There's more to tablet productivity than hyper-portability

There's more to tablet productivity than hyper-portability

Summary: What is it about tablets that makes them far more productive to use than notebooks or desktop computers? One feature is their portability, but we shouldn't ignore the fact that these devices also offer a 'low drag' way to check tasks off our 'to do' lists.

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TOPICS: Tablets
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(Image: Apple)

In the course of a few years, tablets have shifted from being a niche device into a mainstream product for enterprise and consumers alike, and has helped boost productivity in a number of key work areas. But what is it about tablets that makes them such colossal productivity boosters?

Forrester Research analyst JP Gownder says that it is the "hyper-portability" of these devices that boosts user productivity.

"In our Forrsights Hardware Survey," wrote Gownder, "we asked IT decision-makers who either support tablets today or plan to support them soon, why they would do so. IT decision-makers' No. 1 answer, at 62 percent? Because tablets are a 'more portable form factor than the traditional laptop'. This response eclipsed end-user preferences, ease of use considerations, and other possible answers."

Another factor that Gownder attributes to productivity boosting is what he calls "device hand-offs", which means passing a piece of work between multiple devices, and using cloud storage to integrate desktop, notebook, smartphone, and tablet. This means that work is no longer tied to a particular device or place.

While I believe that both these points are valid, there's another aspect to tablets that help them boost owner productivity, and that's how low drag they are to use.

What do I mean by "low drag"? Essentially, it means that tablets have certain attributes that make them far better suited to certain tasks than any other device currently available. Here are some of the aspects of the tablet that I see as low drag.

  • Fast start-up — High end tablets such as the iPad or Nexus 7/10 can be up and ready for action as soon as you press the power button or flip open the cover

  • Ease of use — I've not come across a well-made tablet that's difficult to use. Even tasks that people find complicated on a PC — such as setting up wi-fi — are easier on tablets

  • Apps are more focused — Full-blown applications such as Microsoft's Word, Excel, or Outlook are crammed with distractions. If getting words on the screen or sorting through your pile of emails are your goals, then the cut-down apps found on tablets are far better

  • Dive in, dive out — Fast on/off, combined with focused, easy-to-use apps, makes tablets ideal for those tasks where you dive in, do a bit, then dive right out again. This allows big jobs to be broken down into smaller, more manageable jobs, and those jobs can be done while on the move

  • Focus on triage — The last thing you want to be doing is spending hours sitting at your desk triaging your email and social media life. Tablets offer a quick and easy way to do this while on the move.

In my experience, both personally and based on what I've seen and read about, tablets have represented a massive productivity boost both for individuals — who get more done in less time, and feel they are wasting less time by being able to be productive in places that they couldn't be with notebooks — and enterprises, alike. The tablet has changed the way we work, and I think that we're just beginning to tap into what this remarkable device has to offer.

The notebook is no longer the king of productivity — the tablet is. Long live the tablet.

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Topic: Tablets

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49 comments
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  • Phablets?

    The Android/Apple tablets are nothing more than oversize cell phone without the cell phone features. Why not phablets instead of tablets? With a tablet and a smartphone you probably have a data bill of at least $60 and it's worst if you are one of those unfortunate ones with limited plans. So why not a phablet that has screen size, texting, call features and one data bill to pay?
    lares3k
    • We already have those. They're called laptops running

      Skype software.
      baggins_z
    • Agreed about phablets.

      I like tablets, but since the galaxy note II, I now just use that most of the time. There isn't much I would do on 7 or 10 that I can't on a 5.5". I don't see the point of watching movies on even a 10", when I'll watch on a big screen TV. Since installing the swiftkey flow keyboard, I actually prefer using a smaller mobiile device as you don't have to slide your fingers around too far.
      There are so many reader apps like flipboard, that I don't end up doing much with an actual browser, since that's not terribly fun on a small screen.
      drwong
  • Laptop /PC is the king of productivity.

    Sorry, I totally disagree. The points you mentioned are mostly non-sense. Tablets may be good to do simple tasks like to read new tweets or to see if you have a new email. But I don't think that can be counted as productivity and give the productivity crown to tablets, totally absurd.
    Owllll1net
    • +1

      Forrester (and ZDNet for citing) fail. Tablets are still only good for content consumption. Too early to tell what Win 8, the Surface Pro, and other devices can really do. iPad and Android tablets and 'productive' in the same sentence in a business context? Please.
      beau parisi
      • That's only true if

        you consider the keyboard to be the only productive input source. For many people and many jobs that is true. But for others handwritten notes, checking off items, recording video and audio and taking photos are very productive input sources.

        I can send out a salesperson with only a tablet and have signed contracts and questionnaires filled to completion. I can send operations managers out to generate work orders and have their crew complete them and bill against them using only a tablet. I can have our auditors do a complete inventory of our stock using only a tablet. Doctors and nurses or anybody else who's used to carrying a clipboard around to record and digest information can now do so with a tablet.
        Michael Kelly
        • Those tablet scenario won't work on toy tablets

          That's where Win 8 tablet rules.
          Owllll1net
          • Shouldn't you be cleaning your room?

