Tipping Points and Long Hauls – The Tablet Revolution

By Denise McLaughlin, Worldwide Integrated Marketing, Enterprise Business Group

I got into a disagreement the other day with a colleague of mine.  We are same age and have had roughly the same tenure in our careers, but we disagreed sharply on the pace and impact of the “tablet revolution” for business.   I think that the tipping point for business is well underway.  The tablet is the new “off ramp” replacing paper in many situations.  My colleague firmly believes it will be years before tablets really make any sense for business users; displacing laptops or displacing most printed documents.

My reasoning for believing that we are witnessing a dramatic shift for business is simply the blue-covered Apple iPad sitting on my desk (yes, BYOD).  I considered all the ways I’ve already begun to use it in my day-to-day practices.  I don’t take my laptop to meetings anymore, unless I have to project PowerPoint slides in the conference room  or over WebEx.  Otherwise, I take my iPad – good for notes, and of course, to multitask in all those meetings.Using tablet by MFP in the office

I find this to be true even more so than I did with my smartphone.  That’s because the line between my personal “fun” activities and business activities increasingly blur with the lure of  tablet-based apps.  With very few exceptions, I don’t use a laptop outside the office anymore, and once Microsoft Office is available for the iPad, there were be very few things I won’t do on my tablet.

While enjoying a sunny deck or cozy fire, I am a flipper. I flip from business email, to reading the latest Fast Company article in Flipboard to tweeting my latest blog. Then, I might hop onto a search engine to find marketing research for my next project, while downloading the latest issue of International Living, dreaming of a retirement house in Belize. After that, doing a quick search to see what to watch on Netflix later or look for recipe for dinner. Was I working?  Was I playing?  Yes and yes.  Would I have done the same thing with my laptop or my smartphone?  Certainly not as fluidly, or at all.

Ethnographic researchers at PARC even have a new name for this kind of emerging social and digital phenomena, they call it “Channel Blending.” When our work, personal worlds and rich media are colliding at a breathtaking pace, doesn’t it say business will follow the trend? In fact, Cisco has an entire portfolio focused on collaboration through multimedia communications channels  for business.

While all those examples are true, my colleague still disagreed with me, arguing that printed paper and laptops are here for the long haul because “everyday working people” aren’t buying tablet devices for themselves given cost,  today’s economy and not for use at work. She agreed that executives and highly mobile workers will invest or be invested in, but what about everyone else?

She insisted that not many people are true “mobile” workers. I thought about that. I started down the list. Doctors and nurses, medical professionals?  Not in the traditional sense of mobile, but they sure move around in their jobs.  More and more of them use tablets because it avoids error prone, cluttered paper records, protects confidentiality and collects and electronically stores information while sitting with a patient.

Recently, a small business owner at a fencing company told me that paperwork is still the common denominator when dealing with clients; he’s still faxing and keeping paper records.  But, he also does an awful lot of redundant data entry when he gets home on his computer.  He wishes he didn’t.

Right now, maybe a tablet is just a fancy accessory for a banker or accountant, until the day comes when they can get to all the data they need from a tablet. Hotel registration requires paper signatures, but for how long? Will a hotel concierge stop handing out pamphlets of information to guests?  Will that brochure display station by the front desk switch to a set of QR codes with a voice over display so I can flip through all them at my leisure?  I say maybe, and maybe pretty soon.

What do you think about the tablet revolution – are we at the tipping point or are laptops here for the long haul?

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  1. Samira Hassan April 17, 2012 - Reply

    I agree with you 100%. We need to start thinking about ways we can help the customer be effective at “channel blending” and reduce their print.
    Our biggest challenge in today’s print shop (Managed Services) is how to maintain profitability while helping the customer apply new technologies.
    (Disclaimer: Xerox employee)

  2. Denise April 17, 2012 - Reply

    Hi Samira, thanks for your comment. We hear from customers often that this transition is not easy, most of their “systems” to go digital still have not cracked the code on easy, intelligent access to the information they need to share regardless of format. The next gen for Managed Services is bringing fresh expertise to assess and determine how the documents are intelligently shared, used and managed. Yes, lets go way beyond print!!

  3. Jaime Soley April 17, 2012 - Reply

    I believe we are approaching a tipping point on tablets. The iPad on its own,will not enable the tipping point. However the combination of iPad + Cloud computing + Business apps and appropiate user interfaces (inputs and outputs) with the tablet will revolutionize how we work. All of the components exist and early adopters are now learning how to combine them to enhance their workflows and to eliminate their dependency on the laptop.
    (Disclaimer: Xerox employee)

  4. Ron Lane April 17, 2012 - Reply

    I am on my second iPad moving from iPad 1 to iPad 3. It has become an indispensable part of my work and personal life. For work I track mileage and expenses, store need PDF documentation, use WebEx, and show Power Point presentations all for work. For personal I us it for camping, flying and flight instruction, weather, surfing the web and much more. I have created fill-in documents for data capture and gathering requirements. My laptop I use for programming, complex spreadsheets and word documents. But when I go mobile or to meetings the iPad is the tool of choice.
    (Disclaimer: Xerox employee)

  5. Denise April 17, 2012 - Reply

    Hi Jaime, great points on the critical factors that will drive the change. They are coming quickly. thanks

  6. Valerie April 17, 2012 - Reply

    The sooner we adapt to new techniques and ways of doing business the better! I believe we are well on our way to being less dependant on Laptops and more on smartphones and tablets. Some stores are using iPad devices for selling appliances! It’s going to be cool to watch!
    (Disclaimer: Xerox employee)

  7. margo valens April 18, 2012 - Reply

    I agree that tablets are the next logical step from the smart phone. soon we won’t need a laptop at all and I think that is a good thing!
    (Disclaimer: Xerox employee)

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