The Dell Latitude 10 is not particularly remarkable to look at, but if any device has a chance of taking the popularity of tablets in the workplace to the next level, this one does.
Unveiled overnight, the black and grey hardware is Dell’s first Windows 8 tablet and one of what will probably be dozens of Windows tablets unveiled once Windows 8 goes on sale on October 26.
Handy features include: a removable battery so you can take a spare, or replace it when it’s worn-out, USB 2.0 port, an SD memory card ready for storing more data or transferring photos, micro-USB charging port, docking connector for extra ports and plugging in a monitor and a mini-HDMI port for plugging into a TV. We're told it will go on sale "with the launch of Windows 8". The price hasn't been announced yet.
The key features
But the more important benefits of the Latitude 10 are these capabilities:
It runs Windows, including your existing Windows programs. Though how useful older programs will be on a touchscreen remains to be seen.
Security. An optional fingerprint or smartcard reader (available in January) will be available for the Latitude 10. The tablet also has a TPM chip, which can hold encryption keys used to protect sensitive company information. Something called "Dell Data Protection | Encryption", encrypts data "from the hard drive to the USB port".
Warranty. Next business day onsite warranty plus a 3-year warranty option.
We recommend you read our article about the benefits of having Windows on a tablet. Running Microsoft Office documents is one reason. There are ways to get some programs from the Windows world running on an iPad or Android tablet, but it’s not the same as actually having Office (although a version of Office for the iPad is rumoured).
These are all positive factors for anyone considering a tablet to use for work.
What questions should you be asking?
Your Windows programs (x86 programs, for the technical minded) should still work on a tablet like this, running the full version of Windows 8 (there will be two versions of Windows on tablets: Windows 8 will run x86 programs, Windows RT won’t). What’s not fully clear yet is how many older Windows 7 and XP programs will still be useful on a touchscreen.
How much will it cost? The cheapest iPad is $539. We won’t be surprised if there are Windows 8 tablets that hit the market this year at that price or cheaper - but what will tablets running the full version of Windows 8 cost?
How smoothly will these tablets run Windows? The Latitude 10 will use an Atom CPU – a logical choice because it uses less power than many laptops which will mean it uses up less battery. But it’s far from the speed you get in many laptops at running several complex programs at once. We haven’t had the opportunity to spend a good period of time using the Latitude 10. Hopefully we can get our hands on one to let you know whether the menus and programs respond smoothly and snappily.
If you won’t be storing anything critical on your tablet, then you might not need the level of security offered in the Latitude 10. If that’s the case, you might want to keep an eye on other brands and types of Windows tablets as they hit the market later this year. Tablets running Windows RT, for example, will be suitable for people who don’t need to run older Windows 7 or XP applications.
The Microsoft platform is still leagues ahead when it comes to the variety and sheer scope of the programs that are available for businesses. But if Windows doesn't change as the workforce goes mobile, then we’ll see Apple’s iOS and Android catch up.
There’s no question tablets are already being used for work purposes, whether it's at home, in offices or anywhere else people do their jobs – just last week we heard of the possibility that government ministers will be able to access Cabinet documents on their iPads. This week the Australian Government’s business website, business.gov.au, announced several new and updated free iPad apps for businesses.
Windows 8 addresses this, bringing a dramatically different interface than the one you’re used to. Sure, it's a shock on the desktop, but on the tablet it's more promising than previous attempts that used Windows. The added security capabilities of the Latitude 10 might make bigger businesses less wary about letting staff use tablets, while for smaller businesses, being able to run Windows might be enough reason to get one.
Now all we need to see is the price.