Since the festive season has passed and distributed a lot of new toys around, there has been further talk around the use of iPads and such devices as tools of government. They were also well in evidence at the GDS launch in December 2011.
A recent report from the Software Usability Research Laboratory in the Department of Psychology at Wichita State University, USA, examines the usability of them and presents some interesting conclusions. The report is entitled “iPad Usage Patterns On-the-Go and at Work”, which is important because, as the report goes on to conclude, that the main use is “as a leisurely device to browse the Web and check email”. The major drawback being stated as the device’s inability to multitask. Having invested some time myself into testing an Asus Transformer, the Android alternative, in the work environment, I can only confirm these conclusions.
As a document viewer, or with the purchased application as a PDF form-filler, it has the same use as a laptop or netbook but with better battery life, but in attempting to connect the device through the many security barriers around local authority IT systems isn’t as easy, if at all possible. A supplier of a particular local government application has developed an application to interface with its server-based system but is then likely to be charging several thousand pounds for its use, which will then affeact the business case for using tablets.
Whilst I can see some limited uses for such devices currently, they’ll obviously become mainstream eventually, and with the correct security and service applications developed may venture outside the realms of being a flashy alternative to paper. So watch the arena but unless you have the dosh to spare, and who has these days, just try and reduce your printing in preparation.