Designing a tablet PC for business

HP ElitePad 900SPONSORED CONTENT – Discussion of tablet PCs in business has been historically associated with the ‘bring your own computer’ (BYOC) trend, driven by pressure from employees and c-level executives to allow personal devices in the workplace.  Whether because employees want a device that’s more mobile than a notebook PC, desire further integration between their work and personal devices or just want to be able to use the latest gadget in the office, the challenge for the IT department remains the same:  how do you integrate a device that wasn’t designed for business on to the corporate network without sacrificing security and productivity?

Although once expected to replace the notebook, in reality the tablet PC has largely remained a companion device.  Many of the most popular tablet PCs today are designed for consumer use – not for business – meaning they often can’t accommodate the same platforms and applications. Simply put, they were designed for consumers to surf the web and send e-mails, not to update an Excel spreadsheet or edit a PowerPoint presentation.  They’ve lacked key features needed to fully operate in a business environment, such as docking capabilities, built-in security features at the BIOS level, durability or the ability for remote management.    And for the IT department, it’s meant managing devices with unique operating systems that require an entirely separate support and infrastructure strategy.

But with open standards, a flexible operating system, and better manageability and serviceability features, Windows 8 is ushering in a new generation of tablet PCs, like the HP ElitePad 900.  Designed specifically for business users, this new breed can help employees be more productive and solves many of the challenges facing the IT department when it comes to integrating tablet PCs into the corporate network.

Revisiting the tablet computing strategy

For channel partners, the influx of tablet PCs designed specifically for business opens the door to renew conversations with customers about their mobile computing strategy.  Although BYOC has gained favour with some companies because it means employees get choice while the organization doesn’t have to purchase devices,  in practice it’s a complex – and often costly – strategy to manage without the key enablers in place.  But with a device that’s specifically designed for business, there’s a  chance to work with the IT department to re-examine how to actively integrate tablets onto the network as a true productivity tool, as opposed to layering them in as an after-thought based on employee demand.

Some of the primary benefits of making tablets a core part of the IT strategy include serviceability and management. For example,  a tablet PC designed specifically for business that uses the same operating system as corporate standard PCs streamlines configuration requirements for the IT department – meaning the same image can be used across the multiple platforms.  It’s also easier to manage security since the same programs and patches can be applied to tablets as are used for the existing notebook and desktop fleet.  As more and more IT departments face pressure to ‘do more with less,’ the ability to leverage images and platforms across the network while still meeting employee demands for thin and light is enticing.

This unification also impacts the end-user experience.  If both devices have the same user interface, employees can access their desktop and all their applications in both locations.  For the right kind of user, it’s entirely possible that a business-class tablet PC could actually replace a traditional PC.  Set up with the right accessories, a user could dock their tablet PC and use a full-size monitor, keyboard and mouse at their desk – getting an experience as they might with a desktop or notebook PC– but then pick the tablet up and head to a meeting with instant access to the same files they were just working on, without having to go through the process of transferring data from one device to the next.  Or imagine being able to connect any USB device to a tablet without restrictions, or transfer any file on or off the device with USB or SD storage via a simple drag and drop motion, a motion that Windows users are very familiar with. Users won’t need to involve another PC or software to make it happen.

Tablet PCs do have a place in business – but to be a true productivity tool for employees it needs to be the right breed, integrated actively into the corporate network and deployed to the right type of end-user, making discussions about who the users are and why they want a tablet PC a critical part of defining mobile computing strategy.  In many cases, a Windows 8 tablet designed for business can help organizations solve many of the challenges they’ve historically faced when integrating mobile OS tablets.

Phil Smith is Category Business Manager of Commercial Notebooks at HP Canada.