Monday 20 June 2011

The Tablet Wars

Many people believe that the iPhone is winning the Smart phone race, and that Android devices are fast gaining second. But as yet, neither is very suited to the corporate market; they are both hard to secure and manage en masse. Now the tablet wars are heating up. The iPad2 has been on the market for a few months, the BlackBerry Playbook and Motorola Xoom device have both just hit the market, and there is a variety of Android-based devices to choose from. In this week's Tech Talk we will do a head-to-head comparison between 4 tablet devices. So let's put the VPad, Playbook, iPad2 and Xoom through the paces and see what comes up on top.

As can be seen from the chart, there are a number of differences between the 4 devices, from OS, to Screen size, resolution, inputs and outputs. In fact the only the only things these four devices have in common is that they were each 32GB size, each supports Wi-Fi connectivity and each is a tablet device. So I will give a brief overview of each device - its pros and cons.

Viewsonic - View Pad 10
To be honest, this was the least favourite of the four devices tested. It is very heavy. Both operating systems seem clunky on the device. The battery life was less than projected even with minimal applications running. The only real saving grace for this device is the dual boot so that you can have Windows 7 professional on the device and secure it in a corporate environment. The touch keyboard on the Win7 side was very unruly, and not much better on the Android side. It has the lowest resolution camera and no video recording capability. All in all, not a bad paper weight but not worth much else.

Motorola - Xoom
This device is in the middle of the pack, it is fairly new to the market and with some OS updates it might move up. There seems to be no shortage of these devices, unlike iPad2 which are hard to lay your hands on, or the Playbook which is selling really well. Not a bad device to work on. It only has one rear facing camera, and can output to 720p display. Decent functionality - it is just up against good competition.

Apple - iPad2
The second generation device from Apple has a lot going for it. A huge app store, great popularity and by far the largest market share. But there are some drawbacks. First, it is very heavy compared to the Xoom and Playbook. Second, it is hard to secure and manage, especially in a corporate environment. This device has two cameras both front and back facing, and can record video at 720p. For the most part, it is a device to play on. It is great for that but based on the price point not ideal, especially for work.

RIM - Playbook
The drawback of this device currently is that it has a much smaller selection of apps in app world than the iPad2. The big plusses - it is much faster, than any of the competition, it is more responsive. It can output natively to 1080p and can also do 3D content output. It also can record 1080P video, the only one with this specification in the group. Once the application market heats up, it will be hard to beat. This device has both front and rear facing cameras. Both are pretty decent. Most of the marketing around the playbook has been to the end user, the consumer, not corporate market. It can be secured but still has a long way to go. It currently cannot be managed and administered through a BES (Blackberry Enterprise Server) but rumours indicate that is not far away.

I am fortunate in working full time in IT in a technology company. Because of that I get to play with a lot of different devices and models of laptops and desktops. Having had the chance to configure and play on each of the four devices above, I have come to the conclusion that if I had but one for personal use I would go with the Playbook; if I were to have a second one in the house I would go with an iPad2. Yet in the end, most of it comes down to personal preference. I encourage you to try different devices either in store or from someone you know who has one. Don't just follow the media hype. Find the device that will do what you want to do best, and go with that. Those are my opinions and advice coming to you from the server room!

(First published in Imprint as 'Tech Talk: Choosing your weapon in the tablet wars' 2011-06-17.)

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