Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Taking the tablets!

A few weeks ago I was talking about how William Data Systems had integrated their ZEN z/OS network management suite of products with iPhones and iPads and they’d also just included Blackberry and Android phones. I’d been particularly impressed how an iPad user had been able to identify where a problem was occurring and taken steps to rectify it. More recently, the iPad 2 has become available, and I thought it was definitely time to to investigate whether I ought to get myself a tablet device.

Now, I feel that I can argue a business case for using a tablet device. I need to browse the Internet when I’m at home, travelling, and with clients, and sometimes a phone just isn’t a big enough screen and a laptop is just too big and bulky to easily carry around. I also regularly need to browse Word documents – minutes of meetings, proposals, articles that I’m writing, etc etc. I also use Excel regularly – for all the things that you’d use a spreadsheet for. And I give presentations and talks that make PowerPoint a must-have – plus an easy way of connecting to a projector.

And, for me, that’s kind of the core usage – a big phone or a small laptop – it’s all down to form factor. A 10 inch book size device seems like the Goldilocks solution. But it has to be more capable than a gloried Netbook with widgets!

So let’s look at my nice-to-have list. It’s got to be fast. It’s got to have USB ports so I can swap files around easily. It’s obviously got to have wifi, and when I’m connected to the Internet I want access to Flash files (I really like those flipbooks rather than downloading and reading giant PDFs). I need it to play AVI files – my back catalogue of films etc would keep me amused while waiting at airports. And two built-in cameras facing opposite ways for Skyping and photographing whatever I can see.

I’d quite like an HDMI port so I can connect to a TV. I’d like a music playing app – like media player. I’d also like something like Dreamweaver so I can work on Web sites, and something like Photoshop so I can edit images. And possibly something like InDesign so I can produce newsletters etc. And I’ll need a firewall and antivirus software.

So, that seems to mean that an Android tablet is probably out and a PC-style tablet is what I want.

Now, the cost of devices varies in different countries, but I’ll give you the UK prices. An iPad 2 with wifi starts at just under £400. The Motorola Xoom is going to be £499. It has HDMI, 32GB of storage (plus an SD card slot), and twin cameras. The Advent Vega is £249.99, but that still uses Android 2.2 not 3.0 (Honeycomb). There’s a 10 inch Dell Streak coming. The Asus EeePad Transformer comes with a mini-HDMI port at £380. And Toshiba has an intereting-looking Android 3 tablet coming soon.

For PC-based tablets, Amazon has a 10.2" Windows 7 Tablet PC with 1.3MP Webcam, G-Sensor, HDMI Port, 3x USB2.0 ports for just under £300. The Zoostorm 3310-9500 SL8 is priced at just under £500. The Asus Eee Slate, which comes with just about everything you could want costs nearly a thousand pounds.

And that’s really the problem. Anything meeting my wish list is extremely expensive, and anything else seems little more than a glorified boy’s toy! It seems that unless I get my hands on something that’s so impressive I’m prepared to pay the extra money, for the moment I will bide my time and see what comes available as we move into the summer. Prices are bound to drop and performance is bound to increase. Don’t you think?

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