We at Prowess Consulting explored that question, and came to a logical conclusion: The right device for mobile users is simply the one that lets them work the way they need to.

Work and personal digital tasks today require multiple applications. Users can get more done, both on the job and off, with a tablet that supports seamless multitasking. When people can work with multiple docs and apps on screen at once, and can move effortlessly between them, work and personal tasks are easier and faster.

In both business and personal use, today’s users have established workflows—ways to accomplish the many daily tasks they need to do. And these workflows typically evolved on desktop or laptop PCs where the norm is to have many documents and apps open at once. Now, personal and business computing are increasingly mobile, and users want tablets to support their mobile work styles. But some tablets are not designed with the needs of multitasking modern users in mind.

AVAILABILITY DOES NOT MEAN FUNCTIONAL PARITY

Sure, modern users can adapt. Many applications they use in their daily work are available for mobile devices, including workplace backbone apps such as Microsoft Office, Google Apps, Intuit QuickBooks, and Salesforce.com Sales Cloud. But availability does not mean functional parity, and the necessary adaptation comes at a higher cost than you might think.

How do we know? We compared two devices in four multitasking scenarios that reflect what many users do all day, every day—the Dell Venue 11 Pro, powered by an Intel Core M processor, and an Apple iPad Air 2.

DELL VENUE 11 PRO: A BETTER WAY TO WORK

Our results show that the Dell Venue 11 Pro supports familiar functionality that lets users work the way they need to and want to. It supports the workflows that they have already established on their desktop or laptop PCs. Users will also find that there are some things that they simply cannot do on an iPad Air 2, and will be forced to find workarounds.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A MULTITASKER

We came up with a persona of a typical user who multitasks day in and day out. Then we tested four different scenarios that included common daily workflows.

CONTENT PRODUCTION: SLOWER ON AN APPLE IPAD AIR 2

A typical user creates rich content such as slide presentations, brochures, spreadsheets, web content, and PDF files. This content comprises text, graphical elements, and even audio and video elements from various sources and in several different formats. Office productivity software such as Microsoft Office is a must. Google Apps can help to perform tasks in a user’s personal life, too. We walked through the following tasks on both tablets:

  • Copy and paste text from a browser
  • Copy and paste an image
  • Save an image file from the browser
  • Insert an image file into a slide
  • Resize the image
  • Save and send the file as an email attachment.

 
We found that some tasks that make up this workflow require more taps or gestures on the iPad Air 2 than on the Dell Venue 11 Pro. In addition, delays, stops, and limitations contributed to a slower, more frustrating experience on the iPad Air 2.

These limitations and workarounds might seem small—two taps really don’t take that much more time and effort than four taps or clicks. But remember, users perform these tasks over and over again. Each extra step or workaround contributes to delays and frustration. If every delay were tracked and quantified, the impact on efficiency could be significant. In our labs, the workflow described in this scenario was 1.3x faster on the Dell Venue 11 Pro than on the iPad Air 2.

 COLLABORATION: MORE COMPLICATED ON AN IPAD AIR 2

In this scenario, our user reviews the presentation she is creating with her colleagues and stakeholders. The team decides to collaborate in real time to work more efficiently by using the screen sharing capability of their conferencing solution, Citrix GoToMeeting.

In our lab environment, we shared a document on screen 11 times faster on the Dell Venue 11 Pro than the workaround required on the iPad Air 2. The Dell Venue 11 Pro supports video conferencing capabilities that users take for granted. Because these capabilities are not supported on the iPad Air 2, users can enjoy more effective video-based collaboration without workarounds on the Dell Venue 11 Pro, powered by an Intel processor.

 INCORPORATING CONTENT: AWKWARD ON AN IPAD AIR 2

Coworkers commonly provide their feedback in separate versions of a presentation, so our user has to evaluate and incorporate that feedback into her master document, and then recirculate the final draft to her team. We tested the following tasks on each tablet:

  • Collect separate drafts from colleagues
  • Copy content from one or more documents into a master draft
  • Send the file as an email attachment for one more review round

 
To reduce inefficiency and the potential for error, the process of incorporating feedback from multiple sources should be simple and straightforward. And it is—if you choose the right device. In our lab, we were able to incorporate feedback at least six times faster on the Dell Venue 11 Pro than on the iPad Air 2.

SIMPLE TASKS: COMPLICATED ON AN IPAD AIR 2

In this scenario, our user collects information for a new project and shares useful links and files with her team. Users do this kind of work often as they gather information, such as when scoping new work or conducting online research. The workflow involves the following tasks:

  • Copy links to videos and web pages
  • Paste links into an email message
  • Attach several PDFs to the email message

 
Users often perform familiar, repetitive tasks almost automatically as they go about their days. However, these tasks are simple and hassle-free only when users do not have to learn ways to work around device limitations. On the wrong device, these tasks become slower and anything but automatic as users are forced to adapt their workflows to a device that is not designed to support multi-app work. In our lab, the limitations of the iPad Air 2 and the workarounds they caused meant that the process of sharing multiple links and PDF attachments was more than four times faster on the Dell Venue 11 Pro, powered by an Intel processor.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT DEVICE FOR MULTITASKING

When you put a device designed for optimal performance with multiple apps against a device designed for use with one app at a time, the results are clear: Users can do more, faster, with fewer workarounds on a Dell Venue 11 Pro than on an Apple iPad Air 2.

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