Going Android at work part 5: The long view

My Asus Infinity: a road-worthy work machine.

Let’s get to the big question: Is Android a suitable OS with which to get work done. The answer is mostly a yes, but with caveats.

In the last month or so I’ve been using Android to get work done, I’ve been mostly surprised by what I could accomplish. I could email, write, move batches of files, edit photos and PDFs and more. In tests, I was even able to update a WordPress blog through the regular editor in Chrome. It wasn’t quick, but it worked. Android right now is remarkably more powerful than it was just two years ago.

The Cons

Working with Android though is not entirely possible without a few headaches and creative workarounds. Things that were rough in my experience usually were not related to function, but to speed. Web research is a little slower as Android browsers are not as snappy as their desktop counterparts.

Polling email is also slow. A search for that email you received a week ago can take a ton of time. And while you can multitask, it’s a careful process that can’t be approached with the same reckless abandon with which you can open dozens of documents and other windows on a desktop system,

The only puzzling lack of functionality I found in my general use of Android was the inability of Google’s Gmail or stock email app to download zip files. It just can’t be done. I was able to work around this when I needed to by using the K9 mail app, which regrettably looks terrible on a large screen. K9 says it’s working on an overhaul of its UI and will introduce conversation threading, which would make it an excellent email client. Right now, it’s not there yet.

The Pros

So the next question is: If you’re thinking of a laptop, should you consider an Android tablet and keyboard over a conventional Intel PC or even a Chromebook? If you’re looking for your portable PC to also be your primary PC, I’d say no. If you’re looking for a portable secondary workhorse, I’d tell you to seriously consider a tablet like the Asus Transformer Infinity.

I’ve covered how well Android works with productivity software in the other posts in this series. Overall, the advantages of an Android tablet to a standard Intel notebook depend on what your values are.

For me, the Transformer trumps my portable Dell 11.6 inch notebook for size and weight and does a tremendously better job at holding a charge. I can work for 4, maybe 5 hours if I push it on the Dell. I can work all day on the Asus without worrying about it. For me, that’s a huge plus that no Intel machine can give you.

Another advantage for the Asus is the fact that it is truly convertible. If I want, I can detach it from the keyboard and hold it in my lap, carry it around the office and even hand it to someone to show them a document. If I want to, I can use a stylus to draw on it like it’s a note pad. A notebook just can’t do that.

A third advantage I didn’t cover in my previous posts is the strength of Google’s voice recognition. Id you don’t mind being seen or heard talking to your device, you can do a pretty good job of dictating emails. It’s a skill that takes a little bit of practice, but Android is remarkably good at translating your speech to text.

Finally, there’s something to be said for being able to take a break and fire up Dead Trigger or Ski Safari when you need a break. I’ve also managed to get a Sega Genesis emulator working with a Play Station 3 controller, which turns the Transformer into the ultimate portable retro arcade machine. (That should be a post for another time).

Conclusion

In the very near term, more and more people are going to adopt ARM and Mobile OSes as their primary platform. With Windows RT out this is only going to be that much more true. As it stands, Android is in a really good position to be there for this transition. News that version 4.2 will handle multiple users enforces that even more. As Chrome and Firefox for Android catch up to their desktop counterparts in form and function, people will begin to expect mobile OSes like Android to have few compromises. I think Android is almost there.

In two years time, getting work done on Android won’t really even be a question. It will be an expectation.

Going Android at work part 5: The long view
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  • http://www.refugeeks.com/ Kev Quirk

    Great post. I’ve really enjoyed reading this thread. To follow on from this, I think Ubuntu on Android is going to be a massive gun in Android’s arsenal. Imagine having your transformer running Android, then, when you dock to your keyboard you get an Ubuntu desktop but can access al lof your droid apps.

    How cool will that be!