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iPad 2 vs. business class tablets

iPad2 is the gold standard, but Fujitsu Stylistic and GammaTech Durabook are strong contenders

By Tom Henderson, Network World
October 24, 2011 12:05 AM ET

Network World - Tech lovers have been flocking to the iPad 2 and other tablets in order to watch movies, read books, surf the Web and make video calls on the latest, greatest, thinnest, lightest, coolest devices. But where do tablets fit within the enterprise?

We tested 10 tablets to see which had the strongest set of business-related features. Our test subjects ranged from the high-end $1,699 GammaTech Durabook (a tablet/notebook hybrid) to the $279 Archus 70 and everything in between, including tablets from Fujitsu, RIM, Acer, ViewSonic, Toshiba, Motorola and, of course, Apple. We even tested a $79 no-name tablet from China.

We focused on business-related features, such as business-oriented programs and apps, security components, developer programs poised towards the enterprise, and accessories targeting business use. We also looked at battery life and Java-based browser performance.

Tablet throwdown: Amazon Kindle Fire vs. Apple iPad 2

Two tablets stood out: Fujitsu's Stylistic, and the GammaTech Durabook. Apple's market setting iPad2 has obvious strengths, but also suffers from a mixed feature set. Here are the individual reviews:

Apple iPad 2: The gold standard

The clear consumer market leader, the iPad2 has business features that are often underplayed. On the other hand, it lacks several features that we feel are important.

The iPad2 can be obtained with WiFi only, or WiFi and 3G. Apple uses a certificate-based system for downloads, the Apple Push Notification System. Developers are required to obtain certificates that in turn, allow communications to be pushed to Apple iOS 3+ devices, whether 3G or WiFi-connected.

First look at Apple iPad 2 and what it is missing

These "push certificates" authenticate the message payload, often an application or a policy toggle. A device, when connected to 3G mobile networks, can receive pushed messages. These messages are available to WiFi users only when they're logged on, of course.

The iPad 2 is initialized and backed up through iTunes. Its chain of authority comes through iTunes, and/or subsequent push-type messages that arrive from Apple or Apple-authorized systems. These systems must have encryption and authenticating certificates that allow Apple to communicate with the iPad via its operating system, iOS.

Mobile Device Management software packages usually use this chain of authority (the Apple Push Notification System), to communicate bi-directionally with an iPad 2. This allows policy enforcement, like software authorization, remote kill, and other policies to "enwrap" iPad 2 use. Tablets can be secured in this way against unauthorized access via password failure shutdowns, and prevention of unauthorized software installation.

Apple offered us a free "Find My iPad" subscription that locates a unit, and can wipe the iPad if necessary. Enterprises that already have this capability through third-party mobile management software may wish to disable this function.

Watch a slideshow version of this story

Enterprises may also want to enforce policies that suppress Bluetooth peer connectivity, as well as front and rear camera and microphone use. To their credit, Apple suppresses USB connectivity so there's no need to worry about data walking out the door on a USB drive.

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