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Lenovo, HP & Dell: What Makes a Tablet a Business Tablet?

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

Lenovo ThinkPad 10Lenovo ThinkPad 10

Lenovo recently released a new ThinkPad 10 tablet that the company says is "optimized for business professionals." HP advertises its ElitePad line as the "true tablet for business." And Dell has a line of Latitude and some Venue tablets the company says are "built for businesses."

So, how does a device originally designed for watching videos, taking pictures, checking email, and browsing the web rate having the word "business" added to its description?

Lenovo ThinkPad 10 for Business

Lenovo's ThinkPad 10 is the successor to the almost 19-month-old ThinkPad 2 released December 2012. The ThinkPad 10 has bumped up the processor from a 1.86Hz Intel Atom processor to an Intel Atom Quad-Core 1.6Hz processor. The new ThinkPad 10 gained a sharper display going from a 1366 x 768 resolution on the ThinkPad 2 to a 1900 x 1200 WUXA IPS touchscreen running with an Intel HD Graphics (Gen7) card.  

The ThinkPad 10 doubles available storage with an option for a 128GB solid state drive (SSD) as well as doubling maximum RAM with up to 4GB SDRAM. The estimated battery life has not changed much and will last up to 10 hours, depending on usage.

There are two cameras, the front is two megapixels and the rear is 8 Megapixels with the rear camera also providing auto focus and flash. The customer will have an option of either Windows 8.1 32-bit or Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit. There are optional accessories including a ThinkPad 10 Quickshot Cover, an Ultrabook keyboard, a digitizer pen, and a tablet dock. None of these are included with the purchase of the tablet when it becomes available in June.

Using the ThinkPad 10 as an example, does the new CPU, additional memory or storage make it a business tablet? Looking at it from a business point of view might provide better criteria of what a business tablet should include.

IT Criteria: Security, Control, Network Connectivity, Administration & Management

Before bring your own device (BYOD) became a buzzword, companies were dealing with business owned and issued laptops that had to be tracked, managed, and protected.

While BYOD has added additional challenges, the ground rules have not changed. Information technology organizations still need devices to be safe, visible, easy to connect and manage. As with other mobile devices, tablets have to be capable of keeping data and communication secure both inside and outside the range of the organization's network.

User Criteria: Connectivity, Power, Speed, Business Applications

For the business user, connectivity, processing power, and options such as docking stations, extra battery or extended battery life, are important. The ability to use an external mouse and keyboard, Wi-Fi, optional 4G connections, GPS, business applications and other features make the users' business life more productive. However, many of these features can also be found on non-business tablets as well.

Business users have always required more processing power to run business applications than what they might need to run on their personal computers. However, CPU's constantly evolve and what is fast today will not be in the future. CPU speed, as well as memory and storage, are not good ways to identify a business machine since the same speedy CPU used today may turn up in an entry level system a couple of years after its release.

Business Criteria: Asset Management, Durability, Warranty, Support

Any business that has issued laptops, desktop computers, printers, and other devices to employees and contractors already knows how important it is to be able to track devices. These devices can be a substantial investment for a business. While all devices need to be durable and traceable, it is especially true for mobile devices that are at higher risk of being dropped, lost, or stolen.

Durability can cover several areas such as a device's use of Corning Gorilla Glass to minimize scratches or proof of testing to meet U.S. MIL-STD 810G standards. These issues may not be important to a casual business traveler but for businesses that use tablets in the field under harsh environmental conditions, it may make the difference between completing work and having to wait while replacements are sent to replace failed devices.

Historically, it has been normal for devices identified as business class machines such as servers, workstations, and most desktop computers to have longer warranty periods since business grade devices are expected to operate for longer periods under heavier workloads.

However, with tablets being used for business outside of the office and since many workdays do not necessarily end after eight hours, tablets could easily exceed what was once considered to be the average eight-hour a day use by nine to five workers.

Depending on how time critical it is to replace lost, damaged, or stolen devices, an additional level of coverage may need to be purchased from a supplier in order to get replacements quickly.

Business Tablet Comparison

One of the emerging criterion used to identify business versus a non-business tablet is the operating system. Although not universally true, the majority of the Android OS driven tablets tend to run on hardware with less RAM and storage. Most of these devices appear under the "for home" listings on both Dell and HP sites rather than under the "for work" heading.

Listed below is a very small sample of what is available in the tablet market. However, these three devices do meet most of the criteria an organization would consider when looking for a business grade tablet.

Tablet
Lenovo ThinkPad 10 
HP ElitePad 1000 G2
Dell Venue Pro 11
Price (Estimated USD)
$599
$739
$429.99
Date Launched
5/2014
2/2014
12/2013
Operating System
Windows 8.1 Pro
Windows 8.1 
Windows 8.1 
Display
WUXGA
WUXGA UWVA
LCD
Size (Inches)
10.1
10.1
10.8
Resolution
1920 x 12001920 x 12001920 x 1080
Screen Material
Not Listed
Corning Gorilla Glass with anti-smudge
Corning Gorilla Glass
CPU
Intel Atom Z3795    
Intel Atom Z3795    
Intel Atom Z3775D
GHz
1.6
1.6
2.4
Storage
64GB, 128GB eMMC SSD
64GB, 128GB eMMC SSD
32GB, 64GB, 128GB
Memory
2GB, 4GB SDRAM
4GB LPDDR3 SDRAM
2GB, 4GB DDR3 SDRAM
Weight (lbs)
1.46
1.5
1.57
Depth (Inches)
.35
.36
.38
Security
Not Listed
HP Client Security (Included Credential Manager and Password Manager)
Absolute Data Protect
Device Access Manager with Just In Time Authentication
Drive Encryption
HP Trust Circles Standard
Microsoft Defender
Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 1.29
Near Field Communication with Secure Element
Trusted Platform Module (TPM) is a security hardware device that helps avoid attacks by hackers looking to capture passwords and encryption keys to sensitive data.

Meets industry certified security standards including FIPS and HIPPA.

Dell Data Protection|Encryption (DDP|E) offers nondisruptive endpoint encryption
Communication
Broadcom BCM43241 2x2 a/b/g/n+BT, WWAN
4G LTE Through AT&T, 3G WWAN
802.11a/b/g/n (2x2) WiFi
Bluetooth 4.0 + LE 5
Optional - Qualcomm Gobi 4G LTE
802.11 b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Optional - 4G LTE mobile broadband
Warranty
Standard warranty information was not currently available. Three year extended warrrant available
Limited 1-yr warranty options available, depending on country, 90-day ltd warranty on software
1 Year Basic Hardware Service +1 Year NBD Limited OS After Remote Diagnosis
Battery Life
Up to 10 hours
Up to 13 hours
Up to 8 or 9 hours (per online rep. Could not find in specs)

What makes a tablet a business device is not the hardware components or how fast it is, but how secure the device is and how well it protects the user and business data, how well it integrates into the businesses network, and how easy it is for IT admins to manage the device. This makes sense since one of the main reasons businesses pay higher prices for business grade tablets is so the device and the end user can do business without worrying about loss of sensitive information. Of course, given the choice, having a faster machine is okay too.

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