Written by Meghann Wooster on June 13th, 2012

Are Tablets Taking Over the Workplace?

According to Forrester Research, there will be 760 million tablets in use by 2016, and a full third of U.S. adults will have one.

The folks at Forrester believe that tablets will become our primary computing device because:

  • They have bigger screens than smartphones.
  • They have a longer battery life than laptops.
  • They make it easy to both consume and create content.

Some, of course, argue with the “content creation” point. PC Mag’s Wendy Donnell notes that the main focus of tablets, at the present time at least, is media consumption. She writes, “while you can tackle productivity tasks on an iPad or an Android tablet, you won’t get a desktop-grade operating system… Plus… there’s no hardware keyboard.”

In an AIIM blog post, Chris Walker concurs, writing, “There’s still lots of work that I can’t get done on my phone or tablet.” Conducting demos and drawing diagrams are two tasks he mentions that are “just not possible or so cumbersome as to be not worth the effort.”

Walker also highlights the fact that—despite the hype around BYOD and the consumerization of IT—there are plenty of people who really wouldn’t benefit from using tablets and the like at work. Among them, he enumerates:

  • Bank tellers
  • Receptionists
  • Government front counter staff
  • Call center staff
  • Billing clerks
  • Accounts payable clerks
  • “And a whole bunch more”

However, he also notes that “there are many job functions that can definitely benefit” from using tablets and the like. For example, we hear about how great tablets are from financial advisors who use them when they meet with clients at offsite locations, home health care workers who are out in the field all day and our own senior executives and sales people who are on the road much of the time.

Recognizing both the power and limitations of tablets, Forrester’s Frank Gillett notes, “Eventually tablets will slow laptop sales but increase sales of desktop PCs. That’s because many people, especially information workers, will still need conventional PCs for any intensely creative work at a desk that requires a large display or significant processing power.”

At the same time, however, Jason Perlow, senior technology editor at ZDNet, writes, “two giant PC manufacturers are in dire straits — Hewlett-Packard recently announced laying off over 27,000 employees and Dell’s Q1 2012 earnings have been weak across the board in their Consumer, Public Sector and Enterprise divisions.

“Apple, on the other hand, is doing magnificently… The hard truth is facing us — traditional PC purchases are slowing down dramatically.”

He argues that, “within ten years, the majority of business professionals will be using extremely inexpensive thin notebooks, tablets and thin clients (sub $500) which will utilize any number of software technologies that run within the browser or will use next-generation Web-based APIs and Web Services (Such as those available in Microsoft’s WinRT and other HTML5 frameworks) to provide line-of-business application functionality.”

While those of us at Laserfiche probably don’t see tablets becoming our customers’ primary computing device in the near future, we do agree that they definitely have their place within the enterprise.  In fact, a recent Computerworld article highlighted how the municipal court system in Wichita Falls, TX, uses the new iPad app from Laserfiche (after all, if you’re talking about tablets in the enterprise, you’re really talking about the iPad) to get “real-time updates of judgments in cases, sometimes even right from the judge’s bench.”

Regardless of whether tablets kill laptops or desktop PCs in the next 5-10 years, they’re definitely boosting productivity for the businesses that use them right now (according to research from CDW, “nearly three-quarters of the IT decision-makers surveyed thought that the use of tablets and smartphones has led to an increase in productivity within their organization, with 25 percent saying it improve productivity significantly”), and that’s a good thing!

About the author: Meghann Wooster

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