A boost for Microsoft Surface? Workers demand keyboards with their tablets

A boost for Microsoft Surface? Workers demand keyboards with their tablets

Summary: When it comes to work, typing on glass just doesn't cut it, as workers say they want keyboards with their slates.

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Keyboards may be gradually losing out to touchscreens, voice control, and gesture recognition (while continuing to habour disagreeable detritus), but they're not going away soon, even as more workers use tablets.

Standalone tablets have largely been seen as devices for consuming content, for watching movies and surfing the web, rather than as content creation tools. Adding a physical keyboard is one way to make tablets enterprise-friendly and better suited to tasks that require more user input, such as writing memos and editing spreadsheets.

Analyst group Forrester said that while the bulk of tablets used by information workers offer "distinctly touch-first experiences", two thirds of workers believe they would benefit from using a keyboard with their tablet — at least part time — for word processing, email, and when using custom apps developed by their employers.

The analyst's survey found that workers' top choice is a tablet with a keyboard, which effectively turns it into a small laptop: with more than a third (35 percent) of information workers favouring this design.

In the Apple ecosystem it's vendors such as Logitech and Zagg that can give the iPad this option, while in the Windows world this might point you to the Surface tablet or Lenovo's ThinkPad Tablet 2 with Bluetooth keyboard.

Forrester notes: "Interest in this laptop mimicking keyboard scenario parallels today's cannibalization data, as 35 percent of information workers who use tablets for work report using their laptop less often already."

A slightly smaller group of workers (27 percent) said they prefer a wireless keyboard, with Forrester noting that Samsung offers a full-size keyboard accessory for use with its Galaxy Tab line, while Apple's Bluetooth keyboard also fits the bill.

About a third of workers want to stick with touch only – so long as they can use a computer for work that requires lots of typing: with 34 percent agreeing they would "rather just use a regular tablet without a keyboard and use a computer for tasks that require a lot of typing".

While keyboards aren't the essential tool they once were, they aren't going to disappear anytime soon, said Forrester analyst JP Gownder: "Some classes of workers who use tablets — for example, retail associates working in stores — might never need an accessory keyboard. But for information workers specifically, having the flexibility of a keyboard will continue to matter for the next decade."

The research was based on a survey of 1,070 North American and European information workers.

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Topics: Tablets, Enterprise Software

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130 comments
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  • Say One Thing, Do Another

    Tablets with keyboards have been available for most of the last decade, in case you've forgotten. Didn't Bill Gates say in 2001 that Windows XP was designed for tablets? But Windows tablets have never sold.

    It's the same kind of phenomenon as all those surveys "showing" that large numbers of Android users would defect to another platform for their next phone. If they did what they said they would do, the platform they switched to would be bigger than IOS by now.

    In short, don't pay too much attention to marketing surveys. Perhaps the best way to look at it is they're not answering the question you think you're asking them.
    ldo17
    • ?

      But android is bigger than IOS right now.... much bigger
      fgfiad
      • RT is the future for the masses.

        For the masses, RT is much better then Atom based tablets. Most of poeple do not need to install PC apps on tablets. They just browse, check e-mails, work with office. And RT is perfect for that. RT devices are thinner, cheaper, and with better battery life. And the most important part is, that it is safer for normal users. They do not install any crap on those machines which will make them slow after a year!!! I think this is the biggest benefit of RT. I would recommend it to any person who is not IT geek and just need a device to consume the net.
        RT is the best os, that MS has made, but poeple will need time to find out. Specially, when "IT gurus" will spread that it is already dead. :)
        Dijkstra()
        • WIndows RT born to fail

          you are crazy, Windows RT ta dead, is easier you resurrect a pharaoh
          Windows RT was slow on a Tegra 3 ( surface RT )
          Henrique Dourado
          • Not unlike you, HD

            You know, the "born to fail" part.
            William Farrel
          • It started off slow

            But then they optimized it, and it's pretty good.
            Michael Alan Goff
          • If RT is dead then iOS is dead...

            ...because they both serve the exact same purpose. A limited functionality OS primarily for consuming content. RT just has the added ability to use fully functional Office.
            jumbledmess
          • I don't think so...

