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Government users want larger screens, and Apple may be listening

We recently reported on Hewlett-Packard's attempts, along with those by Acer and a few others, to try and bring an Android-based desktop PC to market. Besides more powerful processors and fewer size-based restrictions on components such as memory, the biggest feature in these new PC/Android hybrids would be the larger screens.

In the case of the HP model, called Slate21, the screen size is 21 inches. It's designed to be used with a kickstand as a desktop computer, but also be portable — though at 21-inches, it's gets into the luggable category.

I asked GCN's government readers and my Twitter followers (you can follow me too: @gcnlabguys) if a large screen was really that big of deal. Quite a few people said it was, and that they found that applications worked better with more real estate.

I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised. When I reviewed the Citrix Receiver, a program for secure sharing of desktop applications to mobile screens that is already being used by several government customers, I made it a point to test the software on lots of different devices. It worked regardless of platform on Android phones, iOS tablets and BlackBerry devices. However, devices with larger screens were much easier to work with. Looking at a huge spreadsheet on a tiny 4-inch iPhone 5 screen required a lot of scrolling around and finger gestures, despite how quickly the program responded. Things were a little roomier on 9.7-inch tablets and larger smart phones, but there was still a lot of work involved. I couldn't really shrink the screen to fit more data because the text became too small to be readable, so I had to go over it section by section.

Feds who were using similar programs to share their desktops remotely told me that larger screens equaled better productivity. Apps designed to run on smaller screens could always be minimized to run within a window on bigger tablets, but trying to use a full-screen program on a tiny screen was a pain. Two people told me that they chose one of the larger Samsung Galaxy phones running the Android OS over an Apple iOS-based phone simply based on screen size. One person said he preferred his iPhone, but not for work, because the screen's real estate was simply too small.

Apple has thus far refused to consider larger screens, but encroachment of the larger-screened tablets, especially from Samsung, may have the company reconsidering. The Wall Street Journal reported  Apple was experimenting with larger iPhones and bigger iPads, too. Apple spokespeople refused to comment on that rumor, but given Apple's recent 22-percent drop in profit this quarter, and people’s apparent need for larger-screened devices, it would make sense that the company might want to catch up and grow their panels a bit.

So the moral of the story is that size does apparently matter. Everyone who commented to me said they might be interested in a 21-inch screen running the Android OS, but said it was possible that something that large might be a bit of overkill, removing it entirely from the portable market. Perhaps some type of happy medium might be in order, though I think, in general, that screen sizes will likely continue to increase for all devices.

Posted by John Breeden II on Jul 24, 2013 at 12:21 PM


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