Tablets are going to work instead of laptops in some cases or to augment them in others. They can do a lot in the enterprise, some more than others. While the iPad and Android tablets are capable workmates, the tablets of choice are those running Windows.
Windows has enjoyed a long reign as king of the workplace and that hasn't changed. There are a number of solid reasons why that is, and these reasons contribute to making Windows tablets the choice to take to work.
1. More choice
There are lots of Windows tablets to choose from, as opposed to two iPad models. There are quite a few Android tablets, but many of those are cheap knockoffs so you must be careful. Choice extends to brands, with Windows slates available from all the major vendors familiar to the enterprise.
The many options for Windows tablets make it easier to find one that fits individual needs. This is especially true when it comes to screen size, particularly for larger slates which at times can be a better solution for work.
See related: Six great laptops ready for Windows 10
There are Windows tablets with varying screen sizes, ranging from 7 to 15.6 inches. It's not easy to find one bigger than 10 inches in Android, and impossible for the iPad.
2. Docking stations
Tablets can serve as desktop systems in the office with the addition of a docking station. These devices facilitate plugging in monitors, keyboards, mice, and hard drives. Those produced by tablet OEMs are the easiest, simply requiring putting the tablet on the dock which connects all of the desktop peripherals. This lets the slate serve as the CPU that powers it all.
If the tablet has no dock option, universal hubs are available that serve the same purpose. Plug the hub's USB cable into the tablet and it morphs into a full desktop system.
There are no options for the iPad to connect it to a docking station, and no USB hubs either. The iPad is not intended to be a computer, especially one that can drive an enterprise system with monitors and peripherals.
The same can be said for Android tablets. While many have USB ports, they are for connecting keyboards and mice. Some have an HDMI port for plugging into a TV or monitor, but this isn't a convenient method compared to the Windows docking stations.
Docks may be overkill for some workers; a better solution may be to plug a peripheral or two into the tablet. Most Windows tablets have a USB port or two that are perfect for using portable hard drives and other peripherals.
This makes it possible for mobile professionals to hit the road with terabytes of external storage. Those working with large files -- photographers and video professionals come to mind -- can carry all of their work files with them.
Related coverage: Seagate releases ultra-thin Seven, Wireless portable hard drives
Some Android tablets can be used with peripherals like mobile hard drives but most of these support Windows. That opens such use to potential problems that may be too much for many users.
The iPad is even worse as it lacks a USB port of any type. This limits options for peripheral usage. The lack of a file manager in iOS is a further complication for using peripherals with the iPad. Only peripherals built for use with Apple products are an option and that is a big limiter compared to those built to industry standards that can work with any Windows system.
When you think of Windows tablets the selection of apps doesn't come to mind. The Windows Store is a hot mess, frankly, and has nowhere near the selection of apps as iOS and Android. Major apps are there in good number, though, and many tablet owners will find them to be all they need.
That would be a killer for Windows but what's in the Microsoft Store is not all there is. There are desktop, or legacy Windows apps. These can all be run on tablets just like on desktop PCs. This greatly opens up the selection --which is not an option for tablets on other platforms.
Legacy apps are where Windows has a distinct advantage over the iPad and Android. There are hundreds of thousands legacy apps out there, covering virtually every business need and industry. These are the apps that have been used to run businesses for decades. They aren't optimized for touch operation but the mere existence of them gives Windows an advantage over iOS and Android.
Windows tablets can also run proprietary software that companies have written for workers -- another reason for the enterprise to look closely at deploying Windows tablets over the competition.
5. Windows 10
The next big version of Windows is coming this year and will be free for most. The preview version is looking very good and is particularly fitting for tablets. It will enable tablets to run well both with and without a keyboard.
Everyone using Windows 8.1 will want Windows 10.
Windows was built from the ground up to run many apps at the same time. That's not the case with iOS, and while Android can do so it's not as efficient at it as Windows.
Related coverage: Most significant mobile tech of 2013: Windows 8.1
Business computers need decent multitasking so Windows is the obvious choice. It is better for running all of those apps, proprietary and legacy, at the same time. Given the nature of tablets that are put in standby instead of powered off, there's no need to exit the apps.
7. Multiple windows
Multitasking is most effective when multiple apps can be on the tablet screen at the same time. Windows has long been good for doing that, especially since Windows 8.1. It will probably be even better in Windows 10.
Having more than one app onscreen at the same time is not possible at all on the iPad, and only on a few Android tablets. The Android tablets that can do it aren't very good at it, either.
The ability to share documents and communicate with coworkers, especially team mates, is critical in most work settings. The iPad and Android tablets can do that but Windows is very good with business class options.
Office documents are better shared on Windows as it can run full Office. The iPad and Android now have reasonable versions of Office, but working with a Windows tablet means you don't have to worry that coworkers will be able to do everything that might need to be done with your documents.
Collaboration tools exist for the iPad and Android but Windows can do it all, especially in a typical Windows work environment.
9. Surface tablets
The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is probably the best work tablet currently available. It features enterprise class performance as good as many laptops. The recently released Surface 3 is not as powerful but is capable.
Additional Surface coverage: Surface Pro 3: Why my clamshell laptop is history | A first look at Microsoft's smaller, lighter Surface 3, now with full Windows
The Surface tablets are great travel companions and while there are other Windows tablet options, many will find these to be first class slates. They both are outstanding tablets for working with pens, something the iPad is not good at doing. On the Android front pretty much only the Galaxy Note tablets can use the pen, and then it's not a very productive experience.
10. Pen support
Speaking of pen support, many Windows tablets offer it as at least an option. Pen support is very good in Windows as it is ingrained into the heart of the OS. The ability to input text by handwriting is appealing to some and the Windows tablet is where to get it.
As mentioned, the iPad is not very good with pens due to the lack of an active digitizer. It requires a capacitive pen which isn't very precise like the active models on Windows tablets. Only a few iOS apps support pens anyway, so the utility is limited.
On Android, pen support is actually worse than that on the iPad. It works OK on the Galaxy Note tablets but Samsung's apps aren't very good at taking advantage of it. You can't make a good case for either the iPad nor Android. Windows rules the pen roost easily.
A Windows tablet may not be ideal for everyone, but it is the best choice for many use cases --for the reasons outlined above. This applies to employees of large companies in particular. Since Windows tablets provide more options to the enterprise when it comes to accessories, there is more cost flexibility. Also, business professionals will benefit from the app selection and the wide range of accessories. There are Windows tablets and peripherals available in a wide range of pricing to fit any budget.