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Tablets: How do they fit into the business environment?

Published on Jan 12, 2012 at 10:18 pm in Tech Trends.

tablet.jpgIn late 2011 the tablet market exploded. According to a Jefferies report, 35% of people who have tablets spend two or more hours a day using them, and an additional 30% spend one to two hours a day.

Tablet sales are expected to grow 126% in 2012 to 158 million, and Forrester research predicts that tablets will account for 23% of all personal computer sales by 2015.

In the business sector, new data from The NPD Group suggests that 73% of small and mid-sized businesses in the United States plan to purchase tablets in the next 12 months. If you’re part of that nearly three-fourths majority (or even if you’re not) you may be wondering how tablets fit into your business environment.

You have a smartphone, laptop and desktop, so how exactly will a tablet computer make you more productive, and how will the device fill enough of a business need to warrant the price tag, which can be $500 or more?

Tablets are light, compact and have a long battery life. A tablet’s multi-touch interface lends itself to intuitive use, and the device doesn’t get hot after prolonged operation like a laptop will.

In a business setting, tablets lend themselves well to PowerPoint and sales presentations that can be delivered in the field. You can also transfer your news and trade publication subscriptions to your tablet. Since tablets are small and can travel anywhere, they make it easier for you to stay abreast of general and industry news.

Tablets are great for video conferencing, which could be a good option if your office embraces flexible work schedules, or if you work with clients across different time zones, because who really wants to go into the office for a 6:30 a.m. conference call with associates two hours ahead of you? At the very least, using a tablet at work can impress your clients and associates, marking you as an early adapter of technology.

On the “con” side of the tablet equation you have input. Because they lack a keyboard, tablets don’t work great as an input device, so if your work requires a lot of input and/or content creation, a laptop, or preferably a desktop is still going to be your best option.

If you’ve made the decision to go ahead and purchase a tablet computer, you’ve quickly run into the next stumbling block: Which device should you buy? While currently 82% of tablet users own an iPad, this statistic should decrease substantially in 2012 as higher-quality and lower-cost alternatives join the marketplace.

Do your research and compare cost and hardware considerations against your specific business needs before purchasing your new Kindle Fire, Nook, iPad 2, Samsung Galaxy Tab, etc., etc., etc. You may want to check to see if a device is compatible with Microsoft Exchange services right out of the box. A Kindle Fire doesn’t come with this functionality, for example, but a $9.99 application will add that compatibility.

Here are some credible sources of information to get your tablet research started.

CBS News, “Review: Gift guide to e-readers, tablets, $99-$500.” An up-to-date and comprehensive comparison of seven devices.

The Next Web, “Nook Tablet vs. Kindle Fire: does B&N live up to its claims?” A head-to-head comparison of the Nook and Kindle Fire.

A collaborative Google spreadsheet that compares nearly 20 Android tablets from the Reddit website.