We’ve all heard about the ways the iPad and iPad 2 tablets will help us live happier, sexier lives through our enhanced ability to know and see anything, anywhere, anytime. Stephen Colbert has even demonstrated effectively how the iPad can chop veggies for your evening stir fry, and Lang Lang has played the Flight of the Bumble Bee on one, live at Davies Symphony Hall. Hyperbole and stunts aside, the iPad is really more than a cool toy for your collection. It is now making serious inroads in the world of business, by enhancing relations between vendors and customers in ways only imagined before.
Even a Two Year-Old
The lightweight qualities and ease of interaction are at the heart of the iPad’s allure. Reviewers have already waxed poetic about the it’s intuitive UI, so we will spare you the oohs and aahs. But, the learning curve is short, and many of us have observed how even a two year-old can wield it with some finesse.
The average consumer iPad experience tends to revolve around the activities of reading, surfing the web, and watching movies. No surprise, as digital information consumption now claims such a huge portion of our leisure time. That said, the new processor upgrades and multimedia applications of the iPad 2 facilitate more content-creation and may yet extend Apple’s tablet experience beyond the passive and interactive to the creative and generative.
Breaking Down Barriers in Business
Less has been said about the ways the business world is embracing the iPad. And yet, serious adoption is taking place. A December, 2010 Changewave survey collected responses from 1,641 IT buyers in relation to tablet purchasing in their companies. Their findings included the following:
While 7% of business respondents say their company currently provides employees with tablet devices, an astonishing 14% of businesses report their company will be buying Tablets in 1st Quarter 2011.
In other words, the total number of companies making use of tablet devices is set to double in just the next three months – an explosive surge in demand going forward.
Furthermore, of the 14% of businesses who reported their company would be buying tablets in 1st Quarter 2011,
78 percent of respondents said they intended to invest in Apple iPads, in spite of solid tablet offerings from corporate favorites such as HP and Dell.
Since we are at the cusp of the 2nd quarter, 2011, it will be interesting to find out how these projections played out. iPad adoption in the business sphere is frequently consumer driven, as iPad owners encourage businesses and enterprises to recognize the potential of their devices. Thus, iPad integration, as has been the case with many devices, occurs more quickly within small businesses than enterprises, which can face institutional challenges and budgetary resistance to a full scale roll out of any new technology. This presents an excellent opportunity for small businesses to quickly integrate and leverage the advantages of such technology.
While staying ahead of the curve is a noble goal, the window of time to turn iPad integration into a unique market advantage is dwindling. In fact, the iPad is already being embraced by a dizzying array of businesses. Restaurants are presenting digital menus and wine lists with supporting detail, and airports and hotels are also improving the customer experience with these tablets. Even field technicians and scientists are now using these popular tablets to document their work (especially now, with the camera capabilities of the iPad 2).
We’ve also all heard how the iPad is improving doctor-patient relations by reorienting the doctor away from the laptop station and back to the patient. It seems Apple’s wonder-child is breaking down untold barriers by usurping clipboards, POS systems, workstations, projectors, and laptops throughout the land.
Skeptics might also be surprised to learn that the iPad is also getting serious traction in the world of retail. Apple’s tablets are being tested on the floor of retailers like JC Penney, Nordstrom, Gucci, and even a Burberry fashion show. Converse is taking a unique angle by providing customers in select stores with iPads that enable the creation of customized shoes.
Which is why we responded with only one blink of surprise at reading of the rumors that Best Buy will be purchasing iPads for its entire sales force…
The iPad and Sales: a Match Made in Heaven?
The field of sales has been an early adopter of the iPad, enabling traveling sales reps to close deals by sharing real-time stats, interactive demos, and slick presentations, not to mention accessing their cloud-based CRM systems on the fly. Select Mercedes dealerships now arm their sales teams with iPads equipped to compare financing options for potential buyers.
As a major purveyor of the iPad, Best Buy is a likely candidate for the device as a retail sales tool, even in spite of their tenuous financial circumstances. Empowering their sales personnel with the kind of information available on an iPad (and the techie persona some claim comes with one) can help put them on a par with their savvier customers. Now, it would just remain to be seen if they would allow a lowly customer to touch the display…
One could argue that the appeal of the iPad for sales and retail points to a big reason for Apple’s success with this device. Tablets can facilitate interactions instead of interrupting them, and the iPad does it well enough to close the deal. A persuasive salesperson no longer has to drag her prospect across the floor to a dingy desktop or cramped workstation—she can pull real-time numbers as the customer tries out features on the latest product. An inspired designer doesn’t have to boot up a laptop or hook up a projector to display the latest mockups—he can pass the tablet around the table. Even trainers and trainees can now share knowledge with a greater level of dignity, rather than hunched over, fumbling with manuals or squinting at a dim screen.
Freedom or Bondage?
Newsweek’s feature article on the iPad compared it to bacon—as in, craving something that isn’t necessarily good for you. For the average consumer, that may be a question of affordability and self-control over usage. The Newsweek story was pointing more to limitations on freedom of choice, such as a lack of browser options, Flash video, and the ability to move content across platforms. As everyone knows, the iPad does not feature Microsoft Office. Apple’s iWork application tends to be the standard, instead. Still, users must find a workaround if they want to open and edit Microsoft Office files on the iPad. Here is some advice on that topic.
For enterprises, businesses and entrepreneurs, the above concerns are truly valid, but for those who don’t need to move easily between Mac, Windows and Linux, they’re countered by the enormous advantages gained by the utility of the device. For companies already grounded in Apple technology, or those considering a full conversion, the iPad’s business potential is only limited by budget, imagination, and the willingness to empower personnel and customers.
There is no better time than now to implement the iPad into your business. Start by considering new variations on vendor-client interactivity, and then decide if it’s just a tool for your team members or it’s made to be shared with clients and customers. The tablet allows you to pass ideas mano-a-mano in a way that is ultimately more collaborative and user friendly. The iPad’s unique interface makes it intuitive and fun. And that’s more than just bacon.
For further exploration, check out this article on Mashable, with some more great examples of how small businesses and entrepreneurs are putting the iPad to work.
LimeTech is a creative tech company with a focus on innovation and adaptive change. We use technical know-how, design skills, and deep experience in entrepreneurship to help companies advance their business goals. Our specialties include mobile app development, website design, technology planning, and remote work solutions.
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