By Ed Hill, Professor, College of Engineering & Information Sciences, DeVry University
This year, there is likely to be a tablet or other mobile device under the tree for someone in your family. If you stay off the naughty list, it might even be you!
Shipments of tablets are expected to outpace notebook computers in 2013. Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS platforms continue to dominate in this market, but there is growing buzz around Windows 8 tablets or hybrid devices, as well as a new generation of Google Chromebooks.
While there have been many attempts at tablet devices over the past few decades, cloud computing or “the cloud” is behind the recent explosion in tablet use. All of these devices make extensive use of apps, services, and storage. The Chromebook is the most cloud-dependent device, and has little capability when not connected to the Internet.
Tips for Buyers
To get the most bang for your buck, consider the following characteristics when choosing a cloud-based device.
Most of us already carry smartphones, and the type of phone we use may largely determine our choice of tablet. This is because each platform has its own cloud-based back end, and it’s more convenient to have all your devices using the same apps and services. While you can move data between platforms when necessary, if you are buying a tablet for yourself or someone else, consider which smartphone they are using to make learning the interface and apps much easier. For example, if you already use a lot of iOS or Android apps, you probably want to use those apps on the tablet. While Amazon’s apps are available on other platforms, the Kindle Fire Tablets may be the best device if it will be used primarily for books, music, and movies from Amazon.
Consider how the device will be used. If it will be mostly for reading and playing music – whether stored on the device or streamed from the cloud – with some light web use and infrequent movie watching, then a smaller tablets with a screen in the 7-inch range will probably work best.
The larger/heavier tablets can be uncomfortable for long periods of reading. If the device will be used more for productivity, movies, gaming, and heavy web usage, then the larger tablets in the 11-inch range will probably be best. Cloud-based services like Netflix, Amazon, and Google Play let you stream movies to your device. You may also be able to download movies for offline viewing (great for those long flights).Consider a tablet with HDMI output so that you can take advantage of your TVs larger screen for watching movies and playing games. If you will primarily use your tablet for word processing, spreadsheets, and web surfing, consider the Chromebook, which has the components of a tablet with the form-factor of a laptop.
Tips for Users
All of these cloud devices can stay in sync with your desktop or laptop computer. Be sure to configure your cloud accounts so that your digital assets, such as photos, music, books and movies will be available on your mobile device. This is also a great way to move photos and videos that you shoot to your computer and, in most cases; it can be done automatically – as soon as you snap that picture! These cloud services are a great way to keep your device backed up.
Using an independent cloud service like Dropbox lets you keep all your documents in one place, and makes them available on all your devices. This is also a great way to sync between different platforms such as Mac OS, Windows, Linux, Android, iOS, etc.
For the most part, you don’t have to worry about viruses infecting the cloud as long as you stick with the apps found in the main app store for your device. Most users should avoid software not found in the online markets. There is a reason they were rejected from those app stores.
Make sure you set a password for your device, and remember that mobile-devices are easily lost or stolen. Anyone with access to your password can access your e-mail, Facebook, twitter, and other accounts. Having this happen to you can make your life miserable.
If you have sensitive data on your device, consider encrypting it for added protection in case of loss or theft. Some organizations require that any sensitive corporate data on mobile devices be encrypted, so if you are using your device for work-related activities, be sure to check with your employer’s policies.
Configure your device to be remotely wiped clean of information. If your device is stolen, it’s usually best to delete everything on it, rather than having your account information or other personal files fall into the wrong hands. Such remote security programs can also sound a loud noise on your device, making it easier to locate if lost.
Be cautious when “geotagging” your photos. Most new devices have a built-in camera app set so it does not automatically store location information, but it’s a good idea to check the settings to confirm this. When downloading other photo or video apps, make sure you know whether location information is being included with the picture files.
While tablets are great for viewing content, they can also be used to create content, and in some cases can even substitute for a laptop. Tablets can be great tools for students, and those that find themselves creating documents or following up on email while on the go.
There are good word processors, spreadsheets, and presentation apps for all tablet platforms. These apps let you view and edit MS Office files. Many of the apps are cloud-based (ex. Google Drive – formerly Google Docs), and all have the ability to sync with the cloud. Therefore, you can start editing on your tablet and pick up where you left off when you have access to your desktop or laptop. If you keep your files in the cloud, you will have them when you need them on any device.
With a good physical keyboard, most tablets are fine for general writing tasks (I’m creating this post on my Android-based tablet). Many tablets also support a mouse or trackpad, which can be helpful when doing photo editing or drawing, where fat-fingers can be a problem with touch screens. Plus, using a mouse or trackpad helps keep your screen clean. Having keyboards and mice are especially helpful when you use your device to remotely connect to your home or office computer. Check out Wyse PocketCloud and the many other apps that let you run all the software on your main computer while on the go.
Ed Hill is a professor in the College of Engineering and Information Sciences at DeVry University in Miramar, Fla. Before joining DeVry in 2002, he served as the vice president of information systems at FSD, Inc. in Miami, Fla. Hill holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Southern Methodist University and a master’s degree in computer information systems from the University of Miami. Careers are growing in the area of cloud computing, learn more at www.devry.edu/knowhow.Tags: cloud, cloud computing, DeVry University, Ed Hill, holiday gifts