Research from Forrester released today, entitled How iPads Enter the Workforce, looks at the role tablets are likely to play in the enterprise.
The report outlines three main ways in which the tablet device might affect the enterprise: it will displace laptops, replace clipboards, or move into a “new place” – which would see it used in situations in which nothing was previously used.
Ted Schadler, Forrester vice-president and principal analyst and author of the report, said firms are already seeing employees wanting to use a personal iPad instead of a laptop for an overnight business trip or while in a staff meeting.
"Every company we talk with is figuring out how to support [the tablet PC] today,” he added.
“And unlike in the iPhone scramble [which took IT departments by surprise] many IT pros are testing and supporting iPads already."
Kraft Foods is one company that is replicating its success with iPhones and iPods by giving executives iPads. The IT department had supported employee provisioned iPhones and built the hot iFood application. Schadler said the company is likely to start innovating in the tablet space.
In terms of replacing a clipboard, Schadler gave the example of a large pharmaceutical company that could issue tablets PCs to its home-based sales teams.
“The logic is simple: you have three minutes to pitch a doctor on a new drug or device in a hallway between patient visits. Wouldn’t it be nice to show them a video and a few slides on a tablet?”
He added that this would be much better than heaving potentially out-of-date collateral at the doctor.
Schadler said that the “new place” is potentially the most interesting and valuable category of all, as computers have found their way into many nontraditional places, such as classrooms, conference rooms, couches and coffee shops.
He added that examples of this scenario include retailers using a tablet on a shop floor to customise a product or service and place an order. Alternatively, hospital staff could also use a tablet to access patient records.
The iPad had already sold three million units by June this year. Apple is expected to sell more than 13 million iPads by the end of 2010, according to Forrester.
Other devices coming onto the market that compete with the iPad include products from Cisco, Google, Dell, Samsung, RIM and HP.