One of the benefits of the reorientation of IT toward the
consumer is that hardware and services are now refreshed on an annual cycle,
with major releases coming just in time for the holiday shopping season and
right in the middle of budgeting for next year for companies on a
calendar-based fiscal year. Here’s a quick review of what’s new in tablets and
what I’m still waiting for.

Fresh Apples

The headliner on the tablet front is usually Apple’s iPad,
and the company recently released an anticipated refresh to its iPad and iPad mini
lines. The refresh follows the track record of a post-Jobs Apple, with most
details leaking in advance of the announcement and incremental improvements to
the hardware rather than major changes.

Check out these additional tablet resources

Enterprise users will like the lighter weight and slightly
improved battery life on the iPad Air and a higher quality screen on the
iPad mini. The major caveat for enterprises is the inclusion of iOS 7, which
has only been in the wild for a few months and already experienced a few
security-related patch releases. Missing from the new iPads is Apple’s
fingerprint recognition technology, which first appeared on the new iPhone 5s.
While I’ve heard somewhat mixed reviews, workable biometric authentication on a
mobile device like a tablet would be a boon to enterprises.

Kindle Fire HDX

While it’s tempting to completely dismiss Amazon’s tablet
offerings, and I won’t recommend a Fire for the vast majority of enterprise
users, the Fire HDX deserves attention for some of the groundbreaking services
that it offers. Amazon has cracked the nut of moving applications and the OS out of
the way of the user and is using its Fire platform to disseminate and sell
content. The company is also innovating with live video chat and a support
agent who can take control of the tablet to offer assistance. Imagine
connecting your field personnel with a live agent who could help them repair a
down unit in the field, demonstrate a product on the other side of the world,
or capture troubleshooting information in real time.

With enterprise tablets, too many in IT are worried about
nuances of operating systems and development environments rather than taking an Amazon-like
approach and looking at the tablet as a platform to deliver new and innovative
services.

Android and Windows

There haven’t been many new developments for the holiday
season on Android tablets, other than continued innovation in form factor by
the variety of Android OEMs. In contrast to Apple’s two tablet offerings, the
various Android-based tablet manufacturers offer a host of screen sizes,
laptop-like and convertible tablets, and even devices that run “regular”
Windows in one mode and Android in another. While Android offers more
extensibility and access to its OS, Apple has received the majority of the
attention from enterprise software providers like Salesforce and SAP, although
that’s quickly changing as Android gains market share.

On the Windows front, Microsoft continues to pitch its
Windows RT variant, which has become a bit more exciting with a recent update
that includes “real” Outlook and other components of the Office
suite. Microsoft has refreshed its own Surface hardware, and recently-acquired Nokia has also announced an RT tablet. Microsoft has also refined
the experience of transitioning between the traditional desktop and the more
touch-friendly Modern interface, continuing to make a play for one device that
does it all. I like Microsoft’s vision for a single device that marries the
best of the tablet and desktop into one device, but the company is still
lagging behind due to its initial struggles with execution and lack of market
share.

What’s missing in
tablets?

As another year draws to a close, the major innovation on
the tablet front has been Microsoft’s rocky launch of Windows 8 and Windows RT.
Apple and Google have refreshed their tablet operating systems, but both were refreshes or user experience overhauls rather than fundamental shifts in
tablet technology.

We’re still missing a high-quality ink experience, save for
a few Android and Windows tablets. Perhaps I’m a Luddite, but I still see
taking notes and annotating documents with a pen being preferable to a finger
or “squishy” capacitive stylus.

Seamless local collaborative technology also seems to be missing.
I’m amazed that I still walk into meetings in 2013 and spend the first 15
minutes wrestling with projectors, emailing missing handouts, and often
resorting to printing hard copies. As tablets increasingly appear at meetings,
it’s unfortunate that I can’t easily share documents wirelessly to participants
and projectors, without dealing with network configurations and proprietary
protocols.

As tablet form factors and operating systems have largely
stabilized, hopefully more attention will be paid to these enterprise-friendly
features. While Apple and Google may be hesitant to acknowledge the enterprise
market for fear of forsaking the consumer, 2013 was most definitely the year
tablets became a routine participant in my meetings rather than a noteworthy
and unusual item.

What tablets due you think will gain the most love this holiday shopping season? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.