May 21, 2012
Are laptops headed to the dust heap of history? By 2015, sales of tablets will surpass laptops, causing some observers to proclaim we’ve entered the post-PC world. And iPads and Android tablets aren’t just consumer toys; 24% of global information workers and 44% of executives report using tablets for work, according to an April 2012 Forrester Research report, “Tablets Will Rule The Future Personal Computing Landscape.
But for most corporate workers, the laptop is still the primary work device.
Employees lug around their laptops because they need to create and collaborate on documents, write and respond to tons of emails, and use data-heavy enterprise applications to get their work done, according to Alex Cocotas, Research Analyst for Business Insider Intelligence. “If you're trying to run programs running a lot of data, a laptop is still the perfect device,” he said in a recent interview.
But one group of business users may be the first to replace their laptops with tablets: road warriors. These business travelers, often in executive, sales, marketing, and business development roles, spend many weeks a year in planes, airports and hotels – shuttling from meeting to meeting and racking up hundreds of thousands of frequent flyer miles. These frequent business travelers may be the first to fully ditch their computers.
Deirdre Davi, executive vice president of strategy at Sterling Brands, a brand strategy consultancy with clients such as Google, T-Mobile, Qualcomm, and Xbox, travels 75 to 100 nights per year – which works out to being in a hotel around three nights a week. She takes her iPad with her everywhere and would love to leave her laptop at home.
“I’d like to ditch my laptop, and with a bit of behavior modification, I’m almost ready to,” Davi says. For the time being, when traveling, Davi uses an iPad to create documents in Google Docs, check email, create and check calendar appointments, and read websites and documents – but turns to her laptop for PowerPoint creation and heavy writing tasks.
“I can’t type quickly on my iPad, which I need to do to create slides and documents,” says Davi, who plans to purchase an attachable keyboard and download apps that will allow her to create full-featured Word and PowerPoint docs on her iPad.
Most analysts say it’s only a matter of time before all office and enterprise applications are available in tablet versions. Already, there are hundreds of business apps available from large companies like Microsoft, Apple, SAP, and salesforce.com, as well as a host of upstarts like Box, Dropbox, and other cloud-centric productivity and collaboration app vendors. And with the rise of secure corporate clouds and personal clouds like iCloud, Amazon Cloud, and Google Docs – where documents and data can be securely stored and accessed from any device – there will be little reason to carry around a bulkier laptop with its own large hard drive.
Ben Straley, CEO of social marketing software company Meteor Solutions, travels one or two days a week and always brings his iPad and laptop. He uses email and Beehive for communicating, Evernote for taking and sharing notes, Numbers and Keynote to create and view presentations, and Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to stay abreast of news and information. But despite using his iPad for so many business-related tasks, he’s still dependent on his laptop.
“I always bring my laptop with me on trips because I find it's much easier to write, build presentations, and work with spreadsheets than on my tablet,” he says. “That said, there are trips I've taken where my laptop never leaves my bag because my iPad is enough.”
Tablet vendors are shifting their focus to corporate users, designing tablets with the business user in mind.
Straley thinks he’ll make the switch to tablet-only business travel when Microsoft comes out with new Windows 8 tablets with built-in Office applications. “As a longtime PC user, I really like the Metro interface and think it could address a lot of the challenges I've had using my iPad for work-related tasks.”
He won’t be the only road warrior to soon ditch his laptop for good.
“By 2016, tablets will become standard tools for executives, sales staff, and many other info workers,” says Forrester Research. “PCs will seem like clunky trucks rather than sleek cars.”
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