Tablets

How tablets are being used in business; listed by industry

Tablets are seeing major uptake from business professionals. Here's Gartner's list of the business functions for tablets, broken down by industry.

I don't put a whole lot of stock in Gartner's prognostications, as I've mentioned before (and my friend Om Malik reminded me on Twitter on Tuesday). The main reason is that, as Yoda said, "Always in motion is the future."

But, Gartner talks to a lot of IT leaders, especially at the biggest organizations across the globe and so they get a lot of intelligence about what's happening out there and they do solid analysis of the trends. A great example of that at Gartner Symposium 2011 is the company's list of the ways tablets are being used for business in different industries.

Photo credit: Jason Hiner

The list itself is consistent with what I've seen and heard from IT and businesses professionals throughout 2011. It also throws out some scenarios I haven't seen, but that make a lot of sense. So, here's a look at Gartner's list, which compares how consumers are using tablets versus the business uses, broken out by industry.

How consumers use tablets

  • Media consumption
  • Touch to act
  • Picture/video capture
  • Social collaboration
  • Web browsing
  • Communication
  • Games
  • Mapping and route planning

Business uses, by industry

Healthcare
  • Waiting rooms
  • Patient care info.
  • Medical reference
  • Diagnostic images
  • E-prescribing
  • Appointments/scheduling
Legal
  • Documents
  • Depositions
Pharmaceutical
  • E-detailing
Retail
  • Floor sales tool
Field Sales and Service
  • Presentations
  • Forms
  • Configure price quote (CPQ)
  • Decision tools
  • Reference
  • Video conferencing
Marketing
  • Digital signage
  • Interactive brochures
  • Creative reviews
  • Tradeshows

My take

As I said, this is a pretty good list. In my experience, the only big stuff that's missing is project management and executive dashboards, but that's stuff that isn't industry-specific and is happening across organizations of all stripes.

Your take

How is your company using tablets? Are there scenarios that aren't on this list? If so, please post in the discussion thread below and let us know what industry you're in and the size of your company.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

51 comments
hansbaas
hansbaas

I heard about a hotel in New York (Andaz) which uses tablets for their guests' check-in while they walk them to their room. I love that one. For the near future, I could see them being used in the restaurant as interactive menu card and in the rooms to communicate local information, news and current events to guests.

wrc555s
wrc555s

Response for jbeauford - here in the UK, a school has procured a whole classroom's worth of tablets for its IT students and, whilst the school has received criticism from the Education Minister for doing so, I believe he will soon change his view. After all, the next generation is the one we will rely on for this Evolution. My concern is that tablets will take off quickly (let's face it, they will...) and issues around governance, compliance and security, etc., will not keep pace...

billballew
billballew

OK so you have something that will read a .doc and maybe even edit it. You can get tablet sleeves to protect the thing too. Longevity - I will not subject my budget to a device that is out of date about the time my employees get the hang of it. These things are toys that have to be replaced with the "newest and spiffyest" in sometimes less than 12 months. I tossed my "smart" phone in favor of a plain cell phone because it was not xG compatible (you fill in the x, it will change before you read this) Due to the short life of these devices I reject them as business devices and would never design a business application around one because of the lack of compatibility with the new device that came out this morning and tomorrow morning, and the unreliability of being able to replace a failed device because the one we are using is 3 months old or more. Thus there is no longevity and the expense of using them in business escalates beyond reason. Let the big corporations play, but it is not for small or medium busiiness to use. I may buy one to play with and it will end up in the closet with the pile of useless devices I've purchased since the casio was replaced with the Palm Pilot. Money down a rat hole and I'm tired of it. Sorry to pop a bubble for you.

Ray Baker
Ray Baker

Use tablets instead of all the paper log sheets documenting operation of proesses or parts manufacturing. List jobs to be run on manufacturing floor, when they are run, status, and next operation. Use to hold documentation for machine adjustment, calibration and repair. Data collection around the plant floor, for example, temperature, pH, flow rate, pressure, etc in a waste treatment plant. Take the HMI of the plant with you to the point where you will be working rather than running between there and the control room.

CMJRoss
CMJRoss

While my company wasn't the first to add iPads to our repertoire, we were certainly amongst the earliest amongst our 'colleague' brokerages. As the marketing director/office manager for an 8-broker office specializing in commercial retail real estate, I have been able to convert a lot of our multi-site tour books (which could be close to 75-100 pages and 2-5 or more copies of each book) into iPad format. My more tech-savvy/tech-comfortable brokers will take the clients on the site tours with the iPads and maybe only a few specific pages of hard copy. If the client subsequently needs the tour book to bring back to their office, I simply take the exact same files that I put onto the iPads and upload onto a flash drive. All of the clients that have had the iPad tours have been very happy with the transition. No more schlepping 3-ring binders on an airplane back to their home offices. The clients that have not switched to iPad tours haven't been "converted" only because they are represented by the old school brokers...the brokers that aren't as comfortable with anything more technological than their shoelaces. While so many people talk about tablets saving business, right now, I am looking at our iPads at helping us save money on our paper consumption and the wear & tear on our digital printer. Ultimately, it saves me time because I don't have to collate and put together four 50-page tour books. For a small business like ours, saving time and cutting back on certain expenses is well worth the cost of the iPads themselves.

