BYOD: Be safe with a notebook, leave the tablet at home

BYOD: Be safe with a notebook, leave the tablet at home

Summary: Many folks are bringing their own device to work, and a common question asked is notebook or tablet? Since we're talking work, better leave the tablet at home.

TOPICS: Mobility, Tablets
JK iPad with Keyboard

I've made it clear in past coverage that I can do a lot of my work using a tablet instead of a notebook computer. The tablet work can be done with either the onscreen tablet keyboard, or better with an external keyboard for lots of text entry. I've also repeatedly stated that this depends on the work tasks you need to do. What most folks should do with BYOD programs is take the easy route and bring a notebook to work.

A lot of people are actively considering going whole hog with a tablet and leaving the notebook behind. While many people can probably do that just fine, it's not without risk. We are talking work here, so the one task you absolutely must get done quickly that turns out to be impossible on the tablet will be a show stopper.


Tablets are certainly capable devices, and for the most part much easier to deal with than notebooks so it's not surprising many are trying to go with the former and leave the latter behind. I am quite happy using a tablet for many work functions where I would have previously used a notebook. But notebooks are better at some tasks than the tablet, and most people will end up regretting going the tablet only route.

Almost every day I hear from someone asking the tablet/ notebook question on the behalf of a "friend/colleague/family member" and my answer is always to go with the notebook. Nothing will turn you from hero to zero faster than recommending a tablet over a notebook, only to have the tablet user need to do a work function that can't be done without a notebook. You'll be off the Christmas list pretty darn quickly.

While some tasks that seem to require a notebook can actually be done on a tablet with a little extra work, when a work deadline looms large is not the time to be dealing with figuring out how to make tablets work. The notebook is safer, just turn it on and get the work done. That's the best approach for most people and what I recommend.

That's not to say the tablet can't do a lot of work tasks, but for most it serves a better role as an auxiliary device. Having a tablet alongside a notebook is a useful tool, and while some can get away with only the tablet most can't.

With tablets getting cheaper, like the $199 Nexus 7, if your friend/colleague/family member can afford it tell them to get one in addition to the standard notebook. Don't risk being a zero, the notebook will better serve most BYOD participants. Having the tablet too will let them see how it fits their work needs without risk.

Of course, the Microsoft Surface tablets with keyboard case may straddle the notebook/tablet fence. We'll have to review this once they are available to buy.

Topics: Mobility, Tablets

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  • For anyone who argues these are business devices

    Don't get me wrong, I like Tablets as much as anyone but, Anyone who argues these are predominantly being used for business needs to look no further than the App store...

    The top grossing App is Comixology and that clearly shows that more people are using these things for entertainment than for BYOD business functions.
  • Tablets are ok if using it for work means only using work app that were

    designed to be run on handheld tablets. That's a pretty small segment so far. If most of your work is going to be done with it not in your hand, ie with it laying on a desk, an ultrabook is the way to go. Get a touch screen convertible if youre going to be using lots of touch apps. Ultrabooks are portable enough if youre going to be carrying it around some but not mainly holding it while using it.
    Johnny Vegas
  • Waiting on Surface

    I am waiting on the Surface with Win 8 Pro to be able to go completely tablet. I am considering the Asus lines also but still lean towards the Surface right now based on current experience with the Asus Transformer which I still really like which is why I haven't ruled it out entirely.
    • worth the wait

      I posted below, but I was invited 9 weeks ago to try out a tablet running Windows 8 and the new Office. It has completely replaced my laptop, which was a big surprise to me. I think it will be worth the wait.
  • Depends on work and use

    I am always trying to find newer, better, quicker, low effort, stranger ways to do "work".
    One area I find a tablet makes sense: work provides you with a notebook.
    Work provides me with a moderately hefty Lenovo 400T which while good (for work) it has some heft to it. What I do for a day of meetings, is load all the data I need and take my tablet (Transformer) to the meetings.
    No worry about battery and it has all the basic work stuff I need.
    If I have a "creation" meeting, then yes, I will take the Lenovo.

    Each has their place. But the battery and weight are a clear winner for those long conference room filled days.....
    • exactly

      if we're talking office apps or some other traditional office function then sure, but since tablets have made great headway into other fields that are not office/work environments then... yes, depends on work and use
  • Good article James

    Would anyone recommend someone replace their notebook with a smart phone as their only work device? I don't think so, because it would be foolish.

    iPads and Android tablets are little more than oversized phones. Just beause they are easier to carrier doesn't mean they are good alternatives to computers with full featured operating systems.

    Current tablets are handy when nothing else is available, but they have a long long way to go before they are suitable for most work environments.
  • I agree...

    I have using an Android tablet (Acer A500) for over a year now and I have found that aside from using Evernote (for jotting down some random points during discussions etc.), I use it mainly as a device for reading, watching movies and surfing the web (all of which are very conveniently done on the tablet). For work, I currently use a ThinkPad X201, which I will upgrade to a T series (need a bigger screen). Since my work involves a lot of writing, making presentations and working with spreadsheets, the tablet is useless. As of now I have resigned myself to carrying three devices - a smartphone (which doubles up as a music player), the tablet (for the reasons I mentioned above) and the laptop (again, for reasons I mentioned above). I just wonder is the Microsoft Surface (not the RT version) would help me cut down on the devices I carry around. As James says, we'll just have to wait and see.

