Tablets can't and won't replace personal computers inside most small and midsize businesses.
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Tablet Buying Demystified: 10 Tips
Tablets are in vogue, with surging sales that have only recently shown signs of tapering off. PCs, on the other hand, are not cool. Sales have plodded along, failing to impress a tech industry that's perpetually fascinated not only with what's new but also what's next.
The conclusions drawn from these trends are to be expected: Tablets are cannibalizing PC sales! The PC is dead! Mobility reigns! Yet recent research from Techaisle, which focuses on small and midsize business (SMB) IT habits, suggests some of the sky-is-falling proclamations about the future of the PC are at best misguided, if not altogether off-target.
"Those who predict that the PC is dead are not seeing the picture correctly," said Techaisle analyst Anurag Agrawal in an email to InformationWeek. "They are probably getting carried away by the current wave of tablet adoption."
Agrawal, who recently wrote a blog post on the topic, said that there's no doubt that some people are buying tablets in lieu of PCs -- especially consumers who are put off by a confusing and complex PC purchase decision.
But for the majority of small and medium-size businesses, the tablet-as-PC-replacement scenario simply isn't a reality: 68% of U.S.-based SMBs that have purchased tablets did so to fill new or complementary functions, not to replace PCs. Only 16% bought a tablet specifically to replace a traditional laptop. The complementary scenario numbers tick higher in some other countries, according to Techaisle's recent polling of 9,500 SMBs worldwide: 75% in Canada, for instance, and 70% in the U.K. Among U.S. SMBs planning future tablet purchases, 74% said the devices will be used to complement, rather than replace, PCs.
This rings true for Steve Cummins, director of digital marketing and communications at Dittman Incentive Marketing. The 35-person firm, which manages group travel incentive programs for sales teams and other corporate clients, recently purchased iPads for its "travel team" -- on-site event managers and coordinators who accompany customers on trips. The Apple devices aren't taking the place of PCs; rather, they're replacing big binders of paper and fulfilling tasks that were never optimal on a laptop or desktop. Dittman's corporate office remains 100% PC-based.
"The use of tablets hasn't shifted our purchasing schedule for PCs," Cummins said via email, adding that different devices best suit different tasks. "The advantage to us with tablets is their ability to be easily carried everywhere and 'always on,' and this is most important when we are on-site at a resort destination managing one of our travel programs," he said. On the other hand, the tablet isn't a be-all tool; for example, employees have found spreadsheet work challenging on the devices, noted Cummins. "Even with a Bluetooth keyboard, this can be cumbersome on a tablet," he said.
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