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.

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.

Related tablet stories

Topics: Tablets, Enterprise Software

About

Steve Ranger is the UK editor-in-chief of ZDNet and TechRepublic, and has been writing about technology, business and culture for more than a decade. Previously he was the editor of silicon.com.

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.