Tablets in the Laboratory – battery life

There aren’t many Enterprise iPad users blogging publicly, no doubt out of confidentiality concerns. However Fraser Speirs is responsible for IT in a school where they have just deployed iPads throughout the school, and his blog on The iPad Project is well worth a read if you are thinking about large-scale deployment of iPads and the like.

As an example, a recent post on battery life makes some interesting points about the impact of battery life on usability. The short post is well worth a read, and he finishes with the following which I think is equally applicable to the Laboratory:

Simply put: if your device doesn’t last for 10 real-world hours of use, your device is no longer competitive in education. I can’t imagine ever going back to using 4-hour devices like laptops on a regular basis.

I can’t shake the feeling that tablets like the iPad are going to completely change the way we use IT in the labs, because they are just so compelling for the kinds of interaction you need to do in that environment. But I also feel that people haven’t really woken up to the implications… which does make it interesting!

It is small-but-crucial things like this which we are exploring in our loose group of people who are interested in the iPad in the Lab. We’re getting lots of really practical insights as well as the inevitable “How do we do this” discussion.

As an aside, any reading of the iPad developer documentation shows how much effort Apple have put into managing the battery life on their mobile devices, and you can really see the results. But that does have software implications – e.g. people who think they must have Flash to have a viable Tablet probably don’t realise they will get a device which will have a greatly reduced battery life as a result!

ELNs in the Laboratory – iPad Vs Ruggedised Tablet

The Electronic Lab Notebook’s last frontier for the is the laboratory bench, and historically companies have explored a variety of solutions although I don’t think anyone would claim to have the perfect solution yet.

Comparing a recent ruggedised tablet with an iPad shows why the iPad is so interesting for accessing an ELN from the benchtop.

The latest PC Pro magazine has a review of the Motion Computing J3500 which is a ruggedised PC with a touch screen which I guess would be one of the devices you might consider if you wanted a PC in the lab. At £2,253 (ex VAT) it isn’t cheap, battery life is just over 4 hours, and it is going to take a lot of bench space.

Compare that to an iPad which is £365 (ex VAT), a battery that will last most if not all of the day, much more portable, doesn’t take up nearly as much space on the benchtop and can be placed in a protective plastic bag if desired.

The difference in price, form factor and battery life is stark, and I suspect the iPad will be a lot cheaper to manage from an IT perspective. Given the move to web-based systems I can’t see there’s much the iPad is missing in terms of functionality either.

And that is why we’re excited about the iPad…. and it is too small to be used as a tray which is a concern with Tablet PCs!