Formotus Glen
Formotus Glen

We've been seeing a tremendous upsurge in SMB companies looking for dispatch and data collection solutions on tablets. It's not that tablets can do anything in particular that smartphones can't do, they are just a much more usable form factor than trying to fill out business forms on tiny tiny screens. Gartner is very focused on what it calls 'Media Tablets', reflecting a widespread perception that iPads and their competitors are suitable for consumption but not production of content. That's not what we're seeing. No, you wouldn't choose a tablet for inputing large amounts of data into a spreadsheet, but if the job at hand is to inspect a remote location and record findings, including photos and drawings, tablets are ideal. Read some of our top business use case scenarios here: http://www.formotus.com/products-mobile-business-forms/android-ipad-business-scenarios/

CodeCurmudgeon
CodeCurmudgeon

My agency has bought a couple hundred tablets for facility inspectors, so they can enter their data/citations while they are on site. It's a mostly point & tap interface. I suppose that is akin to the "Field Service" category, but. . .

blueberry606
blueberry606

Its only a mater of time before Tabs are in every consumers home and buisness. It all hinges on Microsofts ability to bring a light weight, finger freindly version of their OS to market so that OS fragmentation can be consolidated. If OS 8 can deliver, I think the IT world will need to go back to school. If it cant deliver, then the steam build up over the last couple of years will only continue to fragment the market and we will continue to see the tab as a appliance. Right now we have toaster, blenders, food processors, coffee makers, and microwaves, but weres the tab form Ronco tv comercial that will do everything? Weres the tab that will make the phone call, watch a dvd movie, stream a presentation, check the email, play a video game, and the battery will last 8 hours. Thats going to be a Tab. I say, roll out your blue tooth keyboard and blue tooth mouse and go to town.

redbaron101
redbaron101

Doesn't anyone remember the brilliant british psion pda's? They (pda market) ultimately died a death in the uk, but the company carried on (quite successfully) building tablets for use I think in the construction industry. I used to see British Gas engineers with tablets, I assume that sort of stuff would be big for engineers? I guess we will only see an increase in other business sectors when ipads and androids tablets can be sold at decent prices. (I'm not talking about the influx of cheap substandard androids that seem to be flooding the market)

ruby.otero
ruby.otero

hi im an IT manager in pharma company here in the phils... and before android tablets are born we re using windows mobile (from 5,6,6.1 and lastly 6.5) actually im expecting win mobile 7 but due to availability of devices running this OS and also our providers marketing direction we settled in Android OS. AS of now we are about to deploy our first batch.

ctoc1usa
ctoc1usa

The are some Soldiers in the Army who use these devices for inventories and for studying for the promotion board they are very useful. Most of us have U.S. Army Labtops for most of our work. But some Soldiers also use their I-Phones and Droid Phones even in deployed places because of their ability to use other countries phone systems.

gryps
gryps

Tablets are great for portability, which is the only benefit my dual core tablet running Win7 (now Win8) has over a notebook. Sure, I can attach a keyboard and mouse to it, and use it as one does a notebook, but its portability om public transport makes it a boon. For me, a technical instructor, it must run a real operating system and be capable of having real applications (Office, Photoshop, etc) installed. Otherwise, like the iPad, its just an expensive fashion toy with no real meaning. Unless one runs a Citrix client on it, in which case it then becomes a window into a proper operating system.

ken lillemo
ken lillemo

We have test systems on carts that require a dedicated Human Machine Interface (HMI) to simplify the operator experience, provide test instructions, and sequence the tester. The Dell Duo running Win7 in touch pad mode proved to be just the ticket. It provided a screen that displayed information large enough to be seen from several feet away. It provided a programming environment that allowed use of an existing code base. It provided backup power while the tester was unplugged and moved. We will be expanding tablets in the role of HMI based on this success.

