December 14, 2012 12:21 pm

Which tablet should you choose for your business?

Now that Windows 8 and Windows RT are generally available, a wide range of new tablets, convertibles and other innovative devices from a variety of manufacturers are becoming available. While some people may still be best served by traditional laptop or desktop PCs, many customers will benefit from new Windows 8 tablets or touch-enabled devices like convertibles (all referred to as tablets in this blog for simplicity). In some cases, these tablets will be used as companion devices alongside existing PCs, while in other cases Windows tablets will become the primary computing device. With the broad range of form factors now available, there’s no “one size fits all” device, nor should there be.

For businesses as well, there is now unprecedented level of choice in Windows-powered devices. Many early adopter companies have begun making this important choice for their employees and customers and offer insights that may be helpful to other businesses contemplating their Windows-device selections. So, we wanted to share how some customers choose the right device for their needs and how you might go about making that choice for your organization. We have seen a lot of interest in Windows 8 tablets, as evidenced by some of these customer stories, and will use their examples to illuminate some important criteria when making a Windows 8 tablet selection.

So, which Windows 8 tablet is right for my business?

While we’ve talked about these Windows 8 customers before, their stories demonstrate the importance of making smart tablet decisions, and they serve as helpful examples of businesses that have gone through a similar decision-making process.

Not surprisingly, they have not all decided on the same device type. So what were the primary factors for some of these customers?

Rooms To Go, a furniture retailer, decided to create a custom line-of-business app for their store salespeople, who will use this app on Windows tablets to interact with their customers to help them make purchasing decisions. For these users, mobility was the primary factor as the salespeople will carry the devices all day through their stores. As a result, they chose Windows RT tablets with ARM processors.

Emirates, a large airline, built an app to be used by their flight crews to provide the best in-flight experience to their passengers. By choosing Windows 8 tablets with Intel Atom processors, they are assured that the devices will meet their primary mobility requirements, while also being fully manageable using Active Directory and related technologies.

Seton Hall University decided to provide new students with Windows 8 tablets with Intel Core processors and notebooks using Windows 8 Enterprise. These students need devices that have great mobility, while still running a variety of desktop apps and workloads that vary greatly across the student body. To ensure the safety and security of their network, they also need full manageability.

PCL Construction has a wide range of tablet users spread across a variety of office locations and construction sites. As a result, they need devices that offer great mobility and can run a variety of apps, all while having convenient connectivity to the corporate network through the DirectAccess capabilities in Windows 8 Enterprise. They have chosen to leverage Windows 8 tablets with Intel Core processors.

Quick guide to Windows-powered tablets

At a high level, new Windows tablets fall into three categories based on its processor, which have different capabilities.

Windows 8 tablets with Intel Core processors. These are typically higher-powered tablets offering notebook-like performance and larger amounts of memory, supporting both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Enterprise operating systems using familiar x86/x64 processors from Intel and AMD. These can run existing desktop apps, as well as new Windows Store apps and new Windows line-of-business apps. These tablets can be a full PC replacement for business customers as they are able to run any workload that people require.

Windows 8 tablets with Intel Atom processors. These use system-on-chip (SoC) designs to achieve greater mobility through their lightweight design and long battery life. They support 32-bit Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Enterprise operating systems. These can run existing desktop apps as well as new Windows Store and new Windows line-of-business apps. These tablets also support the new “Connected Standby” capability that enables devices with long battery life, turn on instantly and are always up-to-date, meaning new Windows apps that rely on cloud or server data update information even when the device is turned off.

Windows RT tablets with ARM processors. These also achieve greater mobility since they’re lightweight and have a long battery life, leveraging 32-bit ARM processor-based system-on-chip (SoC) designs. These tablets come preconfigured with Windows RT to give people a more predictable experience, both from the moment they are first turned on and over time. These tablets are able to run Windows Store apps, but it’s important to note that existing desktop apps cannot be installed. Office Home & Student 2013 RT is included though, so Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote are available, although businesses will need to license this properly for commercial use. These tablets also support the new “Connected Standby” capability, and come with come in-box with driver support for the majority of PC peripherals that can be connected though the USB port.

How to decide

Your business likely has an existing process for determining the types of Windows devices to acquire (in the case of company-owned devices) or support (in the case of bring-your-own-device scenarios). For example, you may want to choose devices from PC manufacturers with whom you already have a working relationship, leveraging the enterprise support and pricing they provide. Or you may choose specific devices for people who use line-of-business apps developed specifically for their jobs.

