Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Five Things You Need to Ask Before You Choose a Tablet Operating System

It looks like we are only a couple weeks away from the first Honeycomb tablet hitting store shelves. To commemorate the moment and the soon to be rampant iOS vs. Honeycomb conversations, I want to talk about what an operating system should do for its user.

This post is not designed to single out any one operating system and declare it the “best”, though I’m sure we each have our opinions on that matter. Rather, I want to talk about what a good tablet PC should do for its user. We all use technology in different ways so we all have different expectations for what it will do.

1.       Is it Truly Mobile?

One of the primary reasons tablets are so attractive is that they provide an untethered alternative to a desktop computer (and are markedly lighter than notebooks). But, in the age of streamlining and cloud connectivity, is your device really 100% mobile? Remember that tablet computers do not have optical drives and their storage space is usually limited to less than 64 GB (usually around 16-32) with some offering SD expansion slots. If you are required to plugin to software on a desktop or constantly delete and replace files, mobility suffers. In this category, iOS suffers due to its reliance on iTunes while Android works wonderfully due to its support for over-the-air updates and SD backups.

2.       Will I Use it for Work?

Technology makes work easier, so many of us want to use our tablets to reply to emails, check spreadsheets and finish a few last minute edits. Some systems are better suited than others. A Windows tablet has access to Microsoft Office while Android has a burgeoning security environment starting to develop. A lot of enterprise users are waiting for the Playbook to arrive as well, to see what it will offer.

3.       Will I Switch in the Future?

If you plan on changing devices in the future, iOS is out of the question. After spending hundreds of dollars on iOS Apps, it will be hard to make yourself replace them all on an Android or Windows device. Android is likely the most versatile device in this regard. MeeGo, while not yet available in most markets, will likely provide similar flexibility.

4.       Apps or Hardware?

Are you a fiend for the highest end hardware or do you want the largest selection of Apps? By far, iOS wins the App arms race, though Android is close behind and the number of tablet specific apps is only growing. Windows suffers in software, but the devices tend to be decently powerful and provide a good number of enterprise features.

5.       How Often Will I Use It?

Finally, how often do you plan on using your device? If you just want a device to entertain you on an airplane or train, Apple’s iPad is a great choice because of the sheer volume of movies, TV shows and apps. However, if you plan on using your tablet as a complete replacement for your notebook or desktop, you’ll want something more powerful and capable of being fully untethered all the time.

Choosing a tablet device is getting harder with each passing month as new options hit the market. So, be sure to spend enough time getting to know your options. It’s likely the OS you choose now will be with you for some time to come. 

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