            When your mommy gets home, she's going to be angry that you spent the afternoon trolling the Internet again instead of doing your homework and cleaning your room.
            BillDem
        • "Content Completion" versus "Content Creation"?

          Perhaps there needs to be a THREE-WAY distinction. Instead of "Content creation" versus "Content consumption", what you are really suggesting is basically an in-between use: Content COMPLETION.

          A tablet certainly wouldn't be optimal for creating a form from scratch and then filling it in, and selecting numerous checkboxes on a standard form certainly is more than "content consumption".

          A tablet would probably be optimal for forms THAT DON'T REQUIRE A LOT OF USER-INPUTTED TEXT. For instance, a multiple-choice test but not half multiple choice and half essay. Similarly, our office deals a lot with police department Crash Report forms. They have check boxes or boxes that take numbers for road conditions, etc. But they also require text input with driver's names, addresses, etc.

          QUESTION SEEKING GENERAL COMMENTS: Regarding "Content completion", what TYPE/PERCENTAGE of input would make a tablet non-desirable versus what type would make it preferable?

          Obviously "all-text input = not optimal" versus "all checkboxes = optimal". But for designing future apps, etc. what are the "in between" or "input mix" that designers should consider?
          Rick_R
          • Your driver's license scenario

            and a lot of your name/address input could be solved with software that can scan the barcode on the back of the license. Again that's something a tablet can do to make you more productive.
            Michael Kelly
          • And a notebook can't?

            And then there's the whole 'TabletPC' market that's making a minor comeback with the Surface Pro and its cousins... they're basically going allll the way back to 2002 and the original modern tablet - the Compaq T1000 - just with higher resolution and a touchscreen.

            It's just not so black and white.
            TheWerewolf
          • The problem is....

            Windows RT is not more than a content consumption OS like Android or iOS is. I have tried them, and Windows 7 Professional and Mac Lion still are miles ahead for content creation then these consumer-oriented consumption operating systems.

            The fact is that most people consume content, and some USE content, but very very few actually create it in a manner that is useful.

            You cannot count blog posts and other foamy-head content creation to the real content that actually provides core productivity like writing software and desktop graphics design and CAD.
            Kieron Seymour-Howell
          • I do not really like the term “completion”

            But I think you are getting somewhere with this line of thought. “Productivity” normally is associated with content creation, so used in the tablet context does not make a lot of sense.

            We always had some form of portable devices for people who need to complete a form or sign one and in the general terms of productivity these people could do their job so they were productive but I still do not like using that term with tablets.

            When they say productivity on tablets what comes in mind is somebody editing a video on a tablet. This sounds funny to me since I find a desktop/laptop more appropriate for that task, but then again if this is all they want to do, i.e. some simple editing on a simple program using some simple hw (nowadays obviously that hw is not simple anymore), then they are productive, since they accomplish their task.

            So in general I agree with you content creation/consumption are not the only available options. Let’s say there are a lot of simple functions that a tablet as well as a smartphone can do almost as good as a laptop and given that they are more portable they have more chances to be available to use to do that task.

            But from personal experience I have not met a single person that uses a tablet to do anything other than content consumption and in general everything else other than being productive. Then again all the people I work with do have desktop computers and laptops, so maybe they are not the representative sample of people required.
            mil7
          • Wrong

            You mean, if someone is using an educational app to learn something, that is not productive? There are medical apps that access the most current medical research, so doctors can prescribe the correct treatment. That is not being productive?
            You have an aircraft mechanic checking the inflight data. That is not being productive?

            You must be some kind of a nut, let me guess..database administrator. Very limited outlook...
            prof123
          • Two major reasons why you don't see so many people

            using tablets for things other than content consumption:

            1. A lot of IT departments tend to be old school and have the same mentality that a lot of people commenting on this board have, that tablets are toys and not productive work tools. A major reason for that is that...

            2. Like any new computing environment, developers start with the simple stuff, like e-mail, browsers, multimedia players and games. It takes a while for more productive programming to make it to the market. And I don't think that the closed store environments are helping that situation.
            Michael Kelly
          • Tablets are not toys, but they are not real computers either

            A tablet is not a toy, any more than a Swiss Army knife is not a tool. They are tools, but they are small portable tools like a Leatherman, not a mechanics tool chest like a desktop workstation is. End of discussion.
            Kieron Seymour-Howell
    • You disagree because ....

      you have a MS centric, myopic and ignorant view of the world. If you opened your mind and got out more, perhaps there would be a bit of enlightenment.

      Given what you have been posting here for a long time however, you are probably beyond hope.
      D.T.Long
      • Explain how it is 'productive'

        Most readers know what 'centric' you are... you are just another troll like CB7, no logical arguments to make... go dance with him.
        Owllll1net
    • Narrow minded view of the world

      It takes a very narrow minded kid to believe productive work is always defined as content creation. Everyone with a real job does a lot of both creation and consumption. Even if tablets are 60% consumption and only 40% creation, they are still a huge boost to productivity for the grownups whose jobs are far more complicated than a paper route.
      BillDem
      • I have seen your posts, its hopeless

        Total fanboy stuff about toy platforms, go out more often old buddy.
        Owllll1net