Hoards of Apple fans queued up for hours to get their hands on the new iPhone 4, even as Apple announced 3 million iPads were sold in just 80 days after launch; beyond questions such as how to manage this influx of portable devices, what are implications like for SMBs where business opportunities are concerned?
Rather than being subjugated to watching the latest technologies developments from the sidelines, however, the sheer take-up rate of the latest smartphone and tablets such as those from Apple could have a role to play in influencing the use of IT in SMBs.
New Uses for New Tools
I recently attended a trade show where the sales lead from an exhibiting vendor walked through an impressive presentation on an iPad with me "elevator-pitch style" while we were both standing. I inquired further and realized that what appeared to be a tailor-made presentation was simply JPGs of various brochures and screenshots organized into the appropriate folders. The default picture viewer rounded up the hat trick with no need to purchase any additional software.
It is also a common to see building management executives or even engineers using their camera-enabled smartphones to take photos of problem sites. In fact, I just saw a worker whip out his smartphone to take photos of a hairline crack in a wall during a routine inspection just last week. That's one less camera and associated card readers to purchase and maintain. And with the right software tools, the photo can even be immediately whizzed back to a central repository.
Need to refer to work documents while on the move? Free applications such as SugarSync and Dropbox allow smartphone users to quickly access the contents of their cloud-hosted files without having to return to the office or having to trouble a colleague to check.
In addition, the iPad also makes an excellent low-maintenance computer terminal for service centers or retail outlets that rely on a Web-based interface. Alternatively, it could also be implemented as a relatively cheap in-store information kiosk.
Lowering the Technological Threshold
SMBs were traditionally encumbered by the cost of developing new applications and hardware, which even enterprise companies would have taken months or years to build and implement. However, the tools now appearing in the hands of SMBs have capabilities to dramatically lower this technological barrier. Assuming SMBs are prepared to expand their thinking and explore new uses for these tools for their businesses, the possibilities are limitless.
The above list highlighting some uses for smartphones and tablets are hardly exhaustive, but simply a smattering of ideas floating about in my head. Do you have any suggestions for how smartphones and tablets such as the iPhone and iPad can be implemented in your small and mid-sized business? I would love for you to share them here.