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City Council members getting tablets

POULSBO — Dude. The City Council is getting a Dell.

Dell Latitude 10 tablets, to be exact.

“We played around with these tablets, they worked out really well,” said Tim Treacher of the City of Poulsbo’s IT department. “There’s a lot of familiarity. It runs the same programs, like Outlook and more.”

The City Council spent time after its Feb. 19 meeting getting a primer on the new devices.

“We have to get them more familiar with it,” Treacher said.

“It’s more getting them to navigate around. The tiles that Windows 8 comes with are very customizable. They have a mail tile, and it opens up like an iPad opens the mail app. But it’s geared to using a Microsoft interface.”

The tablets are the latest step in upgrading the council’s technology in recent years. The City Council has used paperless agendas for around seven years, chiefly using laptops to view meeting minutes, finances, contracts and more. The council received laptops in 2008 in order to work this way. Members are still using those same computers today.

“We had problems with council members using personal computers for email access,” Treacher said. “We got city laptops to deal with that. They haven’t been replaced since. They are still running Windows XP.”

With time wearing on the laptops, the city’s IT department felt it was time to go a little more modern — tablets.

“You can put everything (on a tablet),” Treacher said. “They can do little markups (on the agenda), and when they are at the dais they have everything in front of them.”

The IT department settled on Dell Latitude 10 tablets after a little testing. Five council members have received theirs already and two more are on the way. The tablets run Windows 8, a touch screen-based program.

A docking station for the tablets was set up at City Hall for the council members, at a desktop workstation dedicated for their use.

The tablets cost around $600 each. They also come with an $80 case and keyboard.

The city’s IT department made the decision to go with the tablets after testing a few models, and speaking with the council about how they use city devices.

“One of the questions I asked (council members) was ‘Why don’t you like your laptops?’” Treacher said. “And one answer was that they’re heavy. One recommendation was to get something light. These tablets are like a pound.”

The IT department has also tested other tablets to gauge their application to city work.

“When (we) were playing around with these tablets, we thought we’d see if we can replace desktops with them,” Treacher said. “I took the tablet and made it my work computer for a while.”

Treacher used a Venue 11 tablet, which he said had a little more guts to operate as a work device.

There currently are no plans to issue more tablets around City Hall. But Treacher said this could be where city technology leans in the future.

“I think we could start with department heads, and see if they can use it,” he said.

But it won’t be that simple of a decision. While tablets are cheaper than a desktop computer, which can run around $1,300, Treacher said he will need to figure the lifespan of computers versus tablets. In other words, it might not be as cost effective to replace tablets every two years, instead of a desktop computer every four years.

Treacher said he did look at Apple iPads, but was concerned about crossing the iPad programs and apps with the city’s Microsoft-based desktops. He also said that the transition from Windows to an iPad for some of the council members was difficult.

“In working with the different council members the transition from a Microsoft base to an Apple base was kind of goofing them up,” Treacher said.

“It goes to the Apple vs. Windows thing,” he added.

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