Tuesday, 4 August 2015

How to Choose a Tablet Operating System

One of the main reasons that tablets are so popular is that they are extremely portable and easy to use. Much of this stems from the software interfaces that are designed for the touchscreen of the tablets. The experience is quite different from a traditional PC operating system that relies on a keyboard and mouse. Each tablet will have a slightly different feel to them in terms of use because of their software.

Operating Systems

The biggest factor in the experience for a tablet is going to be the operating system. It is the basis for the whole experience including the interface gestures, application support and even what features a device can actually support. In particular, selecting a tablet with a specific operating system will essentially tie you to that platform just as if you selected a Windows or Mac based PC but even that is more flexible than tablets currently are.
There are three major operating systems that are available now for tablet PCs. Each of them has their own strength and weaknesses. Below, I will touch on each of them and why you may want to choose or avoid them.

Apple iOS The iPad is the most popular tablet, and it runs Apple’s own iOS. This is easy to learn and use, and there is a truly massive selection of third-party software for it — over a million apps, in fact — in categories from productivity to games.
There are just two screen sizes to choose from, however. Full-size iPads have a 9.7-inch display, while the iPad mini models have 7.9-inch ones.
The iOS is somewhat limited when compared to a desktop operating system. For example, there is no universal file browser. Rather than a central repository of files, each application has its own collection.
The release of Microsoft Office for iPad made this tablet a good option for businesspeople who need a light-duty mobile computer, and many use it as a laptop alternative. It is not a good option for people who need specialized applications not available for this OS, however.
Some of the best iOS models include the Apple iPad Air 2 and Apple iPad mini 3.

Google Android - Google's operating system is probably the most complex of the options currently available. This has to do with the fragmentation of the operating system between the 2.x versions designed for smartphones to the tablet specific 3.x versions. The company's unified 4.x version does correct many of these issues but some devices are still shipping with older versions. The greatest advantage that Android has is its openness. Android 5.0 has finally been released and corrects many issues but has limited availability still. The downside to the openness leads to security issues and interfaces that are not as standardized as some of the other operating systems. Android is also the basis for many other tablet companies devices such as the Amazon Fire but they are heavily modified such that they aren't as open as the standard Android versions. Many tablet manufacturers also put skins which are a modified version of the user interface on their devices which means that even two tablets running the same version of Android may look and feel very different.

Microsoft Windows 8/RT - Microsoft Windows 8 is the company's new all encompassing computing operating system for tablets, laptops and desktop. The release is a bit more complicated though as there are two versions, one for traditional x86 that uses the standard OS and a special Windows RT for the more common ARM based tablet hardware. The ARM version of the OS will have more restrictions on it which may limit the functionality for many buyers. The advantage here is that the user experience is essentially the same between a desktop and tablet. The downside is that it is very different from previous versions of Windows which makes it a bit more difficult for some to use. With the release of Windows 8.1, Microsoft hopes to correct some of the more confusing user interface issues. They are also discontinuing profuction of the ARM based tablets which means Windows 8 RT is likely going to disappear.
There are a couple of other operating systems out there in the market but the products that they were based on are no longer available and as such they won't really be encountered. This includes the BlackBerry Tablet OS that was on the BlackBerry PlayBook and WebOS from the doomed HP TouchPad. Both may resurface in the future if BlackBerry every releases an updated tablet product and LG now owns the WebOS software rights and has begun integrating it into their Smart TVs.