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The term "tablet" was made popular as a concept presented by Microsoft in 2001, and at that time referred to laptop PCs with touch screen technology replacing the traditional keyboard.  Today, the term tablet is generally used to refer to computer-like devices operated primarily by a touch screen but not intended to run general PC operating systems or applications.  Examples of current tablets are the Apple iPad 2, Motorola Axiom, Blackberry Playbook.

Modern tablets use operating systems developed originally for smartphones, not PCs or Macs, so they function differently from a standard desktop computer or laptop. Currently, there are three major operating system providers:

  • Apple, which now uses IOS5 on the Apple iPad and iPad2

  • Google, which provides the Android operating system to a number of tablet manufacturers.   Android is available in various versions, but version 3 is the only one designed specifically for use on tablet devices

  • Research in Motion (RIM), which uses the Blackberry OS on its Playbook tablet

Because these operating systems were developed for small, mobile devices they lack the abilty to run most desktop applications, such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.  Although many tablets can open and edit Microsoft office files, they are unable to perform complex procedures on them.  There are apps available which attempt to overcome these shortcomings, e.g. Documents To Go and QuickOffice, Apple's Pages (word processor), Numbers (spreadsheet) and Keynote (presentations), but they are all limited in their usefulness.

Because physical storage is limited on a tablet (typical capacities range from 8GB to 64GB) tablets depend on having a connection to the Internet via 3G, or to a data network via Wi-Fi in order to access data stored remotely.  Most tablets come in two versions, Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi and 3G.  If you want more mobility you will have to purchase a tablet with both Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity.  Inevitably, this will cost more and will require a monthly contract with a service provider, such as O2, Vodafone, Orange, etc.  For more information on available tariffs please contact the Telephone Office.

IT Services cannot support all the functions available in every tablet currently available.  We will make best efforts to connect your tablet to University systems, but we cannot guarantee that your device will be compatible.  For advice on the usefulness of tablets in general, which tablet to purchase, which devices will connect to University systems, e.g. email and calendar services via Unimail, and which devices to avoid at the moment, please contact the IT Service Desk.