    On another note - I am thinking of changing my tablet - the Acer while very good is quite hefty. But I do like the 10 inch screen - the USB was convenient, but I can live without it - the MicroSD card is absolutely essential. I am thinking about buying the new Transformer - I considered the Nexus 7, but no MicroSD card and 7 inches of screen is not too enticing. iPad is out of the consideration as it is too expensive and I have never been into the Apple eco-system. So, is the Transformer the best available at the moment? Needs to last about 12 to 18 months by which time I think the market will determine the fate of the Surface.
    • correction

      Since there is no edit feature...

      (1) the first sentence should read: I have been using....
      (2) Last sentence of first paragraph should read: I just wonder if the Microsoft Surface...
  • It all depends...

    on how you define 'work,' doesn't it?

    Not everyone fills in spreadsheets or writes reports all day.
  • Hmmm

    You know what that tablet with keyboard dock looks like ?
    A Notebook !
    • Not exactly like a notebook

      Yes but the weight, size, and the battery life don't compare. My Asus will run for 10-12 hours with the keyboard doc which packs in another battery. It's also lighter and smaller. Highly, highly portable and when I don't have a lap, I can pop off the keyboard. There are benefits to the technology.
  • Having said that...

    When the right 7 inch tablet comes along I will grab one for use on-the-go.

    It's GOT to have an OLED display though. That new Toshiba Excite got me going for
    a minute but no HDMI out was a deal breaker.
  • Why would a person want to bring their home computer/tablet to work?

    Where did these claims come from?

    Contractors use their own equipment, or at least company equipment that the contractor has to plug into clients' networks...

    It's like everything went from crickets to some magical "I wanna bring in my goodies" request.

    How many people does one work with that constantly ask or demand to bring in their own tools? And in what fields?
    • Exactly!

      Outside of the Good Spftware we tried for phones, and it was horrible, we really aren't seeing anything like they claim here on ZDNet!
    • Bloggers

      They're bloggers. And they basically run their own show and make up their own rules.

      Hence, when they decide to use their own devices for work, it becomes a worldwide trend in their minds.
    • A logical argument that seeks an answer your question, HypnoToad72

      Why would anyone participate in a BYOD movement? A good question especially if the employee works for a corporation that supplies the employee with computer access.

      The logical rebuttal to your most reasoned argument against a BYOD movement begins with the following example.

      Why would an employee bring a personal smartphone (or "dumb" phone, for that matter) to his place of employment and use that device while at work? (BTW, most employees that have need of telephone access while at work usually are supplied with telephones on site.)

      The answers to that question can also be applied to a BYOD movement involving personal laptops and tablets.

      An employee uses his smartphone to satisfy a need for mobile telecommunications. (That reason applies to both dumb and smart phone use.) Cell phones also satisfy a basic need for information exchange. Obviously, if the employer also supplies a mobile phone to their employees, than those needs are met. However, regarding smartphones, an employee might find a smartphone's ability to run useful applications not available thru any employer's supplied devices reason enough to participate in a BYOD movement.

      Extrapolating those arguments to BYOD laptops and tablets, the primary reason that such a movement exists can best be summarized in the following condition. The employer DOES NOT supply sufficient computer resources (usually mobile in nature) to it's employees.

      In an age that "empowers" the employee to find solutions to company problems, such an employee would not hesitate to participate in a BYOD movement if that action lead to a successful work related solution to a problem.

      Your argument against a BYOD movement, HynoToad72, relies on only ONE condition being fulfilled by the employer or the employee's corporation. That is, ALL computing devices that an employee needs to achieve a satisfactory solution to a work related issue has been provided.

      That is a very Big If and something that is open to debate. However, what management deems satisfactory (regarding supplied tools to do the job with) and what the employee actually requires are two different things.
      • Want vs Need

        Lets not confuse the issue with an employee who just wants the latest gadget vs. a proven company provided computing device. The nut of BYOD is not employees that don't have adequate tools. It's a vocal minority that feel entitled to do whatever they want and are not happy with the company smartphone, laptop etc and prefer (insert) device instead. The problem is the employee provided devices 9 times out of 10 fails to meet the standards the corporation needs to adhere to.

        - Concerns with data loss
        - Encryption requirements
        - device management
        - software / hardware versions (life cycle)

        These employees have little to no regard for security, managed services, compliance or legal requirements. They use whatever they wish in the pursit of being "productive". At any point if they were audited to see if they were complying with corporate goverance policies I bet their (device of choice) would fail.

        BYOD is really about not wanting to deal with all the controls / restrictions typically in place on a corporate goverened device. They want privacy to do whatever they want, access websites / services blocked, put corporate data into whatever App they want etc.

        So I question if anyone would want to BYOD device once it has the same controls layed onto it - we know the answer is no. Why the heck would anyone want their personal device restricted, forced to be encrypted etc?
        • Cost Benefits

          If I use my smartphone for work and I accept the security restrictions they cover my monthly bill.
          2 cell phones plus 4G hotspot.
          btw: the only major security restriction so far has been iCloud access on my iPhone. My Android minimal at most.

          Fair trade.
          • Not the standard

            We provide no subsidy as that would eat into any cost savings doing BYOD. The capital costs for hardware are minor compare to the ongoing monthly service fees. We did a study of our internal costs and wireless contracts and with our pricing discounts it would wind up costing more.

            This is the big issue with BYOD, there will not be a consistent program as each company will adopt different aspects. To a degree smartphones are the easiest to embrace as they can be effectively managed as long as employees accept that control. As you expand to tablets and laptops it gets very sticky. Would you want your company enforcing certain applications onto your device? Restricting Apps based on potential risks?

            My point (and what we have seen with our program) is for every person that accepts to enter the program, 50 choose to remain with the corporate standard. So in the long run the BYOD program will be more expensive to support as it's an added support, has costs and is now outside of established standards.