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What are the best ways to use tablets for business?

As more enterprises begin to support tablets, many users find that the screen size and portability provides the right balance for common work-related tasks such as note taking.

It's taken enterprises some time to figure out the best ways to use tablets, but now there are several common business tasks that may actually work better on a tablet than on a PC.

It has been roughly five years since popular devices such as the Apple iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab reached the consumer market. Tablets have matured into primary devices that I use frequently on the job. However, the truth is that tablets are better tools for some work tasks and not so great for others.

One caveat about using tablets for business is that many tasks require a Bluetooth keyboard. Touchscreens are certainly functional, but keyboards are still a primary tool for employees to navigate the device and its enterprise applications.

Let's take a look at three common scenarios where using tablets in the enterprise may be a better option than using PCs:

Taking notes. Tablets unify the benefits of taking notes on laptops and smartphones on one device. Their portability makes them less intrusive and much easier to take to meetings. They enable the note-taking options that today's employees are looking for, such as quick access to other documents and the ability to incorporate photos and voice recordings. Still, remember that tablet users really need a connected keyboard to keep pace taking notes.

Working on the go. Tablets are great when traveling because they are lighter and smaller than most laptops, which makes it less of a hassle to view work-related information such as documents and emails wherever you are. Laptops are a tight squeeze for employees trying to complete work on a flight, for example. Smartphone screens are too small to be very productive on, and they also make it harder to appreciate streaming video, such as webcasts. Tablets provide a happy medium, and the form factor is proving a perfect fit for mobile workers.

Giving presentations. Microsoft PowerPoint is now available on all Windows, iOS and Google Android devices. Using standard templates in PowerPoint, tablets are handy for creating simple presentations while on the road or making last-minute changes to a presentation.

A tablet's compact design makes it easier to bring to a meeting room or even on stage. Most are compatible with projectors, either using an adapter, Apple TV or Chrome TV. For example, an iPad can display presentations via Apple TV using the AirPlay Mirroring feature. Users with an iPhone can enable their smartphone as a remote control through the Keynote application, allowing presenters to swap between iOS devices if they walk around while presenting.

This list will change as enterprise apps open up new capabilities. Tablets that support split-screen functionality will allow for easier multitasking, and the maturation of other input methods such as voice commands and gestures will reduce the need for a keyboard. Organizations that use tablets for business should research and test new ways to maximize their value. There is plenty that tablets can accomplish in the workplace.

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This was last published in June 2015

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Which work tasks do you use your tablet for?
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To me, the main function of a tablet is still for casual browsing and checking email. It is still way less efficient than using a PC. At my organization, tablets are not widely used at all. We only have a few of them available for employees to check out when needed. I personally have no desire to use a tablet for work purposes. 
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For me personally, taking quick notes in a meeting, looking over changes in an application that are mostly visual or loading of assets and images, using deliberately lightweight tools for performing small tasks and loading and reading documents. These are all approaches that I prefer using a tablet for. Anything that requires any extensive typing, editing or manipulation of the environment, I much prefer my laptop.
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I'm THE biggest fan of BYOD, so I try to use my tablet and other personal mobile devices to do as much work as possible when on the road. If I'm at a desk, there's no real reason to be leveraging a tablet, but on a plane or en route to meetings and the office, if I can have a medium size screen and good connectivity, the tablet is a great solution.
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  • Communications - email, Skype
  • Presentations - documents, pictures, mindmaps
  • Content creation - mindmaps
  • Reviewing documents and (rarely) editing/creating them

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Tablets are indeed nice for quick updates, scanning, and doing tasks that require just a few keystrokes. As soon as I consider a task that would be better suited to having a QWERTY keyboard, I jump back to my laptop. I've seen several people with the bluetooth keyboards and their tablets in the cases that support them, and then I feel like we are just reinventing the laptop again (the Netbook form factor comes to mind here). 
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With some degree of success I used my iPad for augmented note taking of testing session with Evernote Skitch and voice recording. The results can be stored in Evernote; the latter might be a repository of results from the whole team. I'll definitely go with this approach for device testing. For app testing on a PC there are better ways.
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