iPad, Android Tablets Won't Survive Computing at the Gates of Hell

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2010-11-05 Print this article Print

title=Military Tablets Are More Than Digital Body Armor} 

When that diesel mechanic pulls a fuel injector for servicing, she's got the step by step instructions for the specific engine and the specific injector that she's servicing. There's no guesswork, and there's no box containing hundreds of pounds of paper manuals that once traveled with military maintenance organizations. Tablets are there in the field and in combat because they're needed to make the people that use them more effective. 

The need for portable computing that works under difficult conditions has been known for a long time. When I was a young naval officer working at the Defense Logistics Agency, one of the projects we were already planning was a move to digitize manuals, engineering drawings and other maintenance materials just to get rid of the paper that otherwise had to follow each movement of troops. 

We had already calculated that the manuals for the equipment on board a Navy ship weighed thousands of pounds that could be offloaded if only there was a replacement. At the time there wasn't, but since then things have changed, and rugged tablets for serious computing needs have moved in. 

Serious computing is the key. While sleek iPads and other consumer tablets get all the attention, the real work is being done by tablets that are mounted in shock absorbing material, surrounded by titanium cases, with shatterproof screens. 

These devices aren't pretty, they aren't light, and they don't play videos from iTunes. Instead they feature triple-redundant waterproofing, a magnesium frame and sealed compartmentalized construction. They help members of the military navigate, read maps, and control robots. They are the keepers of information that's needed to fix the tanks, the trucks, aircraft and ships that make the mission possible. 

In the real world, where real work has to be done, in the factories, the oil rigs, the flight lines and the police cars of the world you'll find tablet computers helping to do that real work. They're not sexy, they don't run anything newer than Windows XP (although Windows 7 will appear), but the stories of failure are rare. Sometimes they won't boot after being submerged for days. Sometimes a decade of dust finally does its work. And sometimes, it's a bullet.

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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