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Eight tablet options for small business

Lia Timson, PlayBook review by Simon Sharwood
06 September 2011 5 minute readShare

lia_timsonIf you're thinking about an iPad or a rival tablet for your business, Technology Editor Lia Timson has rounded up tablets from eight vendors for you to consider.

If you are thinking of adopting tablets in your company, it pays to think about how they will align with your business proposition and your current technology setup.

Firstly, what will the tablet be used for? Different applications work better on different devices. The operating system your business is built upon should also be considered. This includes whether you rely on Windows and would like to integrate the tablets with your back office, or you prefer BlackBerry or Android for your mobility requirements.

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And if your business depends on Flash (say, for your Website), you may have to go with a tablet other than the iPad. Alternatively, you may like to consider HTML5 as a Web design tool.

iPad 2

 

Here at My Business, we haven’t yet seen anything better. Hype aside, the design, the useability and the thousands of dedicated useful apps are hard to beat. If you already use iPhones in the business, you will know what we mean.

If you envisage a lot of video conferencing with your team members, the iPad/iPhone Face Time feature should be included in your consideration list. Some large companies are issuing the device to board members to cut down on printed documents, something the Prime Minister Julia Guillard has also endorsed — her briefing papers are now served onto her iPad.

From $579 to $949, depending on memory and 3G capability. www.apple.com.au/ipad

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

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Proof this is the next best thing to the iPad is on offer in the form of the lawsuit Apple has filed against Samsung. Courts in Australia and Germany have upheld an injunction preventing the launch of the device here and in Europe for the moment. Early reviews of the tablet are very positive. It is slightly bigger than the iPad (10.1-inch screen compared with 9.7-inch) with higher screen resolution (1280x800 instead of 1024x768), but the other specs are comparable.

The main difference is the operating system; the Galaxy Tab is built on Google Android. This means native Google apps such as Maps, Gmail and Google Docs work beautifully on the device.

It was priced at $729 before sales were halted.

http://www.samsung.com.au/

Other Samsung Galaxy tablets

Samsung also makes a cheaper, smaller version of the tab, with a 7-inch display and says an 8-inch model is coming. Here at My Business, we dislike small tablets that can’t decide whether they want to be a large smartphone or a real tablet, but it depends on what you want to use them for. The Galaxy Tab 7 is also built on Android.

It was $299, but the company’s information line says they are hard to get at the moment.

www.samsung.com.au

BlackBerry PlayBook

Another 7-inch tablet, this time catering for big fans of BlackBerry smartphones. Like the iPad, it can connect to your phone’s Internet connection.

This is an advantage for businesses that use the BlackBerry server for emails and contacts, as the PlayBook piggybacks the same system.

We’ve played with the PlayBook and, aside from one small glitch, it is comfortably the best iPad rival we’ve seen so far.

The PlayBook is about the size of a trade paperback, which means it’s easy to hold in one hand. We found that very useful — it’s somehow more convenient than larger tablets in some situations.

We also liked the PlayBook’s interface. The device’s touch-sensitive surface works all the way to its frame, with the areas off the screen used for gestures that drive the device. A flick from off the edge of the screen, for example, turns the device on or minimises an application. This system is intuitive, quickly learned and sets the PlayBook apart from the more confusing interfaces offered by Android-powered devices.

However, there are some wrinkles. The PlayBook cannot connect to wireless broadband networks unless it does so by connecting to a BlackBerry smartphone. We’ve tried connecting it to a Wi-Fi hotspot driven by a mobile phone, a feature now common to Android phones and iPhones, but that didn’t work either. We also lament the absence of the Amazon Kindle e-reader app in the BlackBerry app store, as it’s one we use an awful lot on tablets.

The supplied neoprene sleeve is also a bit tricky, as getting the PlayBook inside is hard without pinching the screen with enough force to make us worry we were doing it some damage.

Overall, however, this is a very slick tablet. It survived several bicycle rides to work among detritus in the Editor’s messenger bag and is a lot of fun to use. Its small size is a bonus and, aside from its wireless broadband issues, we feel

it is a very strong contender for your tablet needs. If you’re a BlackBerry owner, it may even be the leader.

Prices start at $579.

au.blackberry.com/playbook-tablet

Acer

Acer has a number of tablets on the market.

Acer's Iconia A500

There’s the 7-inch A100 and the 10-inch Iconia Tab A500, both with and without 3G, all built on Android. We weren’t that impressed when we reviewed it in May, but the specs are comparable if not better than some of its competitors. The company also markets a Windows 7 tablet, the Iconia Tab W500, which has an optional keyboard that makes it look like a laptop. We do not recommend Windows tablets as a rule — frustratingly, Windows is not built for a tablet experience. However, we know many businesses have been waiting for Windows tablets to come to market to integrate with existing systems. If this is your prerogative, insist on testing some devices.

The upcoming Windows 8 operating system — from what we have seen so far — should make Windows tablets much better.

From $349 to $899.

http://www.acer.com.au/

Motorola Xoom

Early reviews of the 10-inch Xoom pitch it favourably against the iPad. And it has extra features, including compatibility with Flash and HDMI. It uses Google Android as the operating system. Now, remember that Google is buying Motorola’s mobility division, so this tablet might yet end up a Google-branded device with further enhancements.

$798 for Wi-Fi/3G version.

www.motorola.com.au

Others tablets

There are other tablets already on the market or coming soon. The 7-inch Dell Streak is available now, while its Windows-powered business tablet is expected in October (www.dell.com.au). Tegatech has a range of business-dedicated tablets, ranging from devices for clinical environments through to touch and rugged versions (www.tegatech.com.au).

Sony is working on two tablets — a 9.4-inch to compete with the iPad, and a 5.5-inch device with two screens that form a bigger one when opened. Expect them in October (www.sony.com.au).

Toshiba is also in the tablet market, and Olivetti has promised to enter it soon.

Eight tablet options for small business
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Lia Timson, PlayBook review by Simon Sharwood

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