The iPad has been well received by the general consumer market, but analysts are seeing a business market for it and other tablets -- including business intelligence and CRM.

The Tablet Can't Be Ignored

Media tablets, and in particular, the Apple iPad are exploding in usage. Gartner expects the number of units shipped to reach 19.5 million this year. That will almost triple within one year to 54.8 million units and will pass the 20 million mark in 2014.

Gartner believes the cachè of the iPad makes a strong statement in many customer-facing sectors, such as retail, hospitality and tourism. But the iPad isn’t the only game in town. Other media tablets include Samsung Galaxy Tab and the Cisco Cius. Initially, Gartner sees these devices being used for fast access to e-mail, calendaring, Web applications and PowerPoint presentations.

The Apple iPad and its ecosystem are likely to disrupt existing technology use profiles and business models, and CEOs should ensure that its potential is being seriously evaluated inside their organizations,” said Stephen Prentice, an analyst at Gartner. “Individuals are willing to buy these devices themselves, so enterprises must be ready to support them.”

Business Uses Include BI and CRM

However, Tim Hickernell, an Analyst for Info-Tech Research Group envisions strong CRM and BI applications for the iPad. In retail, for instance, sales reps can use it on the shop floor for order taking, inventory checks and accessing the product catalog in a rich media format. When they take it in the field, it is a good medium for product demos.

In addition to sales, service benefits as well,” said Hickernell. “Field service can log service calls and gain access to a rich set of product service information documents, how to videos and even 3D drawings to help with service calls.”

Alternatively, he considers it to have potential for self-service kiosks

Any application that can benefit from the touch screen interaction and gestures is a good fit for an iPad,” said Hickernell. “Touch tablets like the iPad will also become useful data visualization presentation platforms for BI.”

Barry Cousins, an analyst at Info-Tech, adds that the iPad is a compelling device for the consumption of BI because of the interface. Vendors such as SAP, SugarCRM and Actuate are adding it to their enterprise application suites. However, he questions its maturity and the ability of IT to integrate the form factor, given its newness.

The iPad’s most glaring weakness is the lack of interoperability with Windows,” said Cousins. “If a Windows-based tablet gains traction, many business users will find value in a seamless transition of Office documents and Windows apps between their various devices.”  

To get a good idea of how other organizations are integrating the iPad into their solutions read: