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How 2-in-1 tablets fit into the enterprise

Enterprise users who want to be freed from their PC but maintain that functionality can turn to the burgeoning 2-in-1 market.

With users and IT looking to strike a balance between mobile device functionality and usability, 2-in-1 tablets offer many benefits to business users.

A combination of traditional laptops and tablets, 2-in-1 devices have removable keyboards so users can access a tablet-like touchscreen on the go while maintaining laptop functionality once reconnected to a keyboard. Some IT managers might consider these devices to be toys, but admins already know that throwing up walls won't work. We learned this lesson from smartphones, we've learned it from tablets (in some industries) and we're learning it now with the hybrids and 2-in-1 tablets.

For those who say the laptop is too inflexible and hasn't been innovative in years, they're probably right. For those who say the tablet isn't good enough on its own to handle heavy input as a single use device, it's a valid point. But 2-in-1 tablets offer flexibility that laptops lack and much of the functionality needed for business users.

So how do 2-in-1s fit into the enterprise?tablet

For one, 2-in-1s can remove a lot of the mobility headaches associated with laptops. For users who constantly bounce between different meeting rooms and give presentations, using only a laptop can be a big hassle. For example, when I'm sitting at my desk, I use a docking station and dual-screen setup. Going to a meeting turns into an exercise in futility, with hibernating, undocking, restoring and reconnecting while keeping all my sessions open and then hoping everything works again when I return.

They're advertised as laptop replacements, and for once, the marketing is right.

If your story sounds anything like this, then you're a candidate for 2-in-1 devices. They work like a charm in the big-desk setup. To go mobile, you just pull the screen off and head wherever you need to go. A user can then simply re-dock to the base of the system and skip all the headaches. This process saves time and in turn makes users more productive.

Whereas most form factors have a particular audience, 2-in-1 devices have universal appeal and applications, even outside of a traditional office setting.

Sales employees, for instance, can benefit from having laptop-like functionality in the field while closing a deal and then reconnecting their device back at the office to compile customer documentation. Delivery drivers can have the same experience, recording information on their tablet on the road and then processing daily reports at their home office.

Higher-level employees are good candidates for 2-1s, too. A warehouse supervisor can deal with emails and reports from their office, then walk the floor with the tablet to identify and address issues more quickly. A CEO who needs to work on complex presentation slides and immediately take that file to a stage or meeting room would also benefit from a 2-in-1 tablet.

Vendors jump on 2-in-1 train

Numerous vendors are now offering 2-in-1 tablets. It took three attempts, but Microsoft finally got it right with its Surface Pro 3 and Surface 3. The company identified a previously untapped market for "laptop replacements" that are touch-enabled and flexible. Microsoft wrote Windows 10 to support that same mantra.

Lenovo, HP, Dell, Fujitsu, Asus and others all have 2-in-1 hybrid devices of their own. Some vendors offer devices with a rotating screen like the HP Revolve, others include a keyboard that bends all the way backward like the Microsoft Surface or the Lenovo Yoga, and some flat out detach from the keyboard base to make the screen a tablet on its own, like Fujitsu Lifebooks.

They're advertised as laptop replacements, and for once, the marketing is right. Don't be surprised if these take root in your organization and grow like weeds. It just requires a little bit of marketing effort on IT's part to communicate the benefits of 2-in-1s to company leadership, and then you can help your organization reap the benefits of these flexible devices.

Next Steps

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This was last published in July 2015

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How will 2-in-1 hybrid devices impact your organization?
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We’ve been slowly rolling out 2-in-1’s for the last few months as people’s laptops come up for replacement. One of the impacts that I see is that the users seem to be taking their devices to more meetings and using them to take notes and collaborate rather than using pen and paper, then going back and transcribing those notes into their computer. That alone has made a positive impact on productivity and collaboration.
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They certainly overcome the issue of undocking your laptop to go to a meeting. For some people on my team it works flawlessly, but for others it turns into a 20 minute ordeal to get their laptop up and running correctly again. The 2-in-1’s are also pretty good about being able to detect which mode they’re in, and adjusting performance and input methods appropriately.
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