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Can a technologist work from a tablet alone?

I was talking with an old friend this morning about his iPad usage, and given the sales of iPads recently it got me thinking. Sale of iPads, as well as their sheer hardware performance, is outpacing the MacBook range these days.

I remember even a year or so ago a couple of colleagues using their iPads (with appropriate keyboards) almost exclusively for days, if not weeks, at a time.

With the new Chrome OS based tablets on the market too, as well as Android tablets and Samsung DeX (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IaCH-FidWOo for example) the question expands to tablets in general.

What do you think? What is your experience?

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22 Comments

  • Oct 31 at 09:18 AM

    I often use my iPad when I am traveling or on the vacation. I am able:

    1. Answer questions in SAP Community (not perfect - images, copy/paste etc...)

    2. Provide consultancy using Skype (voice conversations, chat, screen sharing).

    3. Remote control sessions using TeamViewer (not very comfortable due to missing mouse support)

    May be Android tablet will be better - BT/USB mouse can attached for remote control sessions.

    For sure it's not possible to directly use:

    - SAP GUI

    - Special browser extensions

    - Development tools for MS products

    ...

  • Oct 31 at 11:28 AM

    I think hardware types are getting more an more diffuse.

    Personally I go the other way round. I extend my classic windows environment to touch.

    I bought a convertible type Windows laptop which supports a pen (that I never used). And I added a touch display even to my 10 year old windows desktop PC.

    So when discussing that it is of importance to distinguish: Are we discussing Operating System concepts (Android, iOS, Windows, MacOS, Chrome-OS, Linux...) and their ecosystems or are we discussing different types of user interaction hardware (Mouse, Keyboard, Touch-Finger, Touch-Pen).

    I think tablets extended with keyboards and laptops extended with touch displays ("convertibles") are the natural hardware categories today. May the better OS win.

    • Oct 31 at 02:32 PM

      My personal laptop is a convertible. For my co-workers who are not technologists and, thus, don't need a higher powered laptop, the company provides them with convertibles as well.

      I regularly run one or more VMs on my work laptop so that I don't have to mix software versions when working with clients who have different versions of SAP BusinessObjects. I also do a lot of programming with the SDKs in both Java and .NET. I don't think I would be able to do these things on a tablet.

      -Dell

  • Oct 31 at 04:12 PM

    I use my iPad a lot, although mostly for my sparetime activities to access Skype (chat), the internet, social media and email. But - as I always have it near me, I also take it with me to meetings at work to take notes or to access company-wide collaboration platforms which don't require to be logged in to the company network.

    As I've been touch-typing for "ages" I don't much like the screen keyboard and therefore have a protective cover for my iPad which does double-duty as an almost completely functional keyboard.

    Cheers

    Bärbel

  • Oct 31 at 08:41 PM

    I've read an article somewhere which claimed that tablet market was actually shrinking except for iPads. The article said it's because the phones are getting larger and, essentially, there is not much space in between a "phablet" and a laptop/desktop.

    I have an iPad Mini and use it a lot to browse Reddit, watch movies or to send a quick message. But never for work and not when a lot of typing is involved. Typing on screen is actually not that difficult (and switching to Russian keyboard is much simpler than putting stickers on the keyboard :) ) but editing is painful.

    So while I can totally see myself doing some tasks on a tablet, using tablet alone is not very likely in the foreseeable future.

    • Oct 31 at 09:00 PM

      "but editing is painful" - agree 200%!

    • Nov 01 at 06:03 PM

      I use phonetic keyboard, so switching to Russian keyboard is super easy on laptops/desktops....

      I don't use tablets and don't use the phone all that much either (outside of SMS, calls and waze)....

      Laptop with 3+screens and gaming desktop is enough for me.

  • Nov 01 at 07:45 AM

    Wow, lots of interesting points so far. The one that has most relevance to me is Lutz's comment about the blurring of the lines, and causes me to rethink this whole question. I too see a blurring of the types of device as well as the operating systems. For instance, the latest Google device - the Slate - is that a tablet or a laptop?

    It's a tablet because it's not got a fixed keyboard. But is that a fair deduction? Some laptops have removable keyboards these days.

    It's a computer because it doesn't run a tablet OS (e.g. Android or iOS) - it runs Chrome OS. But again, I see more tablets coming out with Chrome OS *instead of* Android these days.

    Food for thought.

    One thing I concur with is the observation that it's hard to type on-screen - I definitely need a separate physical keyboard for most things.

    • Nov 01 at 05:21 PM

      I suspect the idea was that voice operation will eventually replace (or almost replace) typing. But voice recognition still is not at the level it should be at. Also there are purely physical barriers: e.g. if I have a sore throat or am sitting in an open office then sure as heck I'm not doing "hey, Siri".

