Tablet Multi-tasking

Tablet Multi-tasking:  The Business Case

Understanding the need for tablet multi-tasking is a for-gone conclusion for some but for others as things are as “clear as mud”.

The History
In the beginnings of Silicon Valley, the aspiration was a car in every garage and a Personal Computer in every house.  Over time, various themes have been born out of that original concept.  The most prevalent is the concept of ubiquitous computing, anytime, anywhere.  This aspiration has drove the mobile computing industry since its conception as a suitcase-sized portable computer (known as the Compaq Portable compete with a futuristic orange monochrome screen and 5 ½ inch floppy drive).

The current "holy grail" for the mobile worker is to accomplish everything on a smaller platform.

"Today's tablet user expects to work on Word document, consult a Website and exchange instant messaging all at the same time." 

With the introduction of tablet form factors over the past 10 years, it was expected that a quick evolution to the tablet replacing the laptop would occur.  However, prevailing market conditions focused on increasing consumer demand for tablets and e-reader devices.  Combined with challenging hardware requirements left the mobile worker to fend for themselves.

The Apple IPAD historically has dominated this consumer space and until recently has viewed the tablet as a consumptive device.  One that consumes information and media rather than a multi-tasking workhorse.  (Take as an example that the Apple Tablet is the only competing tablet platform that does not support a mouse).  Consistent with this consumer-focused theme has been the concept that a tablet can only address singular tasks and that user would only be focused on singular tasks with the tablet being an "on-the-go" platform for the 24/7 worker.

IBM and Samsung arguably have been the pioneers in taking on the workforce tablet.  IBM's Surface Product family has targeted the business market with a strong form factor and multi-tasking support including snap windows.  Samsung's approach has been with multi-windows “S-Multi Windows”, the Note product line and higher-end specifications with the most recent tablets including 3gigs of Ram.

The business user works within a cultural expectation of multi-tasking for the work day (and in many cases 24/7).   Multi-task based computing consists of two related requirements.  The user would be accessing two or more applications representing segregated or integrated work product efforts (such as creating a proposal, or writing a needs analysis etc.).   These supporting applications need to be able to run simultaneously.

Processing Resources.
Technically, to support dual supporting applications, each application needs to be able to run concurrently having independent access to the computer processor. In the past, often one application would be cached (paused and saved to memory) while the other application would be in focus.  This works only under limited conditions in today’s work situations.  A web browser and a streaming video require equal and concurrent access to the processor.

Concurrent Display.
As critical as concurrent processing is the ability to view both applications side by side.  The user may be quoting from a source document, researching the web, or referencing an email.  Early evolution of the desktop interface, had stacked windows that could be retrieved and brought to the focus.  Today's user however, atypically works within a two-display desktop environment and needs immediate eye contact with the content and context.

Mobile computing is an evolution.  It had its beginnings in a suitcase and is now beginning to see maturity in the latest generation of devices.  Samsung's S Tab premier tablet line has more processing power of last generation’s netbooks, and yet weighs less than 1lb.  The challenge going forward is for the competing operating systems to step up to the challenge.

About Sprawlgeek.
A Seasoned Technology Visionary possessing a deep understanding of technology and business processes.

Doug has accumulated over 35 years of experience in the technology and media markets. His broad career has ranged from leading Research and Development work for a 300+ million dollar company to an E-Government startup. His efforts have been recognized by major trade associations as well as Tier 1 clients.

Doug is now a private consultant and continues to provide his insights to the industry.