TsarNikky
TsarNikky

Still missing in all this hoopla about how tablets are going to "save businesses," is how is a tablet ever going to be able to handle intensive data entry? No one has shown or even mentioned how one is to efficiently use Word, Excel, Access, or PowerPoint using the very limited touch screen capability of a tablet. Windows 8 seems to be obsessively focused on tablets and the Metro interface, to the exclusion of all others.

douglas.jefferey
douglas.jefferey

We have most recently in the past 6months issued the Galaxy's to our Sales staff here in the newspaper industry to use, so they can keep in touch with there work mail, enter stuff into Salesforce, and actually show a digital proof to a customer in front of them of how it will look when printed. And a few of us have them in the IT dept, now if I could get the VPN to work over it this would be very effective for me when oncall support and wouldnt have to worry about having my laptop around and just take the tablet with me, and then just connect over VPN and then RDP into a server or desktop if needed to.

Lazarus439
Lazarus439

Can we get some details on how they are being used, not just the general area; ? Some topics are kind of obvious, but many are not. In Legal/Deposition, for example, one could have the questions on the tablet rather than a paper list, but that's a pretty pathetic example and I don't see a tablet being useful for capturing responses. I also may be completely missing something, which is why some details would be very good.

drmoesta
drmoesta

If someone wants to make a quick million, design an airtight case with a screen protector that is still sensitive enough. One challenge for manufacturing centers that were built before 60s is that their supervisors don't have easy access to the work centers when doing their paperwork. Being able to take a tablet right on the floor, regardless of the powder or just general debris would solve that for them. Note: even Otterbox doesn't keep debris out of the equipment, so whatever the enclosure, it would definitely be a step-change.

APSDave
APSDave

I work for an apparel manufacturing company and one area we are trying to eliminate is all the paper we use. The customer gives us a document in PDF form called a tech pack that has all of the who, what, when, where and how for each garment we make. Each one can be between 8 and 30 pages. There are no less than 10 copies of these documents floating around at any given time. And, if the customer makes a change, we get to print them all over again. So, we're loading up the PDFs onto the tablet via USB (until we develop some kind of web portal or other network mechanism) so they can view them from there. Another idea is since they can run Skype, we can do a video call between someone on the tablet and someone here in HQ while the person is on the floor so we can see issues with the manufacturing process (why a stitch isn't right) as they are happening in real time

obyrnejeff
obyrnejeff

It has been widely reported that United Airlines has bought 8,000 iPads for their flight crews. They will replace the paper copies of flight planning material now carried.

AudeKhatru
AudeKhatru

Well, sort of. So far, tablets aren't being used where I work...a state agency, but our Commissioners and their personal staff are starting to bring in iPhones, iPads and Macs and then want to use them on our network. They don't really have a good reason for using these over the PCs we provide them. These are personal devices. For anyone else the answer would be no, but we don't really say no to these guys. I know that tablets are actually being used, but I wonder how much of IT's exposure to tablets is because of executives who want to use their personal toys at work?

riandean
riandean

My office has recently invested in two Motorola Xoom touch pads to be used during field inspections of foreclosure properties. The web apps available allow us to photograph all aspects of a property and submit inspection reports on-site. This is a huge time saver. Combining the camera with the communication and productivity device is an incredibly valuable resource for us.

OldHenry
OldHenry

Most of the exec dashboards I know are browser based so the execs I know just go to them through the browser on their tablets without needing any specially developed app.

joeyramone2
joeyramone2

I have seen jazz big bands and orchestras using xp tablet pcs as sheet music, advancing pages with a footswitch. Some schools are REQUIRING that the parents buy ipads now instead of books.

26Alfred
26Alfred

Distance learning is increasingly using tablets as a student / teacher interface.and as a gateway to course enrichment (quickly retrieving in depth information from background sources). In some cases tablets (i-Pad's or Galaxy Tab's) are part of the course materials.

jbeauford
jbeauford

It seems that tablets are gaining some traction in learning environments as student devices such as higher and secondary education as well.

john
john

Nobody's listing tablet-only tasks - are there any that "just won't work" on a laptop?

adornoe
adornoe

are not worth a spit. Where's the evidence to support the predictions?

rochb
rochb

great tool to provide situation awareness to field incident commanders/controllers as the platform visualizes the environment for on-site and command center staff. security concerns are huge for these products for this use case. requires that user expectations be managed, especially when previously exposed to platform as a Consumer!

Gerbilferrit
Gerbilferrit

we've been using tablets since Windows CE days and have constantly failed to be impressed by the "revolutionary" rise of the ipads. real people doing real things in the real world and none of it for the sake of being a tech-fashion victim ;)

cmartineau
cmartineau

We are starting to see instructors use their tablets in classrooms. We also have connections available where they can connect their i-pad to the classroom projector. Not a huge demand yet but interest is growing.

mhari
mhari

That makes things clear - I was wondering about a tablet for a special needs kid who uses Dragon Naturally Speaking, and needs access to real applications. I will look at a Windows Tablet and see if it fills the bill. He needs a larger display than a typical 15" notebook has, but must lug this thing around with him.

m.mccarthy
m.mccarthy

I use the logitech keyboard case with my ipad2, and once I got used to the keys being a bit closer together I can input on there as quickly as on my computer.

