We’ve worked with a variety of mobile platforms, and as with all choices there are lots of pros and cons to consider before making a commitment. Let us skip past the discussion on who offers the slickest hardware, because we know which fruit flavor wins that competition. But that bit about commitment is important, because while all of these are mature enough to ensure you’ll be able to find support, those support and training costs do tend to multiply as you add differing platforms. Even a purely mobile optimized web solution (which, without getting on too much of a tangent, is an excellent approach) will provide somewhat different user experience on different hardware. As always, begin with a comprehensive discovery process to fully understand your needs before deciding and investing. But with that out of the way, we’ll dive right in, starting with, surprise surprise…
For all its’ sheen, the iPad is a serious business machine with the right specs to run a flexible array of applications while still being very competitive on cost. It is also a little bonus to employees who will love you for letting them take it home. The greatest weakness here is Apple’s iron grip on developers, which can cause some headaches when it comes to enterprise software deployment. A fantastic choice for internal web-based solutions or anything which can be accessed through the excellent remote-control solutions available (e.g., Citrix, RDP, logmein)
An Android Cornucopia
Lots has been written about the fragmented Android market, and much of that is actually true. But the tablet space splits into two camps: hi-spec iPad competitors like the Galaxy and Xoom and lower-spec models like Archos and now, Kindle Fire. That choice between cost/feature levels is the big win of this platform. You can select hardware/features that suit your application and not have to pay for features which don’t. You also have complete control over the platform software, even up to modifying the operating system if you need to (you don’t). The hi-spec options aren’t very attractive unless you need something an iPad can’t do.
Windows (7? 8? Phone?)
The workhorse of mobile business applications for years, Microsoft’s mobile ecosystem has become confused of late. So here, we are talking about tablets running Windows 7 (soon 8), not ancient versions of WinCE or much advertised little sold Windows Phone OS, since that appears to be the direction we’re headed among tablets. The main advantage is if you have existing systems built on Microsoft technology, they may be easier to bring to a mobile platform also running Windows, though the benefits are not huge. The platform unfortunately is not yet competitive with others in usability demands a higher cost which is hard to justify. For the Microsoft-faithful only.