In the wide world of technological advancements, small businesses often find themselves at a decided disadvantage. Without the financial resources that corporate competitors enjoy, they are often unable to purchasing the latest hardware and software innovations that would allow them to become more efficient, offer the most to their clients and customers, and truly compete with the big boys. The result is that many small business owners are stuck buying the bare minimum when it comes to technology and constantly finding themselves a step (or three) behind their bigger-budget brethren. But thanks to a slate of mobile devices and the many apps that offer small business solutions at a pittance, the little guys are finally getting a taste of the same tech that everyone else has their hands on. And the iPad seems to be the big winner.
A national study done by The Business Journals, a collective that boasts “42 websites, 64 publications and over 700 annual industry leading events”, revealed that the reported usage of the iPad by small business owners for professional purposes increased by an extraordinary amount from 2010 to 2011. In fact, it nearly quadrupled, jumping from reported usage of the device by just 9% of small businesses surveyed in 2010 to a whopping 34% of small businesses in 2011. In a time when there are abundant options for mobile devices, including smart phones, tablets, and other assorted gadgetry, this revelation is a real feather in Apple’s already well-plumed cap.
So what’s with the bump? For one thing, there’s the cost to consider. For the average individual, the iPad might be a bit on the pricy side, with starting retail at about $500. That’s quite a bit more than Amazon’s entry, the Kindle Fire, but just about in line with Android’s equivalent, the Motorola Xoom (soon to be the Google Xoom?). In any case, it doesn’t present the major expense for a business that say, the combination of a laptop and a smartphone would. And considering that it can substitute for both of these devices, it can actually help a small business to save money while providing a small, lightweight, mobile solution.
And of course, there are other perks to consider. Besides the bonus of instant accessibility offered by 3G service (or the free option of Wi-Fi when available), there are the apps to consider, and this is where the absolutely unshakable utility of this tablet comes into play. Although Amazon and the Android marketplace are rushing to catch up, Apple has a major lead when it comes to the sheer number of apps they offer. And it doesn’t hurt that they strongly encourage third-party development by charging only $99/year to join their iOS Developer Program.
The result is that consumers have access to apps for all kinds of business purposes: they can find options for word processing, project management, cloud-based drop boxes, talk-to-text, inventory tracking, and of course, access to social networking. Just about the only thing that doesn’t come with an iPad is a degree in conflict resolution to stop employees from fighting over who gets to use this handy piece of mobile technology. But then again, it’s inexpensive enough that most small businesses could probably afford to outfit every employee with their own, which may be why usage has risen so drastically.
Thanks to Evan Fischer for this quest post. He is a freelance writer and part-time student at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California.