Yes, tablets are for creating -- a new kind of content

Tablets are still perceived as devices better suited to consuming content than to creating it. In reality, they empower a new kind of content creation -- one that is distinct from that of PCs and smartphones.

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By comparison, workers rated smartphones much lower on all three measures: 30%, 16% and 16%, respectively.

Why do workers perceive tablets this way? The combination of screen size and hyper-portability means that tablets can be used productively in far more places than laptops, and for more robust applications than smartphones. Workers overwhelmingly limit their PC/laptop usage to their work desks, with taking it home running a distant second. But workers use tablets at nearly identical rates as smartphones in places such as non-desk locations at work, other work or client facilities, at home, in coffee shops and other public places, and while traveling. Adding computing time in new places yields additional worker productivity.

In other words, tablets are hyper-portable devices that workers perceive as productivity-enhancers. They occupy a different niche in workers' lives than PCs or smartphones.

Emerging usage models

Tablets are the locus of a great deal of computing innovation for workforces. At their best, they combine all of the benefits of smartphones (such as location tagging) with more complex, richer displays. One example is Expect Labs' MindMeld application for collaboration. Logging in to the MindMeld application, several colleagues can establish a telepresence. That isn't unique, but the MindMeld application "listens" to the conversation itself, identifying the key topics in a word-cloud style. It then surfaces content (from the Web and private databases) related to the conversation. Participants can interact with that content, which becomes a tangible deliverable of the meeting. The touch-friendly iPad offers workers a user interface that's intimate, efficient and well suited to the collaborative computing experience.

Meanwhile, some user companies are creating customized applications for their workers. Logitech, which employs a large sales force that visits thousands of retail locations, developed a tablet app that improved its business results. Workers use a tablet to take a photo of retail displays (to judge their accuracy and effectiveness) and input information on site about inventory and product trends. The app unites this information with location tagging, which generates big data and insights in the background. These analytics help Logitech identify problems with its channels and products by geography, by display type, by retailer, etc. Ultimately, sales reps' retail visits became more effective as a result of this application.

It's time to put to bed the conventional wisdom that tablets aren't good for content creation. Tablets represent a unique computing model for workers -- one that's distinct from PCs and smartphones.

J.P. Gownder is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research serving infrastructure and operations professionals.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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