      In sci-fi movies these days we don't see laptops or desktops anymore though. There are still keyboards but only to override some spaceship autopilot commands or something. To be used only by "cool hackers" of the future. :)

      • Nov 01 at 06:17 PM

        Several years ago I had a desktop with a "Dragon" voice recognition card and software. You spent time "training" it to recognize your voice. For fun I tried to write code using it, but it was an exercise in frustration rather than fun. I don't see that type of work moving to voice control anytime soon.

        Or, how would you create a Visio document by voice - touchpad drag and drop maybe, but not voice. I could come up with several other apps that I use daily that would not work well with the voice/touchpad combination.

        -Dell

        • Nov 02 at 03:28 PM

          Hm, I'm guessing you'd need some kind of coordinate system for voice-driven Visio. Like Battleships. "Place a rectangle at G4". :)

      • Nov 01 at 07:42 PM

        In case you needed some voice recognition humor in your day: https://youtu.be/NMS2VnDveP8

  • Nov 01 at 12:31 PM

    For several years, I had a phone, tablet, and laptop for work. Since typing is a long developed skill, I invested in a keyboard for the tablet, but other than occasionally reading on it during long flights, I almost never used it. Typing on the attached keyboard was difficult as the key spacing was different from the laptop that I was used to. I guess for those who are not all that good with typing, it would be useful to have the smaller device (especially on planes), but for me it was just not a tool which got much use. I would stick it in my laptop bag and forget about it (even when going thru airport security screening which was occasionally embarrassing).

    Cheers, Mike Appleby

    • Nov 01 at 02:17 PM

      I'm going through some sort of renaissance with typing, in that I'm now using a mechanical keyboard and any flatter keyboards (such as that on my MacBook or accompanying my Android tablet, even the (otherwise awesome) keyboard on my Pixelbook) feel sort of lifeless. I can imagine wanting to bring an external keyboard along with me, but my desire for minimum travel baggage counteracts that.

      • Nov 01 at 03:57 PM

        So get rid of the tablet and its associated keyboard as I did. I also do not like the flatter keyboards, but what's a dinosaur to do in this rapidly changing world?

        • Nov 01 at 04:05 PM

          It's sort of a nice problem to have - too much choice. As I'm mostly desk-bound these days, I enjoy a stable setup anyway which doesn't involve the use of tablets that much - that's when I'm on the road.

    • Nov 01 at 06:22 PM

      My iPad gets used for reading books (both Kindle and Nook) and occasionally for looking up recipes. It's easier than dragging a bunch of books with me when I travel - I go through 2-3 books in a week. Occasionally I'll use it for taking notes, but I'd rather write on paper for that most of the time.

      • Nov 01 at 08:11 PM

        I tried using the iPad for reading, but preferred my Kindle. Lighter and a bit simpler to use. Longer battery life too (Paperwhite). I also go through a lot of books each week and even more when traveling.

        • Nov 01 at 08:16 PM

          I turn the backlight level way down so it doesn't use battery as fast. I also have a couple of apps for working with knitting patterns on there. Since I carry some form of knitting with me when I travel, I have everything in the same place. Also, I use the smaller iPad, not the full size one - the new version isn't called "mini" any longer.

  • Nov 04 at 08:11 PM

    Short answer: Almost!

    For the past two years I've travelled with only my iPad pretty much most of the time, unless a customer requires me to connect to their SAP system with my own equipment.

    My usual kit I travel with: 9.5" iPad pro, Apple Pencil and Mac keyboard (same one I use with my Macbook). I actually do a lot of my writing with the pencil, using the MyScript handwriting keyboard app. The keyboard comes out if I need to do complex stuff like word docs with formatting or Excel.

    Works so well for me that I'm still not in a hurry to upgrade my 6 year old Macbook. Effectively it has become my desktop computer and the iPad has become my laptop.

    There's very little I really need my laptop for. Serious ABAP is about the only thing that gets a bit clunky on the iPad. When I'm travelling I don't tend to have much time for extracurricular coding activities so that's not too big a bother.

  • Nov 06 at 07:48 PM

    I couldn't work on an Ipad alone.

    Maybe if I wasn't in a technical position and was just attending meetings, reviewing documents and doing email it would be fine.

    But for technical work I find it pretty difficult. Many of my emails are long with multiple screen shots. Or I'm doing a document with multiple types of objects in it.

    And working in SAP and using debugger, reviewing code, exploring SAP tables, working with large excel sheets of data, etc.. would be tedious on an I-pad I think.

    I use my I-phone for calls, and emergency calls from close work contacts, and personal calendar and email.

    I use my I-pad for my combined business and personal calender and combined email.

    I use my laptop Windows strictly for work.

    I use my MAC laptop strictly for personal use. I keep some work related knowledge and files on it as well, mostly as a back up as I always had to return client issued laptops.

    Craig

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