Tablet PCs Are Starting to Change the Way We Work By Jamie Jansen


The launch of the iPad around a year ago made a huge splash in the world of online connectivity and portable computing. Since then, close to 20 million people have bought an iPad or one of its many rivals, and sales of tablet PCs from a wide range of manufacturers continue to increase as new and improved models become available. It's not surprising tablets are popular: they're light, convenient to carry around, easy to use, and - quite importantly - cool.

But it's not just individual consumers who are realizing the benefits of using tablet PCs. Companies are now also beginning to buy them for their employees to use on the job, and many busy professionals and executives report that they're proving to be invaluable business tools. Some corporations are replacing their workers' laptops with tablets, while others are introducing the new portable devices for use in tandem with existing desktop PCs and laptops.

With a growing number of apps and programs under development, the range of work-related uses for tablets - and the range of job functions in which they can be utilized - is expanding all the time. With tablets in hand, users in all kinds of industries can save their companies time and money thanks to their increased access to real-time information that allows them to make decisions faster and more accurately. The portability and ruggedness of a tablet PC, and the relative ease of tapping commands into a flat screen rather than having to fumble with a hinged laptop and keyboard, also open up a whole host of new applications for users on the go.

For example, engineers and surveyors can take a tablet out on site without worrying that it might be harmed by a little bit of dirt, and use it to record, transmit and receive data, calculations and photographs. A tablet is small enough to fit into a pocket and be held in one hand, but also large enough to use comfortably. A physician can carry a tablet computer on her rounds and use it to obtain instant information on drug interactions and diagnostic differentials, and also view images from MRIs and CT scans and use them to make quick decisions about further treatment. Supply chain managers are also increasingly using tablet PCs to access real-time inventory and order data, enabling them to see exactly what needs to be moved where, without having to run back to a terminal.

While the iPad was the first tablet to make a real impact on the market, and still leads the pack in terms of market share, there are now many competing models to choose from. Other manufacturers run their tablets on the Android or Windows 7 operating systems, with more platforms under development. This is helping to attract buyers from corporations that have been reluctant to add Apple equipment to their IT lineups because their existing systems are Windows- or Linux-based.

It's also good news for smaller companies that want to watch their budgets, given that some - but not all - of the new crop of tablets coming out now are very affordable. That is especially true of the increasingly sophisticated tablet PCs imported directly from China and sold online at wholesale prices. With so many different models available and more and more specialist software being developed, many businesses will make the switch to mobile computing in 2011, with around a quarter of the projected 56 million tablets to be sold this year expected to be purchased by corporate buyers.

Jamie Jansen is an expert author in the electronic products industry, and specializes in writing about the latest great-value consumer electronics such as tablet PCs, notebooks, cellphones, MP3/MP4/MP5 players, digital cameras and camcorders, LED light bulbs and watches from China.

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