Does the iPad make sense for business?


(MoneyWatch) It's like the circle of life for technology: When a new product or form factor arrives, there's a healthy debate about whether it's appropriate for business. Initially, pundits say that it won't make inroads into IT, but then some companies give it a shot. Eventually, you find said device all over the business world. We saw this happen with both smartphone and netbooks, and the debate continues today with tablets. In particular, the Apple (AAPL) iPad.

Recently, PC World conducted a survey asking, "What are your company's iPad plans?"

There were a number of response categories, like "More likely to purchase the new iPad than the iPad 2" (47.6 percent chose this) and "Just as likely to purchase the new iPad than the iPad 2," (7.8 percent), but the remarkable bottom line is that a mere 32 percent of respondents said that they would not purchase an iPad at all.

That means about 68% of responding businesses were planning to integrate the iPad into their infrastructure.

With two-thirds of businesses thinking about iPads on some level, it's interesting to consider the limitations of tablets in the business world:

Tablets are designed for consumption, and have a form factor to match. It's difficult to use in a business environment, unless you happen to work on a couch or bed where the slate can sit in your lap.

Tablets require peripherals. To use a tablet for data entry, you'll need to add a mouse and possibly a keyboard. Also, to connect a tablet to a wired network, monitor or projector, you'll need a dock. These costs add up quickly when you consider equipping a large group of knowledge workers with tablets.

Tablets don't actually replace desktops or laptops. A lack of on-board storage or compatibility with back-up services means that tablets, at least for the foreseeable future, will be little more than adjuncts to existing laptop and desktop PCs.

There are a lot of apps, just not many for business. Tablets can't currently run lines of business applications or productivity tools that your business relies on -- at least not without an investment of new development resources. That might be remedied in the next year as Microsoft releases the tablet-friendly Windows 8, but the iPad's potential looks more limited.

Do you see a tablet (or an iPad in particular) in your business's future? Weigh in with your perspective in the comments.