Are Desktops Really Dead?
The news is everywhere: The Surface Pro 4 and the iPad Pro are popular and well-received by a majority of the population.
The two hybrid tablets are being touted as “desktop killers”, said to do everything a desktop can, but better and are easier to take with you.
It’s no surprise; the hybrid tablets are built with powerful hardware and a cheaper price point than some desktops.
As part of management, it is quite relevant. Would it be cheaper to give all our employees hybrid tablets, and would it boost productivity?
After all, anything that boosts productivity and lowers costs should be a definite investment, correct?
It sounds like a tempting decision, and one that surprisingly, we are not against.
But before you start sending your tech team to the nearest Officeworks/Dick Smith’s/Apple Store, you need to consider how beneficial a hybrid tablet would be to your company’s work.
Hybrid Tablets Aren’t Major Powerhouses
Tablets are created with the idea of portability in mind. Hybrid tablets are built to bring the equivalent of a workstation around with them.
The idea is portability, which means that tablets are built to run on battery power, and not be constantly plugged in like a desktop.
Devices won’t be considered “portable” if they only have a short life span. Any device with no power is just a large piece of metal.
But as you might have seen on laptops, running several programs and/or software can drain the battery quickly.
To counter this, tablet applications, the equivalent of desktop programs, were made to consume less power than regular software.
In order to do so, applications are purposely made with fewer capabilities than their software equivalents to run on the hardware of a tablet and to use less power.
Software is always built to work on desktops and laptops, then configured into an application if the developers want to do so.
That means there will be applications you won’t see on a tablet, or won’t be built with as many functions as it will on a desktop/laptop.
One might argue that tablets are getting better hardware and applications are able to do more.
That’s true; as technology advances, it’s easier for hardware to become smaller and more powerful.
But remember; tablets and hybrid tablets will always focus on portability and ease of use. If they didn’t, there would be no difference between them and a laptop.
Tablets reaching the capability of laptops is now a question of “when, not if”, but desktops will always be able to pack better hardware to carry out tasks more efficiently.
Hybrid Tablets Can’t Do Certain Tasks
As convenient as hybrid tablets are and will be, there are just some tasks they are not built for.
We always think of using nothing but word processing and spreadsheets in the business world, which is correct.
But not every company uses just word processing and spreadsheets.
Some companies use video editing and processing software, which a tablet does not have the capability or storage to handle.
The same goes for 3D modelling and animation, as tablets do not carry the graphic cards necessary for rendering the images.
You might also see that some of the tasks you used to be able to do on a desktop or laptop can’t be done on a tablet, due to constraints on hardware.
Certain software might not have an application equivalent yet, so if your employees use software specific to their industry, you need to make sure there’s an application for it before switching.
It’s something simple research can tell you, but tablets have limitations that they can’t overcome.
If your employees only need to do simple tasks however, this may not be a problem.
Support For Tablets May Not Be Simple
IT support is all encompassing, but desktops and laptops have been around much longer than tablets.
It’s easy to fix problems when there’s been a precedent. But tablets are a new device and problems can be new to even the most experienced tech support team.
For example, printing from a desktop or laptop is not difficult to set up, but tablets require a few extra steps for printing, which leads to a new range of problems that can happen.
Configuring a tablet isn’t difficult, but incompatibility issues may not show themselves until they need to connect with devices or run specific applications.
This doesn’t mean you can’t support tablets in any environment, but consider that there may be a learning curve as the office adapts to tablets and their presence in the office.
Actual Keyboards And Mice Are Hard To Beat
Ever since Apple made touchscreens a cornerstone of portable technology, everyone has embraced the idea of using their hands and fingers to tell their device what to do.
It was easy when it was just our phones, because we were more impressed we could just press things and they would respond.
But when tablets became part of the business world, it became more important that tablets could do more than just respond to our fingers and play games.
Of course, as we saw on phones, typing on a screen can be rather annoying and painful for our fingers when typing for long periods of time.
Also, our fingers are not the precise selection tools we thought they would be, and mistakes have happened when we try to select icons.
To solve these issues, companies first came out with a stylus to make selections easier for us, and then an attachable keyboard to do the same for typing.
