He went on to tell the story of a colleague whose wife was not very technologically inclined—she didn't use a laptop, didn't really use email. But then the friend got an iPad and left it home one day.
"In a few hours she was doing everything, surfing the Web, sending him text messages," said Kantamaneni. "Any device that makes it that easy—I don't see how that doesn't translate to the office."
Indeed, it has. Forrester reported in its November 2102 "Mastering the Business Tablet Landscape" that early iPad adopters bought them for "what they could do in their everyday lives." Soon, though, they were bringing the tablets to work "to boost productivity."
The latter came in the form of ubiquitous connectivity and convenience—in Europe, 19 percent of information workers work in three or more locations, and the United States and Europe, 65 percent of workers are taking tablets home to get more work done, says Forrester.
The ease, appeal and convenience of tablets are undeniable. But where they make the strongest business cases is where they do what no other device can do as well (the opposite scenario of forcing a tablet into a laptop-replacement role).
"There are two really important angles to consider," said JP Gownder, a Forrester vice president and principal analyst. "Vertical and role."
Gownder said that through surveys, Forrester has created lists of top tablet users. Topping the list is CEOs ("CEOs say they want one, IT has to buy one"), but after them are field sales workers and then very heavy travelers.
Verticals embracing and benefiting from tablets include health care, retail, financial services, education, hospitality and banking. To that list Gownder adds "companies that deploy drivers of trucks, nurses who make house visits—anywhere where you're a supporting a field worker in multiple locations."
He gave the example of how GE has giant utility towers that field engineers climb up to do repairs and perform maintenance. It's not feasible to bring up laptops, but the engineers have found they're able to bring up tablets and collect more and better information.
At the tablet conference, case studies were presented by two airlines, two health care providers, a culinary institute and even the School of Rock.
Bayada Home Health Care told of deploying 7-inch tablets to its 4,000 home health care workers, who are now able to work more effectively and efficiently—they can fill in forms more quickly, call up patient records instantly, better answer patient questions and, thanks to GPS, even optimize their travel. They also particularly like the form factor, which they find easier to carry and hold and less intrusive when sitting with patients.
But key to getting the strongest return on a tablet deployment is the software that tablets run.
At the TabTimes conference, Brian Katz, head of mobility engineering at pharmaceuticals company Sanofi-Aventis, discussed the rollout of iPhones and iPads to 1,500 employees. He made clear: "A device is not a tool. It's when you marry a device and an app that you have a tool."
Your Tablet Is Only as Good as Your Apps
The right software is the difference between being able to make a strong business case for a tablet deployment and not.
"Without the right applications, tablets are just a fancy Internet browser that you can carry around," Ted Schadler, Forrester vice president and principal analyst, told eWEEK. "To sell or provide field service, you need the content and applications to get the job done."
Forrester's Gownder said there are two options. One is to work with what's available off the shelf, which is to say, in app stores, and Microsoft's Office is a big component of that. For the iPad, "there are a whole bunch of things—a huge, huge ecosystem available," he said.
The second option is custom software. A lot of companies have legacy software, and they can virtualize it using Citrix or VMware, said Gownder. "Or, more interesting is a company like GE, where they've moved a lot of their development talent to iOS to create software for the thousands of iPads they've deployed."
Gownder offers Logitech as another example of a company benefiting from custom software.
It has salespeople who travel to thousands of stores in Asia to, among other things, see how merchandise is being displayed. Logitech has created an app in which they can take a picture and share real-time views from these stores.
"Most importantly, they location tag everything, so they're creating big data and can do a deep analysis and really redeploy products more effectively," said Gownder.