We talk to five business owners and get their take on the laptop vs. tablet debate.
Laptops vs. tablets. Tablets vs. laptops. Ever since Apple unveiled its iPad in 2010, it’s become a hotly contested debate. Way back in 2011, Mashable reported the Forrester prediction that tablet sales would eclipse PC sales by 2015. Today, some are even saying that tablets will outsell laptops this year. And advertising growth suggests that for many, tablets are the new PC.
Regardless of when it happens, the fact is that more and more people are turning to tablets, for pleasure and for business (or both).
We thought we’d ask some business owners why they made the switch, how they’re using the tablets to conduct business, and what advice they’d offer fellow business owners who are trying to decide between laptops and tablets.
Jessica Dragotto of Monella Designs in San Francisco says she started using her tablet after a laptop mishap: “I began to use my iPad much more frequently after my laptop sort of blew up on me. At first, I was frustrated, but mostly just with the laptop. From there, I became much more accustomed to the user interface and convenience of the iPad. Much of my business is managing clientele as well as my team of designers. From this viewpoint, I naturally shifted to using devices for what they were built for: my two high-powered iMacs for design work, and the iPad for its convenience.”
Malena Lott, owner of a branding, creative and publishing firm called Athena Institute and its publishing division, Buzz Books USA, had a similar experience when her laptop died. She says, “I’ve had several laptops over the years because I’m very mobile. I used to own an ad agency and as my family grew, I made it a priority to give myself flex time, working partly from home and then needing a laptop to go to client meetings. When the iPad came along, I was already working from home. I still used my laptop (a Mac Air), but when it died for good, I decided to try a Bluetooth keyboard and researched the best apps to work with the iPad, and discovered I liked it more than I thought I would.”
One Common Thread: Convenience
Jan Koren of Absolute Exhibits, a California-based company that serves as a single source exhibit house for all trade show and convention related needs, says, “Our sales people walk shows for six to eight hours at a time, and iPads are lighter weight, easily maneuverable, and don’t seem so intimidating when you stop and talk to prospective clients on the show floor and want to share some pictures. When we started using them, they were a novelty and everyone wanted to touch and feel. I think one of our sales people in particular probably sold thousands of people on iPads the first year because he was so happy using it himself.”
Dragotto echoes the convenience factor: “Being glued to a computer or laptop, especially when the laptop gets hot sitting on your lap, became cumbersome. Using the convenience of the iPad just made more sense for all the fast and responsive communication standards I set for myself and the business.”
Lott says the iPad is extremely convenient when it comes to email, which is the primary way she communicates with her clients. She also likes it for social media management, and she appreciates the iPad’s size and weight and the fact there’s no start-up time. “When I’m with a client or author, we want to get right to it, not wait for a laptop to start up. The cons would be you are limited in scope of what you can do, so I limit using it to writing versus editing and blogging and research. When I need a bigger screen, I’ll use my Mac desktop.”
Death of the Laptop? Not so fast.
Mike Ishmael is managing partner of 4DSales, a company that develops, markets, and implements an iPad application called 4DSales™, which re-invents the traditional sales call by equipping sales reps with an iPad tool to visually represent their products/services anywhere, any time in an engaging, interactive, and elegant way. Ishmael notes that it’s not an “either/or” scenario when it comes to tablets vs. laptops. “They each perform well for certain activities,” Ishmael says. “Both tablets and laptops allow a person to create content, share content, modify content, display content, and interact with content. However, a smart phone also provides for all those same capabilities, and yet I don’t hear anybody suggesting we replace laptops with smart phones.
“Why is that? It’s simple really. The size difference, keyboard characteristics, and screen real estate all make it obvious that while someone with the proper software can create a spreadsheet from scratch on a smart phone, it is not what the smart phone was primarily designed to do and therefore it is not the best experience for the user. And in the mobile world, how the user experiences an application or device makes all the difference. In fact, I often tell people that the mobile world is an environment where form is almost more important than function.”
