Before you get too caught up in iPad 2 buzz, a little grounding in iPad 101 for the enterprise can go a long ways. In case you missed it, TSIA’s John Ragsdale just tackled a hot topic in a new Webinar (sponsored by ServiceMax) — sizing up the iPad’s potential for field service, and offering an under-the-hood explanation of what iPad features and functions will matter most to the folks in the field. View the entire Webinar here (registration required).

So what makes the iPad a game changer?  Ragsdale breaks it down:

Low price point offers SMBs a leg up

Mobile handhelds for field service have thus far been the province of big enterprise operations (and budgets). No more. Tablets have changed the world of field service automation, says Ragsdale, and the iPad’s role in that change is a crucial one. He was careful to point out that his plug wasn’t a sales pitch – he doesn’t own an iPad himself and Apple isn’t a member of TSIA; Ragsdale pointed to the $499 pricetag for an iPad compared to tablets designed specially for field service that start at three times the price.

Simple, accessible service & repair

As Ragsdale explains, service techs experiencing problems can take their iPad to the nearest Apple Store, Best Buy, Verizon or AT&T retailer rather than waiting for their mobile device or “ruggedized” tablet to be serviced by the manufacturer. This cuts back on the amount of time techs are out of commission and adds a support network most specialized devices just don’t have.

Little (if any) training required

Because of their mass appeal, iPads require little or no training and can be mastered easily by anyone with experience using a smartphone. “People just love the iPad,” says Ragsdale. “They’re really attracted to it. Unlike a lot of technology out there that you have to convince people to use, people are dying to get their hands on this tool.”

Surprising versatilty for field use

As Ragsale pointed out, the iPad 2 comes with front- and rear- facing cameras which, with the help of an app, make barcode scanning possible in the field, among other benefits to field service users. Managers worried about equipping techs dispatched to rougher environments with iPads – climbing telephone poles, for instance – can outfit the tablets with heavy-duty covers. And Bluetooth technology allows field service techs to sync up their iPad with a portable printer (Ragsdale recommends Zebra brand) to print receipts on the spot.

More about the iPad in field service —  SmartVan Q&A with John Ragsdale.

More about ServiceMax.

ABOUT Sara Suddes

San Francisco-based contributor Sara Suddes writes frequently about small business, the economy and technology.