Wall Street Journal highlights the need to choose the right tablet for the job

Not all tablets are created equal. And as The Wall Street Journal highlights this week, many American companies are making big mistakes in taking a “one size fits all” approach to deploying tablets in the workplace.

In “Here Come Tablets. Here Come Problems,” reporter Shara Tibken takes a look at the spread of tablet computers in the enterprise, especially popular consumer-grade devices like the Apple iPad. She highlights some of the challenges companies are facing after rushing massive deployments to their workforce and failing to take into account some important factors, such as a comprehensive deployment and mobile device management strategy, device functionality and information security concerns. Crucially, many companies also are discovering the devices in which they’ve invested aren’t made to hold up to the real-world conditions their employees face.

In the article, Tibken speaks to Maya Leibman, chief information officer for American Airlines, an early adopter of tablets for workers across the company. Leibman admits that the airline quickly discovered that taking a “one size fits all” approach created challenges for their workers.

“When you’re in a conference room, you might think, ‘this is great,’” Leibman says in the article. “But then you get out in the field and realize it doesn’t work in a driving snowstorm.”

Tablet computers have the potential to revolutionize the enterprise, as a tool that enables easy, real-time access to virtually unlimited data nearly anywhere, anytime. But, as with any other tool, you have to choose the right one for the job. As The Journal discusses, in their rush to deploy this popular new technology, many companies are failing to select the right device for the job.

The Journal lists lessons to be learned from five of the most common mistakes companies make when deploying tablets. Many of these mistakes center on failing to consider a few critical factors:

Where the tablet will be used. What works in the boardroom won’t necessarily work in the field, as The Journal points out, and it’s important to think about whether the tablet you are choosing will hold up to your workers’ real-world, day-to-day jobs. Popular consumer-grade tablets generally are made for “light use” at home and don’t offer the ruggedness that enterprise use demands – certainly important for field workers in extreme environments, but also for standing up to the everyday bumps, drops or falls of an office, retail store, hospital or school. Take a look at what kind of durability testing the device’s manufacturer conducts for drops, and its ingress protection ratings for resistance to dust and water.

How the tablet will be used. In the enterprise, tablets will undoubtedly be used to do more than merely watch videos and play Angry Birds. Before investing in a tablet deployment, verify that the devices will offer the functionality your business demands. If you plan to use your tablet to send and receive large amounts of data, images or video when off-site, consider a tablet that offers 4G mobile broadband for high-speed connectivity. For outdoor use, a daylight-viewable screen, a high level of water and dust resistance and a drop rating of at least 4ft are important. If the tablet will be used for data entry, look for a device offering a stylus and active digitizer, and signature capture and handwriting recognition functionalities. From an IT support standpoint, you should also look for a serviceable battery. Many consumer tablets require you to either completely replace your device if the battery dies, or at least send it in for service.

As The Journal points out, some applications are not yet available on the most popular tablet operating systems. Many other applications don’t work well over via a virtual desktop solution. You need to work with a vendor that can help you with selecting the right solutions; ideally someone that has created an enterprise application marketplace.

Whether the tablet will be manageable and secure. One of the most important considerations for tablet deployments is whether the data stored on the device will remain safe. Most tablets are not designed with security in mind, and choosing one of these devices for an enterprise deployment can have disastrous consequences. Panasonic’s Toughpad A1 tablet is unique in offering security embedded at the hardware level, combined with technologies like hardware and software encryption, enhanced VPN, dual factor authentication, trusted boot and device management. Unlike most tablets, the Toughpad is compliant with FIPS 140-2 for federal government use and is HIPAA ready for healthcare environments.

Another concern noted by The Journal is mobile device management – how much control IT administrators have over the tablets once they’re in workers’ hands. Solutions, from companies like Soti, ATS and AirWatch, allow IT managers to distribute applications in a one-to-many environment, secure devices from unauthorized use and other important tasks. Like the tablet itself, there is no “one size fits all” solution in this area, so do your homework and pick the best solution (or solutions) for your particular deployment.

How much the tablet costs in total. One of the most common mistakes organizations make in tablet deployments is to go with the lowest sticker price, and failing to consider the devices’ total cost of ownership. When factors like repair, support, replacement and downtime are factored in, a tablet’s true cost (like any computing device) will always be much higher than the purchase price. Ensure that the tablet you choose will stand up to the job and be a worthy investment in the long run.

These are just a few key factors – every industry, and every organization, will have its own individual needs that must be considered for a tablet deployment. To learn more about choosing the right tool for your job, take a look at these articles:

As the report from The Journal shows, tablet deployment in the enterprise is a hot topic, and one that is becoming more important as companies consider the potential this technology has to reshape the way business is done. To learn more about deploying tablets in enterprise, government, health care and educational organizations, join Panasonic and technology leaders from around the country at the TabTimes Tablet Strategy Conference on April 27. More than a dozen speakers at the first-of-its-kind business conference will help decision makers define, select and deploy the right tablets, apps and security for their organization, with the goal of making smart business decisions that guarantee increased employee productivity and maximum ROI. For more information or to register, visit http://tabletstrategy.com/.  Otherwise, let us know how we can help you make an informed decision on your future tablet implementations.