For a long time, laptop computers have dominated the marketplace in mobile computing, easily surpassing tablets as the first choice of students and business professionals. However, the trend lines are changing. Rugged tablets may become more popular than laptops in industry applications due to their portability, durability, and reliability.
Rugged tablets have several advantages over laptops that make them better suited to use in demanding environments. They are generally more portable and lightweight than laptops, which makes them easier to carry around and use in the field. They have longer battery life for their weight, which is important when access to power may be limited. In addition, rugged tablets are more durable and resistant to damage than laptops, which can be critical to maintaining operations in industries where they may be exposed to extreme temperatures, shock, vibration, and other hazards. While rugged laptops are an option that Minno also sells, rugged tablets are more affordable and always-on, and ready to use.
In order to understand the future of tablets versus laptops, it helps to revisit the past.
Laptops have a head start
The first commercially introduced laptop was the Osborne 1, which was introduced in 1981 and weighed a hefty 24 lbs. In 1984 IBM got into the laptop business with a faster but even heavier product (30 lbs). It wasn’t until 1989 that the first laptop with a size and weight similar to modern laptops was released by Zenith. It is difficult to identify the “first” rugged laptop, as the exact definition of a rugged laptop varies depending on who you ask. The concept of a rugged laptop, designed to withstand harsh environments and demanding conditions, likely emerged as a response to the needs of industry, military, and emergency services, which require durable, reliable computing equipment. Many different companies and manufacturers have developed rugged laptops over the years, each with its own unique features and designs. Some are more durable than others, and all of them expensive and bulky.
Tablets make their debut
The first significant commercially available tablet was the Grid Systems GridPad 1900, released in 1989 and had a pen-resistive screen and weighed 4.5 lbs!
Apple released the iPad in 2010 and popularized the platform which was quickly embraced by smart phone users as a more portable, always-on computing platform. But consumer grade tablets were slow moving between applications, and easily damaged in commercial environments prone to drops and shocks. Industrial settings also had limited connectivity; and early tablets were easily damaged or “bricked” by exposure to humidity, water, and extreme temperatures. Protective cases improved survivability incrementally, but couldn’t address temperature extremes, and drops, so they had limited the use in industry.
Some of the first rugged tablets were adopted for military use, where they needed to be able to withstand harsh conditions on the battlefield. These tablets where lightweight, and emphasized compactness and durability, critical to combat. Since the beginning, the march to ruggedize for harsh conditions and use has been unstoppable. A modern rugged tablet is engineered from the inside out to tolerate drops and shocks and not break or dislodge internal components or screen glass. They can operate in high and low temperatures, dust, and humidity. Many models can be fully submerged in water for long periods. Designed for use outdoors, rugged tablets are equipped with sunlight readable, high-resolution screens and swappable batteries for prolonged use.
Today the utility of rugged tablets makes them ideal for industries such as construction, manufacturing, shipping, warehousing and distribution, transportation, healthcare, field service, oil and gas, emergency services and many others.
Rugged tablet sales accelerate
In a recent interview, Rich Miner (Google’s CTO of Android tablets), predicted that in the near future there will be more tablets sold than laptops, and statistics back his claim. Demand for laptops continues, but tablet sales are growing faster and rugged tablet sales is the fastest growing niche of the tablet market.
By 2015, industry reports showed that in much of the world, there were already more rugged tablets deployed in the field than rugged laptops. Sales have continued to soar globally and so has innovation. Companies like Minno took full advantage of the latest technologies and existing supply chains to offer excellent ingress, shock, and thermal protection, improved connectivity, and functionality at prices that make broad industry adoption feasible. As more businesses embrace digital transformation and remote work, the demand for durable, portable devices has continued to accelerate.
The future favors rugged tablets
Young consumers who have grown-up with instant access to information, are fueling competitive businesses to adopt mobile devices in order to have instant answers. Rugged tablets provide unmatched customer experience, whether it’s a customer waiting on a delivery, a patron at a restaurant, or a patient in health care. In addition to pushing data up to frontline workers, early adopters of rugged tablets, realized that they could also use the devices to revolutionize operations and business processes as well.
In the future, rugged computing devices are expected to become more advanced in terms of their ability to interact with users and predict their needs. The size of these devices will likely normalize, with larger screens becoming more common for the purposes of data visualization and control. Furthermore, advancements in battery technology are expected to greatly extend the life of these devices, allowing for longer periods of use without the need for recharging. Overall, the future of rugged computing looks bright, with a wide range of exciting developments on the horizon.
Minno stands for Mobile Innovation and Value
Minno is a privately held manufacturer of full-featured, high-performance rugged tablets (Android and Windows) and custom-designed or branded tablets for industry, education, and governments sold B2B in volume at prices well below retail brands. Minno rugged tablets are designed for high performance, durability, reliability, and versatility. Our tablets will change how your business operates and deliver value to customers by delivering productivity, efficiency, and business agility.