It's almost that time of year: your employees are itching for the latest tablets — some of which may show up under Christmas trees or as Hanukkah gifts next month. With seemingly every device manufacturer launching a competitive product these days, here's a round-up of enterprise-friendly tabs that may be making their way into your workplace as part of the BYOT trend — whether your IT department likes it or not.
Windows Surface Pro
Availability: Early 2013
Microsoft's consumer-friendly tablet reboot draws on the success of its Live Tiles, a new way of navigating the content and data that users rely on most. Powered the Windows 8, Surface lets users run current Windows 7 desktop applications and integrates with existing enterprise management infrastructure. It includes digital pen functionality for increased usability. With up to 128GB of storage, a 10.6-in. high-def touchscreen, and Intel Core i5 processor, Surface seems to be a sturdy workhorse. It will have to catch up on the apps front, however. Windows Store features 10,000 Windows 8 applications, which pale in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of apps for Android and iOS tablets. But that may be changing: rumor has it that Steven Sinofsky's recent and unexpected departure as president of Windows may be related to Steve Ballmer's dissatisfaction with the number of apps available.
HP ElitePad 900
Availability: January 2013
Another Windows 8 tablet, the ElitePad is designed for enterprise and government users, with features such as optional 3G/4G, drive encryption and digital pen input. The 10.1-in. tablet also supports voice input, and particularly tech-savvy users will appreciate the ability to service the device (with access to the battery and other parts under the hood). HP is throwing considerable security support and services behind its latest slate, with features such as HP Client Security, Device Access Manager, Computrace and Sparekey. With HP Wireless Hotspot, users in small workgroups can share Wi-Fi and network bandwidth. And ElitePad's ePrint feature lets users print wirelessly from 24,000 locations such as hotels and business centers — without downloading drivers.
Price: Starts at $499 for 16GB
The biggest reason to splurge on the latest full-size iPad is its performance-enhancing quad-core A6X processor and the much-hyped retina display, which enables 1536 x 2048 resolution. Beyond those features, however, the specs remain largely the same as previous iterations. The iPad 4 may be a must-have for diehard Apple fans, but others can wait for the next generation without missing out on much.
Google Nexus 7
Price: Starts at $199 for 16 GB
With its $299 AT&T HSPA+ version selling out after just a few days on the market, the Nexus 7 seems to be creating excitement among Android fans. And for enterprises, the competitive pricing makes a convincing case for the tablet as “disposable” technology. Powered by an NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor, the Nexus 7 runs on Android 4.2 Jelly Bean and enables videoconferencing. It works with GSM and HSPA+ networks, and a smart keyboard with gesture typing lets users compose messages quickly. The device's integration with Google Now gives busy travelers timely information — such as local time and currency, flight departure info, and traffic data — at their fingertips.
Unlike most tablets, the PlayBook was built with the enterprise in mind. The lightweight 7-in. device features an integrated email client with a unified inbox that consolidates all messages in one place, including messages from Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, as well as personal and work email accounts. Its built-in calendar draws information from social networks and makes it available where and when users need it. The BlackBerry Bridge app provides a Bluetooth connection between a BlackBerry PlayBook and core apps on a BlackBerry smartphone (including BBM, Email, Contacts, Calendar and Browser) for enhanced viewing on a larger screen. And the PlayBook runs BlackBerry as well as Android applications.
Samsung Galaxy Tab2 10.1
Price: Starts at $349.99
Samsung seems especially keen to cater to enterprise tablet buyers, offering MDM, VPN, on-device encryption, Exchange ActiveSync and other options for its Galaxy Tab2 via SAFE (Samsung Approved for Enterprise). Powered by Android Ice Cream Sandwich and a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, the tablet includes front- and rear-facing cameras, weighs just under 21 oz., and can remain on standby for 61 days. When Wi-Fi isn't available, the Galaxy Tab2 can connect to 4G LTE with some carriers.
Availability: Now; LTE version coming Nov. 23
Apple's 7.9-in. tablet essentially crunches the standard-size iPad into a smaller package, sacrificing some screen resolution in the process. The iPad mini is 23% thinner and 53% lighter than the iPad 3, with a dual-core A5 chip, wireless connectivity options and as much as 10 hours of battery life. Beyond its more affordable price point, the jury is still out on the business case for the mini versus the iPad 3 or 4.
Amazon Kindle Fire HD 4G
Amazon's 8.9-in. tablet get more than 1 hours of battery life, includes a front-facing HD camera with custom Skype application for mobile video calling, offers cross-platform interoperability, with Amazon apps available on a variety of devices and platforms including iOS, Android and BlackBerry devices, and is Bluetooth and HDMI compatible. In a particular nod to the enterprise, the Kindle Fire supports Exchange and several email clients and offers as much as 64 GB of storage.