For the past several years, proponents of tablets and tablet/laptop hybrids have pushed them as being the future of computing. Not only as devices for content consumption either—but as production tools. In fact, Apple CEO Tim Cook states that he does 80% of his work on an iPad.
Cynics on the other hand, doubt—with good reason—whether tablets are fit for the office. For naysayers, tablets don’t have the same level of functionality as a desktop or even a laptop computer. While this is true for jobs that require powerful hardware, many of the things we do in the office on a day-to-day can actually be done on a tablet. A 2012 social technologies study by McKinsey & Company showed that a large portion of workers’ tasks during the week were primarily light-computing, reading and writing e-mails, and data gathering.
Tablets are generally thought of as being good tools for consuming information, from documents to multimedia content. For creating that content however, most users think that a laptop or desktop is required. However, that is a mistaken assumption.
Production work is possible on a tablet—with the right tools and some preparation. Don’t expect to pick up an iPad and just start working—you will need some hardware and software to support you. So what exactly do you need? Let’s run through some considerations
You Need the Right Tablet
Not all tablets are well suited for the workplace. If you are willing to compromise with a tablet/laptop hybrid such as the Asus Transformer, you may be able to completely replace your computer without missing a beat. The caveat here is that these are primarily laptops that have tablet modes, so you still have Windows as your main operating system and not Android or iOS.
While that isn’t to say that a tablet/laptop hybrid is required for you to work from a tablet, but it will make the transition smoother and you will be able to do everything you do with a normal laptop computer. For instance, convertible tablet PCs make for a good compromise between laptops and tablets.
Get a Keyboard Attachment
Though touchscreens are good for typing short text messages and e-mails, they are not ideal for composing long e-mails and documents. To maximize your efficiency for those tasks, you will need a keyboard—unless you have a convertible tablet, which has one built-in. One popular Bluetooth® keyboard is the Logitech K810, which is universal and works for computers, Android tablets, and iOS tablets.
A stand helps a tablet act more like a laptop, at least superficially. You can look at device-specific accessories such as the Belkin QODE Ultimate Keyboard Case for iPad or a universal option such as the Kensington Keyfolio Pro 2 Keyboard Case.
Move Your Data onto a Cloud Service
While working on tablet, you will have to worry more about storage space than on a workstation. Whereas a workstation can have up to several terabytes of storage, most tablets are limited to several gigabytes. This is where cloud storage comes in handy, as you will be primarily relying on it for storage. As an added bonus, it will allow you to transfer data from one computer to another without relying on USB connections. In fact, some tablets such as the iPad cannot be used as large flash storage devices, which may necessitate you carrying a USB flash drive.
Get a Productivity Suite
Taking a page from Google, Microsoft recently announced Office would be free for tablets. For those of us that are trying to work solely on tablet as much as possible, this is a timely boon. No longer will users be forced to use second-rate free apps that pale in comparison to Office.
But what if you dislike Microsoft Office? Another option—that has been available for quite a while now—is Google Docs. When used in conjunction with Google Drive cloud storage, you can work on documents straight from the cloud, without having to worry about making local copies.
If you are going to use the tablet to work remotely, you should take advantage of VPN features—particularly if it is an Android tablet. With a VPN app, you can stay connected to your office network as long as you have an internet connection. For instructions on how to set up VPN on an Android tablet, see these instructions.
Recognize the Limitations
One final consideration for working from a tablet is to know that you won’t be able to do everything. Though tablets can do a majority of the tasks that workers do on a weekly basis, for some professionals, tablets just won’t be able to cut it. While Tim Cook can do most of his job on an iPad, roles such as digital render administrator may not. Though you can do much with a tablet, you may have to resign yourself to using an actual workstation for some tasks.
Have you tried working from a tablet? What has your experience been like? Let us know in the comments.