Blogger and freelance writer Jessica Gottlieb shares a similar sentiment. “Like so many other people, we bought an iPad right when it came out and it became evening entertainment, a second screen if you will, and my husband uses it for travel,” Gottlieb says. “When he travels, he needs to be able to watch video clips and send and receive emails more than anything else. The iPad is really great for those two limited functions. I, of course, decided that I had to have an iPad of my own, and I’ve enjoyed using it for watching TV shows that I download from iTunes when I travel. I find that I’m more accustomed to the screen on a smart phone and that I’m actually a much slower typist on my iPad, so, in my case, it’s a beautiful device that I use almost exclusively for media consumption.”
But Gottlieb also made an interesting discovery: the type of tablet you have can make a difference.
iPad or Bust? Not Necessarily.
Gottlieb explains that she’s part of a program called Windows Champions with Microsoft and every year they lend her a device and show all the “champions” how to get the most use possible out of Windows.
Gottlieb says, “This year it was the Surface tablet. I had never even thought about buying one because I already have the iPad which is a really expensive toy. What I found with the Surface is that it operates like a computer, not like a tablet, and I’m able to use the Microsoft Office suite and be very productive. The mail is also robust, and I don’t feel like I’m missing anything except weight by not having a laptop with me. I still prefer the iPad for streaming media, and so I’ve basically divided my tablets where one is a toy and one is a tool. Candidly, I love them both.”
A Laptop-Free Office? Maybe Someday, But Not Quite Yet.
Practicality will certainly play a role, at least in the short term. Koren notes that Absolute Exhibits’ lead supervisors on the trade show floor use laptops for their time clocks on the show floor and to have all of their Filemaker trade show documents as well. She adds, “Most of these components can be done on an iPad. It is just a matter of spending the money to move everyone to new equipment. In the office, we have some people on laptops, those that move around from office to office, otherwise everyone else is on PCs, except for our designers and graphic artists – they all work on Macs.”
Ishmael explains that many businesses will still need laptops for certain tasks. “Laptops do a much better job at creating content,” he says. “If you have a role in a business where you need to create documents, spreadsheets, or other types of information, laptops with physical keyboards and larger screens are going to generally be much easier to use than tablets. It is true you can buy a physical keyboard for a tablet, but once you have done that and put both the keyboard and tablet in a case, you essentially end up with a quasi-laptop anyway. In some businesses, it is not even possible to create content on a tablet. For instance an engineering company that makes 2D drawings or 3D models would be hard pressed to perform those functions on any type of tablet.”
Choosing Between Laptops and Tablets: What Real People Are Saying
Ishmael offers this rule of thumb for businesses that are trying to decide: “In general, laptops excel when it comes to creating content and tablets excel when it comes to consuming content. It’s an oversimplification, but one that is helpful when making a decision to pick one or the other or both.”
Koren says, “Of course, every business runs in a particular manner based upon their specific needs; however, if a certain segment of my employees can use iPads to cover all of their job responsibilities and they can have accessibility anytime because it is so easy to carry, then I cannot imagine not choosing the iPad. Also the money is a determination, because dollar for dollar you are getting a top-of-the-line Apple product for the same price as a very low-end laptop.”
“Consider what you will really use it for,” Lott adds. “I couldn’t do business solely on my tablet, but since I have a desktop computer, I can split the activities between the two and get more accomplished on the go and save some money.”
Gottlieb notes, “If you’re comfortable with any level of cloud computing, a tablet is a fantastic idea. They just can’t offer the same storage that a laptop can. Also if you’re addicted to peripherals, you’ll want a laptop. If you’re on the move, if you travel, and if you enjoy the freedom to work anywhere, you simply cannot beat a tablet.”
Dragotto echoes Gottlieb’s recommendation. “If you’re not yet familiar or well versed in the idea of a touch screen keyboard and operating system, I’d say be patient. You won’t get any worse at it with more practice, only better,” Dragotto says. “If you are familiar with the touch screen interface, I’d say, ‘why have you not been doing this already?’ They were designed to only make your life easier. It becomes a lifestyle, and you won’t burn your legs anymore with scorching hot laptop batteries sitting on your lap. That’s actually what caused my laptop to burn up and catalyze the whole tablet movement for me. If only that had happened sooner!”
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that we have a variety of smart phone and tablet accessories, such as the tablet stand to the right. Be sure to check them out.
How about you? Do you use a desktop, laptop, tablet or combination for your business? Share your experiences in the comments.