Small Business

More Small Firms Expect to Buy Workers iPads, Tablets in 2012

Dave Cook, Christian Science Monitor
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Here's good news for workers at smaller companies: More bosses are thinking about buying employees a new iPad just as Apple is rumored to be unveiling a new, higher-resolution version of the popular tablet.

That is according to a new survey of small businesses — those with fewer than 1,000 employees – by NPD Group, a business research firm. Some 73 percent of the small firms surveyed say they plan to purchase tablets over the next 12 months — up 5 percentage points from NPD’s previous quarterly survey. Nine in 10 firms surveyed say they will maintain or increase their previous spending on tablets.

When small businesses are making plans to purchase tablets, the iPad is the most frequently considered brand, Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD, said in a statement. “The iPad, just as it is in the consumer market, is synonymous for ‘tablet’ in the business market,” he said.

The small business urge to buy iPads comes as Apple is rumored to be about to roll out two new models of the popular device. For example, the website DigiTimes predicts that two new versions of the iPad will be released in January. Other reports place the release later in the first quarter of 2012. Apple does not comment on future products. But the rumor mill expects the new tablets to have a more powerful processor, a higher-resolution screen, and a more capable camera.

Whatever the precise nature of the next iPad, the NPD survey found that the bigger the firm, the greater the likelihood it plans to buy employees an iPad or other tablet over the next 12 months. At firms with fewer than 50 employees, 54 percent had plans to buy workers iPads. At companies with 501 to 999 employees, nearly 90 percent of those surveyed said they intended to buy tablets in 2012.

Although more small companies plan to buy workers tablet computers in 2012, not every employee will get one, of course. At the smallest firms — those with fewer than 50 employees — the average company planned to spend just $1,912 on tablets, the NPD survey found. With iPads ranging in price from $499 to $829 depending on configuration, only a handful of workers will have the latest electronic toy courtesy of their employer. At companies with up to 999 workers, the average planned expenditure on tablets is $38,749. NPD did not release the number of survey respondents, and its data were collected in September, the firm said.

“Businesses of all sizes appear to be determined to capitalize on the tablet phenomenon,” NPD vice president Baker said in his statement.

A separate study of larger companies released in May by Model Metrics showed iPads gaining traction at larger enterprises. That study found 72 percent of firms had iPads in use, even though many of the companies had not formally deployed the tablets through their IT departments. In April, when the survey data were collected, only 22 percent of the survey respondents had formally deployed iPads, but 78 percent planned to do so by the end of 2013.

Tablets made by electronics companies other than Apple figured in corporate plans. But the iPad is the most likely brand to be adopted, the Model Metrics study found, with 83 percent of companies that plan to deploy tablets citing that brand. The next most common brand is the BlackBerry PlayBook, cited by 19 percent of companies that plan to deploy tablets.