It’s been fascinating to watch how swiftly businesses – of all sizes and across all industries, even blue-collar businesses such as field service – have adopted the iPad during the past year.

Nick Wingfield wrote a great piece in the New York Times about how Apple, long reluctant to cater to the business market and its particular needs, is starting to warm up to business. Of course, business folks, too, have warmed to Apple, demanding access to their preferred devices at work. Employees just like using iPads, iPhones and Android devices – so ardently that they’re even willing to bring their own devices to work, a trend that has led to the iPhone upending RIM’s BlackBerry as the most prominent smartphone in business. Zack Whittaker’s headline on ZDNet says it perfectly: “BlackBerry loses vital street-cred.” Exactly.

Increasingly, though, employees don’t need to bring their personal devices to work. Seeing the benefits, businesses are happy to supply them.

Winfield describes just how prevalent iPads are becoming. It’s staggering. He writes about a recent Apple earnings call in which the company said that of the Fortune 500 companies, 92 percent are testing iPads and 93 percent are deploying the device. This widespread adoption is touching nearly all industries, and all business departments. Here are a few examples from Winfield’s article:

  • United and Continental Airlines gave their more than 11,000 iPads last August.
  • Boston Scientific set up about 3,000 field sales staff with iPads
  • Home improvement giant Lowes put the devices in the hands of more than 42,000 floor staff to check inventory and pull up rich media tutorials for customers

The Lowes example, particularly, should resonate with field service firms. Customer & client information, tutorials, immediate payment and constant access to all critical information is immediately available on the go. And therein lies the power of iPads and other tablets. Not only do employees enjoying using them, but they actually do use them because they’re much more portable. Field techs are inherently mobile and simply don’t want to schlep around bulky, heavy machinery on the road. Or up wind turbines. According to Wingfield, Siemens Energy has supplied about 350 of its wind turbine technicians with iPads. Wingfield writes:

“[Siemens technicians] routinely have to scale 300-foot towers to service wind turbines, sometimes in blistering heat in places like West Texas. Some of the technicians have been using laptops to read manuals and run through checklists when they’re doing this work, but the devices are too bulky and take too long to boot up. … Now the company is outfitting its wind service technicians with iPads, which are light, start instantly and have cameras that let workers send pictures to a technical support department if they need help troubleshooting an issue …”

That wind turbine technicians in West Texas are using the iPad should silence anyone who doubts the iPad’s long-term prospects in service. It has everything: affordability, portability, they’re chock-full of useful apps and the ‘cool factor’ doesn’t seem to be waning any time soon.

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