The growing popularity of the tablet and smartphone in the workplace and the home has brought about the so-called “post-PC” era. In fact, tablets are said to overtake content consumption from smartphones by 2013, and will comprise 10% of all web traffic by 2014.
But even with tablets and smartphones making an increasingly important role in the workplace, there is still disagreement whether these or other portable devices lead to better productivity. After all, notebooks, and even their smaller netbook counterparts, offer more features and power over tablets and smartphones.
Here are a few reasons why bigger devices like notebook computers – and even netbooks – offer better productivity in a business setting than iPads, Android tablets and smartphones.
Full-sized keyboard means you can do more things. One inherent advantage of notebook computers over tablets is their full-sized keyboards. While accessory-makers have released wireless keyboards and keyboard cases that turn your tablet into something like a netbook, there is no substitute to the functionality of a built-in keyboard. With a laptop computer, you can just flip the lid open, turn on the computer, and go straight to your work.
Smartphones can come with QWERTY keypads, such as BlackBerry models and some Android smartphones. Even the iPhone has an excellent screen-based keyboard. But you cannot do lengthy text input on these devices. It would require too much effort.
Computers can multitask. Another advantage of notebook computers is that they can multitask. Whether you’re running Mac OS X or Windows, you can have several applications open running at the same time. Tablet computers and smartphones can also do some multitasking, especially those that are powerful enough to handle different processes. But the inherent limitation of the user interface – small screen and small sized user input – can be limiting. As such, you cannot view two windows side-by-side at the same time.
Some tablets even espouse a single-task environment, such as the Apple iPad. While the iPad is powerful enough to handle multiple tasks, the operating system forces a user to focus on only one task.
Computers have bigger screens. Unless you’re considering 9-inch netbooks, computers have an advantage in terms of screen size. A notebook computer for a business setting will usually come in 13-inch, 14-inch or 15-inch form factors. Some ultraportables come with 11-inch screens, but most mainstream notebooks have bigger displays. Users are more productive because a smaller screen will force you to move around in a smaller environment, and will force your eyes to read smaller text. This adds to strain and reduced productivity.
For better productivity, you can even plug in an external display to your notebook computer, for bigger screen real-estate.
Notebooks can run more software. Business software usually comes standard in notebook computers, and enterprise software providers usually release apps on desktop environments. There is an increasing trend toward smartphone and tablet apps for the enterprise market, though, so it’s best for any organization to assess their needs before committing to either tablet or notebook platform.
Notebooks have more accessory options. Notebook computers come with standard USB ports, and some will even have higher-speed USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt ports, as well as ExpressCard slots. This provides support to a wider array of accessories and peripherals, like external keyboards, displays, printers, scanners, and the like. With a tablet or smartphone, you’re only limited to the capabilities of your device, or to OEM-specification accessories.
Even with a post-PC scenario, organizations will still need to assess their needs and requirements to determine the best device for productivity. It will depend on need, of course. For a road warrior who does a big amount of work on the road – such as writing reports, working on spreadsheets, and making side-by-side comparisons, a notebook computer would be best. For someone who needs the occasional email communication, watching multimedia presentations, or chatting with colleagues, a tablet may be preferable.
Overall, notebook computers are still the most productive business device. The good news is that they come in many sizes, so a business user can easily choose between an ultraportable device or netbook, which is great for traveling, or a bigger notebook computer with a 15- or 17-inch screen, which can be considered a desktop-replacement, for increased screen real-estate.