Rugged Tablets Enable ‘Third Platform’ Leap for Business

It’s true what they say about things coming in threes.

In the tech industry, there is a lot of talk these days about the “third platform.” Many see computer users as being at a critical juncture in terms of how we interact with technology. The original, first platform was based on mainframes and terminals – think the green screens of the 1970s. Then, around the mid-1980s, we jumped to the second platform, the old-server-1client-server model. This is the style of computing we’re all used to – using a desktop computer or laptop to access information stored locally or on your company’s server.

Now we’re in the midst of making another big leap. The third platform, according to analyst firm IDC, involves mobile devices such as tablet computers, enabled by wireless connectivity, working off cloud-based data and services. In this model, rather than being tethered to a single server, or even a single computer, users can work from virtually anywhere and seamlessly transition between devices. According to IDC this new model is what is expected to drive around 90% of all IT growth for at least the next 7 years. It’s true mobility.

The talk around a “third platform” centers on a new model for IT, but it leads me to think about the multiple platforms we personally use every day – the devices we transition between as we go about our day at work. Interestingly, we are at the tipping point of three here as well. By the end of 2013, the average number of connected devices per knowledge worker will reach 3.3, up from an average of 2.8 in 2012, according to a study from Cisco.

For many, this third connected device will be a tablet computer. Versatile, portable and equipped with high-speed wireless connections, tablets are the ideal device for truly mobile, cloud-based computing. In fact, the growing popularity of tablets plays a big role in the shift to the third platform, according to analysts. And popular they are – by the hundreds of millions, at least with consumers.

But despite the consumer craze, tablets are still in the relatively early stages of catching on with business users – especially those who don’t necessarily spend their days in an air-conditioned office. So what’s stopped them?

toughpad-governmentTrue mobility requires the ability to operate where the real work is done. This means in the blazing sun, in the pouring rain, in a snowstorm, in a hospital procedure room, in a warehouse, in a police car or even on the battlefield. The workers in these real-world conditions cannot spend time worrying about their fragile devices getting dropped, getting a little wet, experiencing battery failure or falling short on security. They also require support, both from the IT department and from a trusted, experienced company willing to stand behind its products.

Widespread adoption also has been limited by a lack of options. Workers need the tools that are right for their unique jobs. Shoehorning a single device into the hands of an entire workforce, especially one that is not designed for business use, only ends in disaster. A field agent may need a smaller, lighter tablet with a stylus for signature capture, while a law enforcement officer may be looking for one that runs Windows so she can access her department’s records management system. A utility worker may need serial ports that allow easy access to legacy equipment, while a chef may want one that he can use near a steam table without worrying about a little water. An engineer may need a faster processor and graphics while manipulating complex data in the field, while a soldier may be looking simply for the ability to change out the battery to extend a mission. None of the options can compromise on reliability, usability or security.

The number three comes up a final time today as we announce an expansion to our Toughpad line of tablets. The new Toughpad FZ-G1 and Toughpad JT-B1 tablets join the Toughpad FZ-A1, which hit the market last year, in finally delivering on the promise of ultra-mobile tablet computing for business. Available in multiple sizes and operating systems, and each built with rugged durability, security and performance that make no compromises, the Toughpad is designed to be the device that brings workers encountering the real-world to the third platform – today.