No longer pigeonholed for entertainment purposes, more and more tablet devices are being tested in the enterprise environment in several capacities, with varying success.
While the tablet has obvious benefits for certain workforces, it is not a perfect fit for every organization—at least not right now. This will change dramatically over the next five years as tablet capabilities continue to progress and software companies learn how to tailor they offerings towards the tablet paradigm
Applications that are working
Tablets are already being used in various sectors including retail, financial services, sales and healthcare. Repairman can now quickly access schematics, update a work order or check inventory all while remaining in the field. Airlines are outfitting their pilots and co-pilots with tablets to enable them to search charts and complete other navigation tasks.
It is clear tablets are playing an important role in information sharing and communication in specialized, mobile workforces. But these implementations are not applicable across the board; there are limited suitable enterprise applications available on the iOS and Android platforms.
Also, many enterprise applications are too rich and complex for the tablet platform at this time. User-interface design will be paramount to solving some the current roadblocks to broader adoption of tablets in the enterprise arena.
What to Consider?
Before a business adopts a tablet strategy, three factors need to be carefully evaluated.
Understanding the role of the user and the functionality they require is critical and will help determine if the tablet is a viable solution. For example, tablets are advantageous for work that requires mobility, but applications that require heavy data input may lag.
Second, environmental effects can determine tablet feasibility. Sunlight can interfere with the ability to read on all existing tablet offerings. Future tablets with Super AMOLED technology will improve the sun problems but currently tablets are best suited for sun-protected environments. There are already rugged versions of tablets available that can withstand the elements, even in wet and dirty activities.
Third, today’s tablet app offerings are rarely robust and are often ported from existing applications. This poses problems in usability because the applications were not created with a touch-enabled device, like tablets, in mind. Furthermore, complex software applications, such as those used for the enterprise, have a lot of features that do not lend themselves easily to the tablet’s simpler and smaller application paradigm. In order to work with the tablet, these applications will have to be restructured and deployed with a subset of functionality that fits the tablet model.
The next five-to-ten years will be an exciting era for user interface design. The old method of engineering-centric development will disappear. Applications for the tablet can only be successful if they become increasingly more intuitive and simple.
Users will greatly benefit from that as any anxiety associated with using computing devices will be alleviated through new, more natural ways of interacting with technology. In the enterprise environment, this will mean increased communication, greater efficiency, reduced redundancies from paper-based processes and more.