On the way back from our Christmas holidays we stopped at Cann River for a driving break and some coffee at one of the local Cafes' . I noticed a man dressed in high visibility clothing walking around a public building obviously taking notes probably on the maintenance and condition of the visitors center he was carefully inspecting. Every time he noticed something of interest he would put his laptop on the ground, take a closer look, open a rusty door or inspect the flaky paint. He would then pick up the laptop, rest it on his left hand and using one finger search and destroy data entry technique with his right hand, painstakingly enter his report information.
At least I thought he has not reverted to notepad and pen with the intention of re-entering it in the computer later but it still highlighted the fact that his employer (un-named!) has chosen a device completely inappropriate for use. The rule for in field computer selection is a simple one – if you are required to use your computer in a standing or upright position a rugged tablet is the device of choice. If you have a flat surface available your best choice would be a laptop.
Windows 7 tablets have fast and easy to use writing recognition built in – once trained to your hand writing style the average user will enter data faster using writing recondition than a laptop keyboard. The latest Windows 8 OS has been designed from the ground up with tablets in mind. For superior ergonomics & ease of use the Motion F5T or Toughbook H2 - they would both be good options with rugged form factor and enough power to double as a desktop replacement via a dock. If budget is tight you could look at the Motion CL910. Popular options to consider are barcode scanning, RFID scanning, dock & shoulder/hand straps. For applications requiring limited data input and don't require the power of a Windows 7 or 8 computer the Motorola ET1 rugged tablet may be the answer. It is Android based and is great for a web or App based front end. While its lower powered processor does not utilize features such as writing recognition, it could be the answer for a well designed web interface that utilizes drop down menus for data selection rather than manual data entry.
If you purchase computers for your company, instead of buying what you always have, think about how the table pcs will be used and make an informed decision on the device best suited - your users will thank you for the ease of use it provides and your boss will thank you for the efficiency and cost saving it has brought.