "cut costs" rather than "improve efficiency", replacing laptops with iPad's that run a thin client is probably the worst example of a business not knowing how to use them. Thin clients drain the battery life rather quickly. The purpose of a native "App" should be to take advantage of the hardware, otherwise it should be a HTML5 experience than can be used on all devices. There are plenty of "app" versions of websites (mainly newspapers) that the App offers no advantage over their website aside from maybe reducing the amount of non-relevant site cruft that shouldn't be there in the first place. Some Apps are used as a walled-garden mode for their website instead, which misses the point entirely of reading something on a tablet. I just want to pick up the device and use it, I don't want to have to login to every site just to read it.