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Could tablets replace laptops at your company?

With Apple’s launch of its new iPad, the world is buzzing with tablet hype. Apple’s newest device, which will be available March 16, might have you wondering whether you should do away with laptops altogether and issue these shiny new tablets to your entire company. Or maybe you’re contemplating whether the high price tag is worth it to add another gadget to your workplace. According to TechTarget’s 2012 Global IT forecast, 34% of companies plan to implement tablets in the workplace in 2012. Although some have argued the possibility of tablets replacing laptops in the future, keep in mind that organizations and employees differ and have different preferences and needs.

Tablets are one way to ensure that employees can get work done while they’re out of the office, particularly if they are remote workers. A poll conducted by Sybase Inc. found that “working outside the office” is the No. 1 reason U.S. consumers give for their using a tablet. Half of those responding to the same poll said they are most likely to use a tablet to work on the go. On the other hand, laptops can do these things as well, although even the thinnest laptops are heavier than the lightweight and convenient tablets.

Many assume that replacing laptops with tablets is an economical move. In some cases, this assumption is correct. For example, the Kindle Fire averages $199, whereas the price of a laptop can range from $350 to $1,000 — sometimes even more. The Kindle Fire, however, doesn’t offer what a laptop does. With regards to work, you can check your email on it, but typing lengthy reports and analyzing data are more difficult than they would be on a laptop.  If you are looking for a tablet with better business capabilities, you might have to be willing to spend about as much as you would for a laptop, if not more. The popular iPad starts at about $500 and can go up to $829; however, it has a long list of practical business apps that can help to compensate for the high price. These apps include business intelligence analytics apps, and IT dashboards, to name just two.

If you do decide that tablets can replace your company’s laptops, it will certainly take some easing into. It could be a viable strategy if you employ many remote workers or employees that are constantly in and out of the office. Still, tablets can be hard to work on for extended periods of time: Consider keeping desktops at office locations for employees who prefer them or who are working on a large project. Also remember that you will get what you pay for. A $200 tablet will not have the same functions as a premium tablet. Most importantly, listen to your employees. A fancy new technology is futile if nobody wants to use it.

Sarah Blanchette is a journalism student interning as an editorial assistant at TechTarget.

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We currently have about 50 iPads deployed in our environment. We have found that these devices are not a replacement for a laptop or desktop machine. These devices are great for email, quick browsing, forms or small data input, and consuming data or media. When our users need to buckle down and create content, they need to go to a more powerful device. Over the long term, I believe that there will always be a need for multiple devices of different form factors.