When it comes to Interactive Flat Panels (IFP), you have two choices on their operating systems: Windows or Android. Although it seems commonsense to choose a Windows interactive flat panel, an onboard Android does have its value proposition on the cost effectiveness.
In this post, I’d like to compare Windows and Android based IFPs, and share some thoughts on how to choose the one suited for your use case. My suggestion is simple: a Windows based IFP is always better. In fact, we’ve rarely seen any Android-only IFPs: you eventually have to get a Windows PC to make the IFP complete.
Let me illustrate my point in the following 5 aspects.
Not much to elaborate on, a Windows device is much more powerful than Android, in terms of hardware specs, in terms of boot time, smoothness, and so on. Android is not a bad OS, it’s just not powerful enough for business use. If you are going to use the IFP for meetings, or teaching/presentations, you don’t want it to suddenly go unresponsive or hang, even just for a short while.
You may think your use case is simple: you are going to use just the whiteboard app. But even in this case, Android digital whiteboard apps produce more lags than Windows based digital whiteboard apps, running on the same IFP touchscreen, especially when you ink with multiple touch points and when you pan/zoom the canvas. Whiteboard apps are simple but when you put them on 4K screens, performance matters a lot.
And obviously this applies to anything you are doing on the big 4K screen. A modern Windows interactive flat panel will perform excellently on most applications you use.
#2. User interface
In my opinion, a good tech product should be easy to use, and it should not force users to learn anything unnecessary or change their behaviours in doing things, unless there’s no better way.
Specifically, ask these questions: Can you quickly find and open your apps? When you are using an app, do you know how to save work, or switch to another app, or change some settings? If you have some materials on your USB drive, do you know how to access the content? And when you are lost, is there enough information you can quickly find on Google that answers to your questions?
If not, this product might cause quite some frustration and it will require your users to keep learning in order not to forget. Of course, the easiest solution is to use a Windows interactive flat panel instead.
#3. Software compatibility
Since the IFP is to be set up as a shared device and allow multiple users to access/use it, software compatibility is a key question to ask because everyone may use different applications. If the IFP can be configured with the right applications, shared drives and different user accounts, it will become a very useful tool for the whole office. We don’t want to just use the IFP as a whiteboard or touchscreen browser, and always connect our laptops when needing to look at something more serious.
In terms of software, a Windows interactive flat panel is the winner as it provides no different compatibility/support than your desktop or laptop computers which are most likely on Windows as well. From Microsoft Office to more specialized applications for your industry, then to shared drives, remote collaboration tools (such as Microsoft Whiteboard, Teams/Zoom, Trello, etc.), these are all necessary for modern teamwork and perfectly supported by Windows. In contrast, Android supports only limited features even for MS Office apps.
In addition, all software apps installed on Windows, including Windows OS itself, can be configured and managed pretty easily by IT administrators. This is a great plus too: it saves a lot of time and effort, and makes sure the IFP is secure, which is especially important for shared devices.
#4. Android apps
A reason some of us like the idea of an Android based IFP is because it could potentially gain access to the Google Play Store and allow us to run so many apps and games we like right? Well, in reality this is not gonna happen.
Firstly, almost all Android OS on IFPs can’t access Play Store because Google license is quite expensive. Unlike consumer Android phones and tablets, IFP manufacturers don’t produce large enough quantity to make the Google license worth investing. So don’t be surprised if you can’t see Play Store on your Android IFP; it will usually be replaced by a customized app store with limited resources.
A workaround is that you can try to install an apk version of the app you like, if it’s available and if you trust its source. However there’s a second issue. Android apps on our phones or tablets are not optimized for 4K large screens, neither are IFP Android OSs optimized for modern apps that consume a lot of CPU and RAM. So we can’t get the same user experience even if we are able to run the app on our IFP.
For those who really need to get Android running on the big screen, say if you are a teacher and there’s an educational app you’d like to present to your class, you can consider running the app on your phone/tablet but display it on the big screen. Some IFPs, such as Inknoe OnePanel allows you to wirelessly mirror the display of your personal Android device to the big screen, without using any cables or adapters.
Lastly, like I just mentioned, it’s easy to side-load an unapproved app on Android: you just need to download and install the apk. There’s no way to turn it off, and the fragmented Android landscape makes it trickier to patch vulnerabilities. So, make sure to confirm with the IFP manufacturer how they run firmware updates; and whether they still have access to the device after you purchase it.
Security is particularly important for business use cases. That's why there are fewer Android based IFP brands that target corporate users.
There you have it, the 5 reasons you should choose a Windows interactive flat panel over Android. Some (but not a lot) extra dollars are to be invested but the benefits definitely outweigh cost.