Jat Mann

Jat Mann

Jat Mann is the Founder and Managing Director of PC PAL, the UK’s leading Computer Support Franchise. Jat originally qualified as a Chartered Management Accountant and progressed to be one of the youngest Heads of Finance in his industry. He also worked for a number of leading organisations including Bridgestone Motorsport, Lloyds Pharmacies and National Grid Transco.
PC PAL News, Tablets, Tech News 2nd January 2014 1983

A look at the evolution of Tablets.

I would like to share my experiences as a long-term tablet user and also as a recent owner of a Microsoft Surface 2 RT (the cheaper model!). With the burgeoning variants of tablets now on the market (some just £50 whilst others are nearly £1,000), and even high street and online retailers now joining the bandwagon, more and more home and business customers are adopting these devices.
newton-pen

However, tablets have actually been around for over two decades in one guise or another.

In the early 1990s, Apple launched their ill-fated Newton range that failed to capture the public’s imagination. These Newton’s used the same ARM processors that many of the modern day tablets use (obviously far less powerful). However, Steve Job’s canned the Newton upon his return to Apple in the mid nighties as he really disliked it.

Other tablets have run with full Microsoft operating systems specifically designed for tablets. I still have my first tablet, which is a Motion Tablet M1400. Who, I hear you ask?

motion computing logo

Some former Dell executives who firmly believed in the tablet concept created Motion Computing. It ran Windows XP Tablet Edition, has multiple USB ports, Ethernet connection, Wi-Fi, fingerprint reader, VGA output, detachable keyboard, optional 3G connection and a 12.1 in screen. The tablet was solidly built, stylish and comfortable to use.

It was particularly popular in the medical field where it was used to update patient records during ward rounds. I really enjoyed using it, both in business and whilst surfing the Internet from the couch!

M1400

Not too different from today’s variant.

Except, there were 3 major issues: firstly the battery life. It lasted around 3 hours and you needed to take a fully charged spare battery with you to work all day. Secondly, the screen only worked with the stylus provided – no finger, gestures or alternative stylus could be used. Thirdly, the price – you wouldn’t get much change from £1,500. Ouch, but there were few alternatives at the time with the same build quality and features and as I said, I don’t regret purchasing it.

Fast forward to April 2010, the rumor mill was expecting that Apple would launch an updated Newton, but instead the iPad was finally released following months of delays.

iPad Small

Having been an owner of an iPad even before they were officially launched (my order inexplicably arrived early), it really was a huge revolutionary step forward from the previous tablets and addressed the 3 main issues outlined above, as well as adding a superb operating system.

The iPad has been further refined and improved and has been followed by its little brother: the iPad Mini. Personally, I much prefer the iPad to the Mini, partly due to the Retina display (ultra sharp and clear), but mainly as it’s harder to type and effectively ‘work’ from the iPad mini.

Apple has just announced improvements to the range, and the new iPad Mini is excellent value for money. Apple have truly made an affordably tablet for the masses (and profited hugely from the strategy).

Google Nexus 10Google have also launched their own Nexus branded tablets. Personally, I am not a raving fan of Google’s Android system having used iOS for many years. Security is the main factor as the strictly controlled ‘walled garden’ of Apple’s iOS does more to protect the user from scams and viruses, even in the face of some of it’s limitations (e.g. no USB ports). Android, however, is also a ‘walled garden’ of sorts but the underlying software code is more accessible by developers (both trusted and rogue) thereby more open to exploitation. Android also come in different versions, which is not only confusing, but usually does not allow the user to upgrade the software installed.

Putting price to one side, the iPad iOS operating system is just so intuitive and easy to use and virtually unbreakable (no more Blue Screens of Death). I’ve recently tried using an Android tablet (a non Google variant) and it pales in comparison to the iPad, both in terms of build quality, design and enjoyment. I found it slow, unresponsive and essentially frustrating to use (but in its defence it was a third of the price of an iPad).

Amazon has its Kindle and HD Fire and now HDX ranges. The original Kindle is essentially just a digital book reader (and a very good one) and the HD amazon-kindle-fire-hdxFire is a smaller tablet that’s designed to download digital content from Amazon’s books store and video libraries (although it has a much broader capability than just that). Rumored to cost more than its selling prices, Amazon’s tablets have been very well received, but tie the user to content purchased from Amazon itself (where Amazon makes its real money). This mirrors the Apple ecosystem philosophy too.

Last year, Microsoft launched it’s Surface range which comprised a cheaper version (strangely called the RT although no one quite appears to know exactly what the acronym stands for!) running a cut down version of Windows 8 (similar to an iPad) and the Pro version which was as powerful as a full blown Laptop running full Windows 8 (and over double the price of the RT at £800+ with a keyboard). This was the first time Microsoft launched a branded computer (they provided branded mice, keyboards and web cams for many years), but was lambasted by the press and public over its pricing and features. However, Microsoft have just released updated version of the Surface (imaginatively called the Surface2) and personally I am very impressed indeed.
surface-2-rt

In fact after using the new Surface2 RT for a week, I prefer it to the iPad in many ways. The overall built quality, screen size & quality and features are tremendous value for money. Including Office apps, access to 200GB of SkyDrive online storage free for 2 years and unlimited Skype calls (for 1 year), at around £360 inc VAT for the 32GB version it’s a compelling deal. I haven’t had my hands on the new Pro version, but initial reports are favorable too (although at over £800, I feel it's dangerously close to the high performance Laptop category).

The reason for writing this column was that home and business customers have been asking many of us IT professionals about how to best utilize tablets across the home and workplace. Mobile working and access to data is key for many homeowners and staff, as well as security, reliability and support.

With now several affordable options available and with 4G internet access becoming widely available in 2014, the time has arrived for businesses of all shapes and sizes to embrace these devices. In fact, they are leading the charge forward!

That’s the future….. for now!

Jat Mann

Jat Mann is the Founder and Managing Director of PC PAL, the UK’s leading Computer Support Franchise. Jat originally qualified as a Chartered Management Accountant and progressed to be one of the youngest Heads of Finance in his industry. He also worked for a number of leading organisations including Bridgestone Motorsport, Lloyds Pharmacies and National Grid Transco.

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