Technology Insight: The rise of the tablet

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From the bedroom, to the boardroom, to the highest office in government, the tablet is radically changing our relationship with technology and how we consume information. Characterized by its flick-of-the-finger ease-of-use, arresting visuals, and eternal connectivity, this device is rapidly becoming the preferred tool for absorbing, presenting and communicating; but more importantly, it is facilitating the liberation of staff from their desks, with the ability to work effectively and securely, wherever they are.

According to survey results released by iPass, 75% of the mobile workforce will be equipped with a tablet by the end of 2011. This agile workforce is more likely to respond outside of traditional office hours and work on average 240 hours more per year. To the business, that means improvements in customer satisfaction, staff retention and productivity.

Human compatible

Going beyond portability and connectivity, the tablet has redefined the user experience. That moment, where the fingertip meets the screen, creates a level of intimacy and control lacking in a keyboard or mouse. You can actually feel and interact with the content, digging deeper into the layers of information. This action is so natural; the user focuses on outcomes rather than process. It’s engaging, empowering, slightly addictive, and will be expected to be integrated into every function of the workplace by the next generation of workers who live and breathe technology. This in itself poses a challenge to software vendors in that it requires not only a rethink of the way information is presented, but also in that it needs to be designed for the user, rather than the task.

For most executives, the tablet is part of daily life. Armed with dashboards, customer details and content, they can enter conversations about products and services, and be strategic decision makers wherever they are. From a back office perspective, they have access to their travel and leave requests, payslips as well as a workflow interface to approve incoming requests.

The perfect learning companion

On many levels, the tablet is set to revolutionize the command and control nature of learning. This is perhaps the tablet’s greatest value proposition. It’s native to the social applications that facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing. Online conversations are a vital part of learning and a significant source of new ideas and enrichment of the corporate knowledge base. In this regard, tablets offer an almost instantaneous exchange wherever you are.

If we look towards education systems both here and abroad, there is an expectation that tablets will replace computers and textbooks within the next 5–10 years. The use of tablets in the classroom results in a more user centric learning experience and ultimately a better outcome. In fact, studies with tablet vs. textbook equipped students demonstrate that students who learn with tablets performed better, collaborated more and were more engaged.

As such, the way learning content is presented in the corporate environment is set to change. We are becoming less tolerant of complexity, long texts and delay in searching. The tablet offers a more immediate, richer learning experience. It gives us the choice to blend options such as media, gamification (using the principles of gaming design in other technology applications) and access to thought leaders and mentors, addressing our personal learning styles and preference.

For all its strengths, the tablet does have a few challenges it needs to addr ess. Perhaps the biggest is that it’s not an ideal platform for creating content from scratch. Originally designed for consumers, there are security concerns about using tablets in a corporate environment. To truly flourish, they need to embed a mor e robust enterprize wide security layer.

Tablets are set to play a significant role in personal productivity. Corporations are starting to equip their mobile workforce with tablets, and in some cases the complete switch from laptops. It’s a significant trend, potentially threatening the entire IT industry, but for those concerned with employee development, performance and productivity, it’s one they can’t ignore.

About the author

Ari Kopoulos is the national sales & marketing manager at EmployeeConnect. For further information visit www.employeeconnect.com.au

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