What The 'iPad Economy' Means For Businesses Everywhere

iPad and Apple TV being used in the enterprise

Photo: MicroStrategy

The explosive uptake of tablet computers is fueling the growth of what I like to call a new “iPad economy,” which is sending shock waves through the business world. The iPad is shifting the way businesses function, changing how executives interact and transforming the economics of today’s business operations.Few products in recent memory have experienced faster growth than the iPad. Through the end of 2011, Apple had sold 55 million iPads, which are now selling at a rate of about 60 million units a year.

iPads are also making rapid inroads into the world of corporate computing, where more than 90 per cent of Fortune 500 companies are reportedly testing or deploying them. Forrester Research expects companies to purchase $10 billion worth of iPads in 2012, and another $16 billion in 2013.

One obvious beneficiary of the iPad economy is Apple, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of worldwide tablet sales, as well as a growing share of both the PC and smartphone markets.

Also reaping the benefits are software developers, who thus far have rolled out more than 170,000 iPad software apps.Ultimately, however, the biggest beneficiaries of this new economy may be the many thousands of businesses and professionals whose day-to-day work flows are being transformed by iPads.

Business users can take advantage of a wide variety of basic productivity tools, ranging from email and note taking to creating and sharing presentations and remotely accessing files. In addition, they can choose from thousands of specialised applications that have been developed for education, retail, health care, financial services and other industries.

Real estate agents with Coldwell Banker and Sotheby’s, for example, now use iPads in the field to access property listings and other information for potential buyers. Airline pilots are replacing bulky bags of paper charts and documentation with iPad-enabled digital flight manuals, a move expected to save more than 300,000 gallons of jet fuel annually at United Airlines alone. Insurers John Hancock and Aflac have developed iPad sales presentation for their field agents, resulting in an 18 per cent sales increase in one recent Aflac deployment. Hundreds of Siemens Energy technicians use iPads when doing maintenance at the top of giant wind turbines. And sales and editorial staff at CBS Interactive now use iPads to participate in multi-party video conference calls, even from the road.

Tablet users comprise an ever-larger percentage of those using my company’s web-based video conferencing software. Although they can also access our video meeting and collaboration services with PCs and smartphones, there seems to be something singularly attractive about the portability, screen size and anywhere-anytime wireless connectivity of tablet computers. Executives are especially pleased that their tablets let them conduct secure telepresence calls from their homes or other remote locations, without the dedicated video conference rooms previously required.

In short, tablet computers are one of the most versatile, user-friendly and game-changing business tools to arrive in years, and they are just starting to reach their full potential.

Apple CEO Tim Cook predicts that tablets will soon surpass PCs in unit sales, and contends that a “profound change” is now underway, as users begin to recognise tablets as devices that are fundamentally different, with their own distinct capabilities.

If you’re a software company and you haven’t begun developing tablet-optimised versions of your products, you’re missing an incredible opportunity. If you’re an IT director and you’re not yet evaluating what tablets can do for your organisation, you may be surprised to discover that much of your workforce is using them already.

Ready or not, the iPad economy has arrived. And it’s not too late to climb onboard.

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