There's more to tablet productivity than hyper-portability

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.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
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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