Tablets seem like a no-brainer for certain industries. Last month I wrote about airlines' increasing use of tablets, with pilots using the devices to replace the heavy flight manuals and other paper documents kept in the cockpit.
American Airlines says tablets are helping it cut $1.5 million from its printing costs. United Continental says it will save 326,000 gallons of jet fuel annually. Delta is loading its pilots' tablets with useful applications, including a meteorology app offering access to pilot-tailored graphical weather information and real-time looped Delta radar, email and calendar apps, and a calculator that helps determine appropriate rest frequency and duration during flights.
Tablets and mobile apps have proven similarly popular with sales people, medical professionals and almost anyone whose work involves toting around paper documents. In a post from April, I mentioned a couple of real estate companies using mobile business process management apps on tablets and other devices. Executives covet them so much they are increasingly adding clauses to employment contracts thatensure they get to keep their tablets if they lose their jobs.
Graham Yellowley, technology lead equities at LCH.Clearnet, envisioned the grimmest future for the desktop PC, saying that within five years business people will use tablets with a small plastic keyboard attached to "paper" that rolls out to be a screen, accessing all enterprise applications via the cloud. "... The only choice is whether to use private or public clouds. PCs are almost dead now," he told silicon.com.
Other members of the CIO Jury were more tempered with their predictions. Neil Hammond, CIO at British Sugar, said that in five years the PC will "still be an important computing device for business use, but not necessarily the dominant device." Neil Harvey, IT director at Sindlesham Court, noted that many IT users remain deskbound and "perform necessary but routine tasks which require a stable machine and a clear, often large, readable screen -- in other words a PC."
Back in May I wrote about a Dimensional Research survey that found 22 percent of the 448 companies in its sample had already deployed tablets. Another 22 percent planned to roll them out in 2011 and 24 percent expected to do so in 2012. Just 20 percent said they had no tablet plans. A whopping 82 percent said tablets would complement, rather than replace, laptops.
That result differed from another survey conducted by Changewave, in which 38 percent of respondents planned to use tablets as laptop replacements, a 13 percent increase from its year-earlier survey. While laptop replacement was only the sixth most popular business function for tablets (behind Internet access, checking email, working away from the office, sales support and customer presentations), it saw the biggest percentage increase from Changewave's prior survey.
Both of these surveys asked about laptops rather than desktops. They seem to assume the desktop PC is essentially already obsolete. While much of the current buzz is devoted to tablets, a new class of devices may become the go-to work aid. Last week IT Business Edge's Carl Weinschenk wrote about Intel's Ultrabook, a device described as a cross between a tablet and a laptop.