Tablets are gaining traction in business whether IT likes it or not

Mobile workers are turning to tablets and smartphones for tasks previously relegated to laptops, a recent study finds

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Perhaps the least surprising finding in the survey: Apple dominates the tablet field for the time being. iPass found that 72 percent of mobile workers use the iPad or iPad2. The next most-used tablet is the BlackBerry PlayBook at 6.4 percent, while 5.9 percent of respondents use a Samsung Galaxy. The Motorola Xoom is used by 2 percent of respondents, while the Dell Streak represents 1.3 percent of the pie. The HP Slate eked out 0.9 percent of the market. Interestingly, 8.7 percent of tablet fall under the vague category of Other.

Apple indisputably reigns as the tablet king for the time being, but that landscape may change as Android, now groomed for tablet use, gains momentum. Recent InfoWorld tests of the iPad against competitors' offerings, including the Motorola Xoom and the Galaxy Tab, bear that out.

Worth the risks
The takeaway in all of this remains that, like it or not, mobile employees are using their tablets and smartphones for functions previously relegated to their laptops. The good news is that it translates to higher productivity among employees as their more wont to check email and perform other work duties than before. For example, 76 percent of respondents said they check email before starting their commute or arriving at the office, which contributes to the extra 240 hours per year mobile workers rack up compared to their peers.

Thus, iPass recommends that IT departments no longer view smartphones and tablets as rogue devices. Rather, the company advises that IT "embrace these devices regardless if they are IT managed or not, but definitely put policies in place on acceptable use and train employees on those policies so that they understand how to secure the data on these devices."

At the very least, iPass recommends that mobile workers be granted access to their work email on the unprovisioned smartphones or tablets.

Further, iPass advises IT departments to take advantage of the opportunities that mobility presents. Employees are increasingly comfortable working on their tablets and smartphones, so companies should look beyond traditional front-office suites to apps that will further boost workers' productivity.

On a related note, iPass cautions that employees are becoming comfortable with getting business applications from sources outside the company, such as application stores. IT should craft policies to support strong passwords and data security on mobile devices in the name of protecting sensitive data.

The iPass Global Mobile Workforce Report has additional nuggets of information about how employees are using their mobile devices, and it's available for free.

This story, "Tablets are gaining traction in business whether IT likes it or not," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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