            The difference is that iOS has a large installed user base, an abundance of software, owns the enterprise market and has a happy user base.

            A more accurate statement would be: because RT servers the same market as iOS it will not be able to compete and will die off, which is exactly what is happening.
            KBabcock75
          • IOS doesn't own the enterprise market!!! Please correct your statement

            Heck Apple Doesn't even have a server! Devices that can Domain Join are true enterprise ready devices. That will never be a device provided by Apple!
            ITMedCEO
          • Wrong on two counts

            iOS is currently the most-used mobile OS in the enterprise.
            Apple DOES have a server--much smaller and less expensive than anybody else's.
            Vulpinemac
          • Except for Android...

            Much cheaper.

            And is approved for government use.

            And happens to be about 75% of all mobile devices...
            jessepollard
          • Was it dead?

            Surface RT will end up selling by over 2m. I recommend 5m either by discount or give away. What is important now for Microsoft is that it must ensure there are between 3-5m Surface RT in circulation to kick in profit from advert and Apps. They will generate more income than loss in price cut/discount
            jonnybr
          • My Surface RT...

            is no slower than any ipad/android tablet I have used. Your hate for MS is making you spew untruthful garbage. Best leave this to the adults.
            kstap
        • Good for its purpose ... depending on the purpose

          The Surface RT (with a type cover) may be a nearly perfect device for those who currently use computers mainly for simple content-consumption purposes with little content creation, but the same could be said for an iPad or Android tablet with a physical keyboard; the ASUS Transformer line with its dockable keyboard comes to mind, but any tablet with a Bluetooth keyboard will serve the same purpose. Surface RT offers a same-brand keyboard that blends in with the overall look of the tablet, and that is an advantage over, say, my Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 with a separate third-party Bluetooth keyboard.

          The Surface Pro has that same advantage, and also runs the "full" version of Windows 8, making it more suitable for those who need more computing power for content creation or the ability to run Windows applications. But it's priced competitively with ultrabooks, some of which offer even more power or greater battery life; its only important advantage over ultrabooks is the ability to un-dock from the keyboard when desired, and that may be important in some situations.

          But when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. I have different devices for different purposes. My smartphone is the most mobile, but its tiny size makes it hardest to use for serious computing. My main desktop is the easiest to use for everything I do, but it isn't even remotely portable, much less mobile. Just as a good carpenter seldom buys everything in his/her toolbox at one time, I bought each device as I could afford it, and I upgrade as I can afford it. (My laptop is a big, heavy notebook; I'll replace it with an ultrabook someday, perhaps.)

          A Surface RT may be all some people need, but I couldn't get by with just a Surface RT. Scratch that -- i probably could get by with only a Surface RT if I had to, but it would be a compromise that I don't care to make because I do many things that no single device can do well. And there are a few things the Surface RT can't do at all, such as making phone calls from my car or running certain applications (both traditional Windows and Linux software) that I happen to like.

          Use what works well for you; it's all about choice, after all. And don't ever think you have to limit yourself to just one device, because when it comes to the things we do with computing devices one size doesn't fit all very well.
          wluffman
          • Finally!

            Appreciated the formatting wluffman. Thanks!
            The Danger is Microsoft
        • Not Seeing It

          What niche is RT supposed to fit into? It is the "netbook" of tablets.
          On the other side, I have an iPad4 with Zagg keyboard - use it infrequently, a Transformer with keyboard dock - use is very frequently, and a Surface Pro with Keyboard - use it very frequently.
          Not seeing how RT fits.
          rhonin
      • Not in the Enterprise

        Apple iOS owns the enterprise at this time. Android is making its in roads with the youth and people looking for a low cost entry point.
        KBabcock75
        • Please look up the definition of an Enterprise Ready Device!!!

          Apple's weakness is Enterprise!!!
          ITMedCEO
          • It seems the enterprise could care less about Enterprise Ready

            They're more concerned about how it works for THEM. Enterprise Ready has a tendency to mean Over Complicated.
            Vulpinemac
          • could care less -> couldn't care less

            Get it right!!
            hackerish