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

Any IT admin out there who figured (or hoped) that this whole tablet "fad" wouldn't gain traction in the corporate world is in for a surprise: 41 percent of today's mobile workforce is equipped with a tablet, and by year's end, that figure could reach 75 percent, according to survey results released today by iPass. And no, employees aren't just using their slick portable machines to play Angry Birds; 87 percent of workers with tablets said they use the machines for actual job purposes.

This leaves IT departments with two choices: They can stick their heads in the sand and ignore tablets, thus risking security breaches, employee ire, and lost opportunities, or they can accept this next wave of mobile computing (grudgingly or otherwise) and adapt policies and practices accordingly.

Evidently, end-users are already adapting their work practices to tablet use. According to The iPass Global Mobile Workforce Report, only 27 percent of workers with tablets received them from their respective organizations, meaning 73 are using their tablets for work, whether or not IT approves. iPass drew its findings from responses from more than 3,700 employees at 1,100 companies worldwide,

Mobile workers are using their smartphones (94 percent of respondents have smartphones, by the way) and tablets for a range of business-related purposes beyond just checking email: 47 percent of the total respondent pool (those who may or may not have tablets) said they use their devices for taking notes, 39 percent use them for contact and contract management, 33 percent said they check into office suites via their portable devices, 30 percent sign in to social media for work purposes, and 25 percent said they engage in Web conferencing via their tablets or smartphones.

One mobile device isn't enough
Especially interesting is how respondents who own tablets perform various work tasks. For particular tasks, it's the go-to hardware. For taking notes during meetings, 31.7 percent said they use laptops, whereas 48.2 percent said they use their tablets. Just under 6 percent said they use their smartphones for taking notes.

Tablet owners also prefer their tablets for video streaming: 66.4 percent use their tablets to view video, whereas 25.4 percent use their laptops. Only 4.3 percent use smartphones.

For Web conferencing, the laptop is the hardware of choice: 63.8 percent of tablet owners said they use their laptops for the tasks, while 26.2 percent use their tablets, and 5 percent use their smartphones.

Additionally, more tablet owners, 79.9 percent in all, turn to their laptops for editing documents. Just 15.2 percent edit docs in their tablets, while a mere 0.7 percent use their smartphones.

The smartphone does have bragging rights as the preferred platform for checking email. Among respondents who own tablets, 35 percent check their email on their smartphones. 33.2 percent use their laptops while 29.9 percent use their tablets.

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