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The next revolution: Convertible computing

Convertibles are the new tech kid on the block, but do they make sense for your business? Convertibles essentially combine a notebook computer with a detachable touchscreen that can be used as a tablet, or a screen that flips over to make a tablet with a hidden physical keyboard. They have great promise for mobile workers, but as office-bound employees begin to request the new devices as well, it’s time for IT to weigh up the pros and cons.

While IT managers have certainly been receiving requests for these devices, employee demand doesn’t necessarily correlate to a business need. Or does it? Here are the main benefits you’ll likely get from convertibles adoption.

Faster data entry

There is no real argument against the proposition that a physical keyboard allows for much faster and more accurate data entry than a touchscreen virtual keyboard. Even if a given employee doesn’t know touch-typing, they can enter critical data more productively with real keys under their fingers. This is particularly pertinent for mobile workers such as sale reps who may need to fill out digital order forms and submit online sales reports while on the road.

Stand and deliver

Convertibles make a lot of sense for staff (like warehouse employees) whose jobs require a great deal of work to be done while standing interspersed with detailed data entry. A convertible adds tremendous value to these jobs by giving the worker the capability to use a workstation with a physical keyboard without having to leave the warehouse floor.

Smart software

If the IT group has taken the time to supply software that is optimized for touchscreens, employees’ productivity (and customer service) should benefit. Providing convertibles for customer use in a retail space may also help to boost conversion.

The case against convertibles

Convertibles do have some drawbacks that IT decision-makers should be aware of. They are usually heavier than traditional tablets, and tend not to have the same computing power as a standard laptop or desktop. Here’s what to consider when deciding if they are right for your organization.

A weighty concern

If an employee is going to be on a shop floor or in a standing position full-time, they’ll feel the weight of a convertible over the course of a day. This is especially the case if there are no desktops, counters or other clear spaces to rest it, meaning it’s in their hands all the time. The extra weight becomes a serious penalty – and a needless one, if there’s no need for the components that are bulking up the machine.

Power down

Convertibles shouldn’t really be a replacement for desk-based computing solutions. They may not have the same computing power as a laptop or desktop, or amenities like big displays and ergonomic input devices (keyboard and mouse); you may find that you’ll be giving up some processing speed and configuration capabilities.

Dollars and sense

As an emerging technology, convertibles are still quite expensive. Like all new devices, costs will likely come down as more people adopt convertibles, but for now you’ll need to weigh the dollar-value of the benefits listed above against the costs of device acquisition to work out if they make sense for your business.

Convertibles are likely one of the paths into the computing future. While they are not a replacement for desk-based computing, they do hold significant benefits for mobile workers and those who move frequently between standing tasks and a data-entry workstation.