10 Reasons Tablets Work in Your Technology Strategy

Credit the iPad with this: it has triggered a huge hunger for tablets inside corporate America and, guess what, you cannot ignore this, not now. With Apple selling 3.3 million iPads in just its most recent quarter, suddenly tablet mania has hit the nation.

“IT has lost control,” said Patrick Sweeney, vice president of product management at security company SonicWall. “Nowadays, [IT] really has to find ways to support every device.” This kind of technology change definitely includes tablets.

But take heart in knowing this does not necessarily mean you must support iPads specifically — a device we dissed here a few months ago. Nothing has changed in that regard. “The iPad is a toy, it has no place in business,” snorted Al Wojcik, the IT director at Wirtz Beverage Group, one of the nation’s largest alcohol distributors. But also know this: Wojcik is a huge proponent of tablets and recently was involved in equipping the company’s 400-person sales force with rugged Panasonic tablets; mainly because he firmly believes the devices let the sales reps work smarter and faster. “Tablets produce results.”

Sharper news is that there now is a rush to bring tablets running Google’s Android to market. Everybody from Samsung to Cisco is announcing new tablets and, probably, these new Android powered devices will be able to run the many thousands of business apps already in Google’s Marketplace.

This is the year of the tablet, there is no arguing that point. So, what are the top 10 reasons companies need to take a fresh look at possibly adopting tablets? Take a look …

1. Your workers are asking for them. “We are seeing a shift in the platform of choice, in favor of tablets,” said Mark Halloren, president of Xplore Technologies, manufacturer of “ruggedized” tablets. Cool is cool. Apple made MP3 cool, the same is happening with tablets.

2. Pick the right tablet and the integration into the IT infrastructure is easy,” said Halloren, who builds his company’s tablets around Windows XP or 7.“This is very important to CIOs. It helps to reduce costs.” Certainly that’s true for the many Windows-based tablets on the market, less so for forthcoming Android devices.

3. “You give your workers easy access to all the corporate data they need,” said Mike Stinson, vice president of marketing at tablet maker Motion. Again, that’s true for Windows tablets, but there’s a rush to create bridging tools that let workers look at MS Office spreadsheets and documents on iPads and Android devices alike.

4. Touch just is a more effective way to input data than a mouse, said Stinson, and most tablets now support touch data entry. In many cases, and with the right touch screen, touch allows for faster and, thus cheaper, data input.

5. “You can take the tablet to the point of service and input data standing up,” said Stinson. That’s good news for some job categories such as tech and sales reps. As is obvious to anyone that has tried, laptops were never intended to be used this way.

6. “CIOs like that they do not have to write new apps to get use out of tablets,” said Halloren who added that by his count there are 127,000 apps available to run on Windows tablets and many are business themed. There aren’t as many business apps running on other tablet platforms, but there probably are enough to fill most needs.

7. Payback happens fast with a tablet, said Stinson, who said that it’s typically used to replace paper. “That’s any tablet’s main competition.” The negatives of paper are multiple, however. Notably data has to be entered twice (first on paper, then keyed into a computer). “A tablet is more efficient,” said Stinson.

8. “It’s a perfect tool for showing customers videos,” said Bob Broz, the network support manager at Wirtz Beverage Group. Push a button and it’s movie time; something Wirtz reps do often on sales calls.

9. “These are fully functional PCs, they can do anything a netbook can do,” said Halloren. That is the clincher inside many companies. The right tablet is a tool, not a toy. Android-based tablets and iPads frankly are not fully functional PCs. That’s a fact that has to be weighed in any adoption decision. There just are things they cannot do.

10. Watch tablet price points tumble. With all the Android tablets about to come on the market, betting is strong that tablets soon will be priced competitively with netbooks. Ruggedized tablets will still command a steep price ($2000 and up) but they also can withstand a four-foot drop and will function in a heavy rain. But for the rest of us, $200 tablets by year-end seems a high probability.

Let the tablet avalanche commence.

As a busy freelance writer for more than 30 years, Rob McGarveyhas written over 1500 articles for many of the nation’s leading publications―from Reader’s Digest to Playboy and from the NY Times to Harvard Business Review. McGarvey covers CEOs, business, high tech, human resources, real estate, and the energy sector. A particular specialty is advertorial sections for many top outlets including the New York Times, Crain’s New York, and Fortune Magazine.