Choosing the right tablet for business

With Android tablets, things are slightly trickier. Many companies still worry about a perceived lack of management tools and the security, hardware fragmentation and malware issues that plague the OS.

Manufacturers are working to fight these perceptions, with Samsung’s Approved For Enterprise and Motorola’s Business Ready programmes guaranteeing support for common IT policies, encryption and robust MDM. Meanwhile, 3LM (a subsidiary of Motorola and so now owned by Google) provides an Android security, management and remote access platform with remote-wipe capabilities, access controls and remote installation of apps and updates on some devices.

Tablet OSes

Windows 8 Pro – Here we have all the security and management features that Windows-based enterprises know and trust, plus compatibility with existing applications. However, Windows 8 Pro tablets have so far been expensive, while battery life hasn’t matched ARM equivalents. There’s potential to be the best business choice, but these issues need to be addressed.

Windows RT – Windows RT might suit a subset of users, but it isn’t as secure or manageable a platform as Windows 8 Pro, and business app support needs work. Windows RT might succeed in the consumer space, but it has its work cut out if it wants to convince business customers. Is this Microsoft’s missed opportunity?

If you’re willing to subscribe to Google Apps, you can use its Device Policy app, which ties all of these management features into specific Android devices and Google Apps accounts.

The administrator can set remote access rights and perform administrative tasks, and track, lock and erase devices remotely. However, at £4 per user per month, this may be further than some companies are willing to go.

Windows 8

In theory, management should be the big selling point of Windows 8. “When you take a Windows device into a Windows infrastructure, there are no hidden costs,” says Microsoft’s Burgess. “Assuming, for example, that they have a centralised management solution and they’re looking at rolling out tablets, the bottom line is – essentially – that to roll out tablets is exactly the same as rolling out a laptop, providing it’s a Windows tablet and it’s x86.”

In other words, a tablet running Windows 8 Pro is no more difficult to manage than a laptop running the same. It will work with the same System Center Configuration Manager tools as a Windows 8 laptop, and will take advantage of the Active Directory and Group Policy features that many IT managers already use to manage their existing Windows environments.
Managers can use the new Group Policy Update features in Windows 8 to push out updates and configuration changes.

Surface Pro

But what happens with an ARM tablet running Windows RT? Here things are less enticing. Microsoft’s recommended approach is for the cloud-based Windows Intune service, offering management, security and a corporate app store for £9 per user per month.

For small- and medium-sized businesses looking to outsource IT administration, this might not be a problem – particularly if a wholesale move to Intune is on the cards. If you prefer to keep everything in house, however, RT isn’t for you.


Tablets aren’t inherently less secure than laptops, but are subject to the same concerns. “When you start to take data outside of the office, things become less secure,” says Dell’s Griffin. “Security has to be a key part of tablet devices, whether it’s physical security or security of the data on the device.”

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