Originally published on

We all know about the rising tide of tablet purchases fueled by the recent release of the Apple iPad 3 and the multichannel surfing behaviors that consumers display now that they’re armed with a portable, convenient consumption device. It appears to be a bigger and more transformative shift than just the consumer world of surfing, chatting, and shopping, though. Tablets are also changing the business world.

A January study by IDG documented the rise of tablet devices in the workplace with some astounding stats. This global study found, in part “A relatively high proportion of professionals in North America say that they ‘always’ use their iPad for web browsing (87%), work communication (67%) and personal communication (63%). Fewer North American respondents find themselves using their iPad as a substitute for TV and DVD players than in other regions.”

While this seems pretty self-evident – get more tablets in the hands of people and they will begin to use them more often – where I started to take notice was in my own behavior in the workplace. The convenience, speed, and portability of the tablet have forever transformed my desk and workplace habits and those of my colleagues as well in significant ways.

Speedy boot allows for productivity in small-time windows. First thing in the morning I load up my email on my tablet, delete 50 percent, then mark the ones that I need to respond to while I wait (and wait and wait) for my laptop to finish booting up. My laptop is brand-spanking-new with power and speed to spare, but it’s also weighed down with all the software and other productivity tools that make it my go-to power tool for business use. But the complement of the tablet increases my efficiency. Its speed makes it easy to use those precious minutes productively.

Ultimate portability. While I rarely took my laptop from office to office or conference room to conference room, I carry the tablet to meetings and presentations for quick reference or note-taking. The difference in size and weight even from my ultra-thin laptop is significant. I easily slip the tablet in my stack of files or work and it doesn’t create a cumbersome addition. The battery power allows me to run it off and on all day, as needed, while the laptop wouldn’t unless I constantly put it into sleep mode then turned it back on.

Covers most business uses. While I wouldn’t give up my laptop if I expected to be gone for more than a night or two or if I had any significant document creation or analytics to perform, with the right apps, the tablet does a nice job of communication, review, and limited editing of business documents during a quick trip out of town. It’s absolutely freeing to travel so light, and the tablet is the perfect conference device to support email or IM check-ins with the office, note-taking during sessions, video-chatting, and other conference needs.

Desktop third screen. Many of us are already using two monitor screens and sometimes a third one comes in handy, especially one you can pass around.

Small meeting presentation alternative to projectors. If you’re meeting with one or two people or perhaps are meeting over coffee, lunch, or drinks, the tablet provides the perfect way to deliver impactful information in a compact space. No need to bring a laptop and no projector to set up.

My suspicion and my personal experience is that tablet usage steals from both smartphone usage and laptop or desktop usage and has pushed more of the population into multitasking mode. Were I a heavy gamer or videophile, it might be a slightly different shift for me, but no less transformative in my business day. The lack of Flash in the predominant iPad does impose some restrictions on browsing and video consumption, but consumers certainly seem willing to make that tradeoff.

As more tablets and especially as more iPads make it into the workplace as a tool, there are implications for digital marketers.

  • Business app developers have a whole new frontier open to them and the bar is set pretty low in most categories. Good productivity and work apps get word of mouth at warp speed as tablet-toting businesspeople seek ways to improve their tablet productivity at work and on the road.
  • Personal browsing and buying are an accepted or at least tolerated part of the workday in most work environments. If more people are on tablets during the workday, then your consumer targeting during work hours better include that population and your mobile experience better be optimized to meet consumer expectations.
  • Brush up on your HTML5. Your Flash programming, while wondrous, is being viewed by a shrinking percentage of your target audience.
  • Be ready for requests for tablet purchases over laptops in your office from tablet-conditioned workers. Will that work for your purposes? What do you give up? Is this an added device or a true replacement?
  • Do the tablets represent any networking or security challenges in a networked and vulnerable business environment? Does the portability inevitably lead to lost or stolen devices, possibly packed with sensitive information? Are you cloud-ready to back up critical documents produced or saved in a tablet?

Businesspeople are consumers too, and behaviors first encountered at home bleed into the business day and get incorporated into new business behaviors at a very rapid clip. The tablet shift into the work world is already here. Are you ready?