meanppt
meanppt

I think of a tablet as being simultaneously a proper personal assistant, and a highly portable terminal. Being the owner of a hp touchsmart (a tablet notebook), when in tablet mode I use the handwriting for note taking and text recognition. As windows 7 has, in my opinion, one of the best handwriting processing engines, the job of data entry becomes ... well ... stupidly simple and addictive ... and I hope W8 will keep this feature, provided the hardware it's installed in, uses a screen of the resistive type

m.mccarthy
m.mccarthy

There are some ipad rdp apps out there, Jump! works well, and there is also a service for rdp that can be managed centrally although I can't think of the name of it right now - it's about $30 per user. You can use the VPN with Jump! - I was able to connect to my work computer via my ipad - worked great.

jc2it
jc2it

The Android devices have a VPN client built in. You just need to know the settings for the server. You might check out shrewsoft it works well in Linux and BSD, but I don't know if their client will work on android. http://www.shrew.net/

Kevin Groff
Kevin Groff

True about United Airlines. Did you see their ROI driver however? Not usability, functionality, etc., but fuel costs based on the weight of the paper charts being replaced in their flight bags.

milancshah@hotmail.com
milancshah@hotmail.com

Thanks. What software do you use? If you cannot reply with this specific info, it would be helpful if you can provide additional information.

az_nemesis
az_nemesis

If my kids' school tried to require me to buy an over-priced faddish iPad, they would be meeting me in court.

neilsmith1357
neilsmith1357

lol john the tablet is much lighter thats the beauty of it thats what makes them so appealing

pjboyles
pjboyles

All of these can be done on any hand held device. The size of the device gives it the nod. Unfortunately many of these users should NOT be using iPads as they do not meet security requirements. In the past these used a Windows based Tablet PC which was much heavier as the technology did not exist to shrink them to this form factor. What Microsoft missed was recognizing that the technology was available to put out a much lighter and thinner device. Apple did a much better job of recognizing this capability and delivering a device first.

Dknopp
Dknopp

Most of these uses are mobile. Doctors moving from room to room, Floor sales looking up inventory and then doing point to point sales. Pretty much all of them can work on a laptop, but laptops are just too unwieldy for that usage.

neilsmith1357
neilsmith1357

hmm are you I.T. u dont sound like it, the tablets and cell phones are the future, google cell phones in china etc look at where there network is and what they are doing with cell phones its going to be us in the not too distant future. Think about the tablet how you can have your computer with you where ever you go. You maybe like me cant afford one :-) but the prices will come down and I will figure out a way to get one if need be after all I'm I.T. I am suppose to figured stuff out :-)

Dknopp
Dknopp

Gardner gathered actual usage, happening now.

neilsmith1357
neilsmith1357

the thing is with construction sites trailers etc. your in a rugged environment, I use to setup I.T. in the trailers, I issued tough books, they will come out with "touch tablets" for folks who will be in rugged environments.

adornoe
adornoe

and productivity is what most businesses would expect from a device which would cost them $500 or more. A simple netbook or laptop can provide the productivity and functionality that a tablet cannot, and at cheaper prices,

Lazarus439
Lazarus439

I have several doctors who do in fact use small laptops (netbook size, if not actual netbooks) and do carry them around. As they input their notes directly and about as fast as they could dictate, I doubt the virtual keyboards would be a big hit with them.

adornoe
adornoe

My post was a non-technical response to the blog, and the blog didn't include any numbers that could be used to judge the assertions being made by Gartner. BTW, tablets and smartphones are here to stay, but, tablets will have to evolve in order to crack into the enterprise sector in any significant way. The study above did not indicate that the current crop of tablets are that significant. But, they will be, but, they'll have to evolve into more useful gadgets for the business sector. But, since you asked, I am in IT and have been for close to 40 years, in the mainframe era and in the mini-computer era and now in the web and PC era. and I've worked for major corporations and for the medium size ones and for the smaller ones, and I've also done consulting work, as a developer and as an architect and in management. In short, I have no doubt that I have a lot more experience in IT, overall, than you do. The only thing you should've conclude from my post above is that, I don't take anything for granted, and I expect better information to go along with studies or reports or assertions. You could learn to be as skeptical and don't just be accepting of everything you're told. Question everything.

viveka
viveka

It would cost $25K or so if you need the numbers - and again it would be quite useless.... As the author said, it is because they talk to execs. And there is a lot of fact/fiction mixed when you get inputs from them. I would like to see vendor sales segmented by above.

az_nemesis
az_nemesis

The keyboard or lack thereof makes them frustrating to use for any real work--even on-the-go work. Personally, I wish you could still find netbooks. Tablets are pushing them out, and I find the netbook far preferable.