It is also important to note that the capabilities needed are different when considering a new primary device for a user versus a new companion device that will be used alongside existing Windows devices. For example, companion devices typically do not need the same workload or app capabilities, while mobility and connectivity are often even more important.

Based on the decision process many of our early adopters went through, we developed a framework to help other businesses think through some of the factors to consider in selecting the type of Windows tablets that will work best for each person and each job. This does not encompass every single factor, but looks at some of the key areas to consider with Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets.

Choosing Windows 8 and Windows RT Devices for Your Business

Choosing the best Windows tablet for each person first requires understanding the different capabilities that people in your organization may require, as these become key factors in the decision-making process, as shown in the list below.

Once you determine what capabilities each person or group of employees need, it becomes much easier to decide what type of Windows tablet is required. On the right side of this list are the more appropriate choices.

Mobility. People who are routinely carrying their devices, whether for travel to different cities or for routine meetings in their office building, appreciate tablets that are lightweight and have long battery life, enabling them to operate from wherever they are at that moment.

For the best mobility, choose Windows 8 tablets with Intel Atom processors or Windows RT tablets that are lightweight and have long battery life.

Workload. Some people are casual users, primarily reading e-mail, browsing the web, and running a variety of other apps that do not require much computing power. Others may be manipulating large spreadsheets, analyzing datasets, developing line-of-business software, or performing other more intensive operations.

For heavier workloads, choose Windows 8 tablets with Intel Core processors that are more powerful and support larger amounts of memory.

Apps. For some employees, new immersive Windows 8 line-of-business apps and Windows Store apps will allow them to perform the majority of their work, while others may require access to existing line-of-business desktop apps. These desktop apps can be either run natively on Windows 8 tablets or accessed remotely using the RemoteApp technology as long as appropriate connectivity is available.

When desktop apps need to be used, choose Windows 8 tablets with Intel Core or Intel Atom processors. (For heavier workloads, see above.)

If connectivity to the corporate network is available, these apps can also be run remotely using the RemoteApp technology, supported for all types of tablets.

For the employees in certain roles that rely on a dedicated line-of-business app to perform their duties, Windows RT tablets with new line-of-business apps is a good option.

Corporate Access. Some people may need access to the corporate network for their jobs, typically for using line-of-business apps. This can be done using DirectAccess or a VPN connection when away from the office but on the Internet. Others need occasional online access, but frequently work offline and synchronize their files with the cloud or other remote computers.

For the best corporate connectivity to corporate networks, choose Windows 8 tablets with Intel Core or Intel Atom processors running Windows 8 Enterprise to leverage DirectAccess.

For occasional connectivity, choose Windows 8 tablets with Intel Core or Intel Atom processors that can automatically synchronize files using SkyDrive or SkyDrive Pro.

Windows RT tablets can connect to third-party VPN solutions using the built-in Microsoft VPN client using PPTP, L2TP, and IPSec/IKEv2 protocols.

If only e-mail access is required, all Windows tablet devices can use Exchange ActiveSync.

Always On. Other users may need the constant connectivity provided by the “Connected Standby” feature so that apps can continue receiving information from networks even while the device is turned off. These apps can even notify people by playing notification sounds in cases of important events.

For always on” connectivity, choose Windows 8 tablets with Intel Atom processors or Windows RT tablets that support Connected Standby.

Manageability. Organizations may need to actively manage the devices used by employees. The degree of manageability required may vary:

o Full manageability. All tablets running Windows 8 Pro or Windows 8 Enterprise can be joined to Active Directory to control all settings using Group Policy. Apps and software updates can be deployed to the devices using System Center Configuration Manager (push model).

o Simple manageability. Some key settings can be controlled, and apps and software updates can be made available to the devices, with the users controlling the installation (pull model).

o Governance. Basic security settings can be mandated for devices accessing enterprise data or e-mail.

When you have specific manageability requirements, choose a tablet that offers the needed capabilities:

o For full manageability, choose Windows 8 tablets with Intel Core or Intel Atom processors that can be managed using Active Directory, Group Policy, and System Center Configuration Manager, allowing granular control and configuration of the device (including the ability to push out new versions of apps).

o For simple manageability, all types of Windows tablets can be managed via Windows Intune, with security and VPN settings pushed to the devices and line-of-business apps available for users to install as needed via a self-service portal or app.

o For governance, security policies (including those for passwords and encryption) can be configured on all types of Windows tablets via Exchange ActiveSync policies.

I hope you find these real-world examples helpful, and that we have made your decision easier by providing information on the different capabilities you may want to factor into your decision-making process. For further information about Windows 8 for business, check out the Windows 8 Enterprise resource site.

Updated November 8, 2014 1:18 am