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Businesses Go Consumer at CES

The saying goes, “The customer is always right,” and at the Consumer Electronics Show that adage proves true in more ways than one.

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Tablets, smartphones and Ultrabooks are some of the major consumer trends being featured at CES this year, but these consumer products will also find their way into the office.

More frequently, businesses are adopting the way consumers use technology in their personal lives and are implementing those trends in the workplace. The reason is simple: Consumer electronics give employees a competitive advantage in the corporate world, says Oliver Bussmann, chief information officer of SAP.

“I’m going to these kinds of shows to know what is going on in the consumer side and then prepare myself to figure out what I can do to provide a similar service on the corporate side,” Bussmann said.

SAP, a software company, is no stranger to using consumer electronics in the workplace. The company is the second-largest user of Apple iPads in the world. SAP started issuing iPads to employees in 2010 and now has over 14,000 in use, as well as about 8,000 iPhones. Starting Monday, SAP will begin issuing Android devices to employees.

Along with tablets and smartphones, the company also uses 50 apps as a resource for employees.

“The level of consumption is going up significantly especially with mobile devices. The apps are so easy to navigate; employees don’t need training for that,” Bussmann said. “With apps, you can go through that information quickly, and then you are up to date. And that is a competitive advantage.”

But employers are after more than just making it easier for their employees to get access to company information. Companies also want greater access to their workers.

“Basically, you’re going to get more hours out of your employees,” said Chris Fleck, vice president of solutions development at Citrix , a virtual solutions company. “Flat out, you are going to get more work. … So what if it costs a couple extra hundred dollars per user? You’re probably going to make that in a week if you’re getting another hour out of that high-paid knowledge worker, or your getting a sales guy to respond to a customer immediately, as opposed to waiting until next week.”

Employees are also more likely to take consumer products like iPads and iPhones with them wherever they go, as opposed to a clunky laptop, Fleck said at a CES conference panel Wednesday.

There are also several new devices on display at CES, including the Samsung Galaxy Note, that Bussmann said he thinks will eventually be introduced into the workplace.

“It’s important for I.T. to look at trends, like at this conference here, because I can guarantee, in the next three to six months, our corporate user, and also consumer, will be knocking at our door and asking us for these gadgets in the workplace,” said Bussmann.