For a while, it was fun to use a stylus to make selections and the attachable keyboard felt interesting, like we had reached the peak of portable technology.
But styluses are only more precise than our fingers, not a mouse.
Attachable keyboards also do not support quick typing speeds, and input is occasionally not recognised.
While you can still use your fingers, a stylus and an attachable keyboard to great effect, mice and keyboards are still more effective for office work.
Mice are the better selection tool, able to click accurately with a lower error rate, the option to right click for more options, as well as a mouse wheel for easy scrolling.
Computer keyboards, as well as those fitted on a laptop, are built for fast typing speeds and can read inputs of text correctly, so you never have to worry about keyboard typing unless it’s broken.
That doesn’t mean throw away your attachable keyboards and put away the styluses.
You can still do good work with those tools. But don’t expect to be writing long reports and making perfect selections.
Portability Means More Out-Of-Office Work
When employees were limited to company desktops and laptops, it was hard to justify moving any technology out of the office. Even company laptops were only brought outside the office for assignments.
Before that, they were just moved around the office for collaboration or when you needed to give a presentation in another location.
When you get a tablet, the intention is to use it for out-of-office work.
It wouldn’t make much sense to buy employees tablets designed for portability, then have them stay inside the office the entire time.
First, because you’re better off giving employees a more powerful tool if they are going to remain in the office.
Second, you can’t use the same logic with tablets as you do with laptops.
Laptops are built to be a portable version of desktops. They are less powerful but work exactly like a desktop.
That’s why you can fit everyone in the office with laptops. It would just be a cheaper, smaller yet less powerful version of a desktop computer.
But you didn’t need a computer with advanced hardware to do basic work. All you needed was something to run software.
That’s why laptops are commonly used for workplaces and offices now.
For a tablet, you’re cutting out a lot of functionality and power from a laptop to get a better portable device.
In fact, due to the lack of capabilities and the potential need for additional hardware, employees are going to get less work done on average with a tablet in the office than they are with a laptop/desktop.
Think about it this way.
You wouldn’t give a chef a Swiss army knife to do cooking for a five-star restaurant.
It doesn’t mean they couldn’t cook, but the food’s going to come out at a much slower rate.
A chef is better off having a kitchen knife, or one that’s smaller, because they can prepare food with better quality and at a faster rate.
But if they were out camping, you’re not likely to pack a kitchen knife with you, nor would you be preparing restaurant quality food at a campsite.
But you have a Swiss army knife to get any necessary jobs done, like opening cans and cutting vegetables because you have almost no better alternative.
Tablets, even the powerful hybrid ones, are the Swiss Army knife in this situation.
Besides, just because employees are not in the office doesn’t mean they won’t be productive.
Just don’t expect employees to be productive by giving them tools that don’t fit their environment.
You Have Less Control Over Tablets Than Computers
Tablets are very personal devices. Unlike desktops and laptops, which can be configured and set up to a company’s network, tablets have very little options for set up, which makes it hard to set them just for work.
This doesn’t mean you’re going to lose your tablets (they are company property after all), but you’re probably going to find your employees doing non-work related work with tablets more often.
To be fair, this was something that was going to happen even with a computer, but tablets have far more options for time-wasting that are harder to catch.
For example, you aren’t likely to find employees playing video games on a company desktop, but you may find employees playing games on a tablet.
That’s because tablets run on applications, and it’s easy to download more than one application when you need it.
Also, since employees have tablets, they are more likely to be out of the office. It will be hard to track their usage since they won’t be using the company’s Internet connection.
Don’t mistake the lack of surveillance as a sure sign that employees will be lazy.
Employees can be very productive if you are willing to trust them, as they want to live up to that trust.
But you will find your office more empty than usual if employees are able to take their work into their own hands.
Desktops Aren’t Dead, But There’s Competition
There’s no denying that the hybrid tablets released by Microsoft and Apple are powerful tools for employees.
But to say phrases like “desktops are dead” or that the tablets are “desktop killers” is not quite accurate.
There’s just more competition in the world of devices, and desktops are not the staple work device of choice anymore.
Desktops shine in a lot of areas that tablets do not, and we won’t see that change anytime soon.
Whichever option you do choose, make sure that it will help your employees and suit the work that they need to do.
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