Tablets and cloud solutions empower public sector workers

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Advanced technology, niche applications increase productivity in the field

Law enforcement officers in Jefferson County, Tenn., have them. The General Services Administration is rolling them out. The City of Williamsburg, Va., gave them to its city council and other key staff. The Interior Department has given them to about 1,000 field agents. As these examples demonstrate, tablets are hot right now, and not just in the public sector.

“The form factor of the smartphone is just a little too small. It’s not easy replying to a complicated e-mail or looking at an attachment,” explains Dr. Michael Salsburg, a spokesperson for the Computer Measurement Group, a nonprofit group focused on ensuring the efficiency and scalability of IT service delivery. “A tablet provides a whole lot more space, as well as ease of use, and access to the applications and connectivity that make it a real productivity device.”

So much so that after less than a year on the market, tablets have become big business, according to Oppenheimer & Co. The company in January 2011 predicted that the total shipments of tablet devices will explode from 15.1 million units this year to more than 115 million by 2014, topping $55 billion in sales. The numbers are not surprising given the exponential growth of Apple’s iPad, which nearly hit the 7.5 million unit mark between the time it debuted in April 2010 and the end of the third quarter of 2010. The growth will come from Apple’s device as well as from new tablets from Dell, HP, Motorola and Research In Motion, the company behind the ever-popular BlackBerry device. The most surprising part: More than a quarter of the devices will be purchased by the enterprise, according to a Deloitte Consulting report.

“If you think about the movement, what’s driving apps to mobile platforms, you see how tablets can be used in the field when coupled with cloud services,” said Brad Eskind, principal federal technology leader at Deloitte. “Some things like grants management or data or predictive analytics are easily handled on a tablet.” The reasons are simple. Today’s tablets have dual-core processors, which provide the computing power to handle advanced, processor-hungry applications. In addition, tablets ship with touch screens, the ability to connect to a network via Wi-Fi or wireless carrier, and an already well-established software development base so custom applications can be built quickly and cheaply.

“Tablets are basically filling a lot of niche requirements,” agrees Richard Schum, senior industry analyst at INPUT, who says that tablets, at least in the foreseeable future, will be a complement to more traditional computing devices. For instance, Schum recently interviewed law enforcement officials who were looking for a device to use in the field for fingerprinting and photo identification. Tablets worked well, says Schum, because of their form factor and the fact that customized applications were easily created. In effect, they allowed the law enforcement agents to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently, two elements that will come into play as new devices such as Research In Motion’s tablet entry, the PlayBook, is introduced this year.

And then there’s the cloud connection. The tablets play well in the cloud since they can act as not-so-dumb terminals, offloading storage and data, which helps boost end-user security. “Tablets have solid state memory, but not nearly as much as you’d find on a laptop hard drive, so when you attach it to the cloud. the possibilities become unlimited,” said Schum.

And we’re only seeing a small portion of what tablets will enable, said Sascha Segan, lead analyst for mobile devices at PCMag.com. “It’s very early days for tablets,” he said. “The apps are still nascent, and while they are growing, it’s still clearly an embryonic technology. With Android tablets just entering the market, and the RIM PlayBook hitting shelves, the landscape is going to look totally different by the end of the year. Q4 2011 is going to be a great time for tablet users.”

About the Author

Karen J. Bannan is a freelance writer for 1105 Government Information Group’s Content Solutions unit. This Snapshot report was commissioned by the Content Solutions unit, an independent editorial arm of 1105 Government Information Group. Specific topics are chosen in response to interest from the vendor community; however, sponsors are not guaranteed content contribution or review of content before publication. For more information about 1105 Government Information Group Content Solutions, please email us at GIGCustomMedia@1105govinfo.com