August 08, 2011, 3:05 PM — You probably thought the consumerization of IT was a big trend even before Apple sold 15 million iPads in the device's first year. Now, seemingly overnight, tablets have overrun IT. Just about every smartphone and PC maker has announced a near-iPad tablet of its own, and they're all due any day now. Gartner predicts that 69 million tablets will be sold in 2011. And here's the part that matters most to you: Forrester analyst Ted Schadler estimated in a March report on tablets in the enterprise that about half of those first 15 million iPads are commuting to the office every day.
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It's inevitable, because tablets fill a need for users. No other device handles meetings as well. Tablets are light -- even compared to netbooks -- plus they have long battery life, and they're less off-putting to colleagues because you can type almost silently and your face isn't obscured by the display. And their screen size gives them an advantage over smartphones. Ever tried to whip out your smartphone in a meeting to check something on the Web? A phone is too small to pull down menus and press navigation buttons comfortably. What usually happens is that the conversation passes you by. A tablet like the Apple iPad or the Motorola Xoom offers a better overall design for use during meetings.
Tablets are also a good fit at companies where employees travel frequently or move about all day, and in fields like healthcare, financial services, manufacturing and retail. A tablet is an excellent small-meeting presentation device, especially in intimate settings like restaurants. And while both Forrester and IDC don't expect tablets to replace laptops, I have to wonder whether that outlook might change in a couple of years.