smb-tech-trendsThe demand for tablets continues and is driving worldwide shipments of smart connected devices.  That’s the word from analyst firm International Data Corporation (IDC) in its just released Smart Connected Device Tracker report. Last year global shipments of smart connected devices, which include PCs, notebook PCs, tablets and smartphones, reached the 1 billion mark. IDC attributes the growth largely to tablets, which exceeded 128 million units in 2012, representing a 78.4 year-over-year increase.

IDC forecasts that the outlook for tablet will continue strong, surpassing desktop PCs this year and portable PCs in 2014. The firm expects the tablet market to reach a new high of 190 million shipments this year for a year-on-year growth of 48.7 percent.

While studies show consumers love their tablets, IT departments are recognizing that the devices can drive worker productivity because of their portability. A Forrester Research Forrsights Hardware Survey found that among IT decision makers who either support tablets or plan to the #1 reason at 62 percent was “because tablets are a “more portable form factor than the traditional laptop.”

Among small businesses, the use of laptops and smartphones by remote workers to access company information currently exceeds tablets. (See: Small businesses say mobile devices boost productivity.) However, the tablet market is still emerging. I fully expect to see tablet use by small business continue to rise because of their ability to support critical business operations.

Tablet use for small business operations

Small Business Trends recently asked me to identify how tablets are changing work habits and helping small businesses get more done. Here are some of my suggestions from “Go Remote: 10 Ways to Free up Your Business with a Tablet.”Tablet

Point of sale system: Forget menus. Some restaurants are actually leaving tablets on the table to enable customers to browse and send their order directly to the kitchen. Tablets are showing up everywhere for business – trade shows and farmers markets to name a few – with new card readers enabling payments on the go.

It’s a phone:  Loaded with Skype or Google Voice and the use of a Bluetooth headset, tablets easily convert to an internet phone to place and receive calls.

Customer Relationship Management: In the field tablets can access customer information from Salesforce, Sage data or other CRM systems; while services like Cardmunch or Bump can load contact data right the device.

Manage documents: Tablets an access documents in the cloud from anywhere providing workers with true mobility.

Inventory control:  Tablets and a range of apps, such as Inventory Tracker or inflow Inventory via the web make inventory management a lot easier these days. There’s no need for clipboard and note taking anymore.

Read the rest of my recommendations to see  more ways  tablets can be a great asset to workers on the go and running your small business.