Netbooks, iPads, and Slates: 5 Ways They Will Help Your Business

Updated: April 16, 2010

1. Netbooks and the first version of the iPad are cheap enough to connect everyone in your company. The word "cheap" rather than "inexpensive" was chosen purposefully: for $250 you can get a netbook, although some models go up into the $500 range. While $250 isn't couch cushion money, it's quite affordable for what you get. Put another way, a netbook is less expensive than an iPhone purchase, or three months of iPhone voice and data service charges.

When technology be placed in everyone's pocket, company communication changes. Field technicians can use a netbook to check the company calendar rather than calling someone back at the office. Drivers can use netbooks with 3G connections as a large, more visible navigation system, since few delivery trucks include fancy in-dash navigation modules. Even part time employees can be connected at this price point.

Connected employees are available employees. Faster responses to customer needs lead to higher customer satisfaction, and more business for your business.

2. Employees can collaborate all during the work day from anywhere. Portable devices with Internet access give employees constant access to company data, from e-mail to shared calendars to customer sales information to troubleshooting databases. Adding netbooks to the huge growth of SaaS (Software As A Service) hosted applications makes it easier than ever for every employee to have access to the information they need to perform.

Instant messaging, whether a public version like AOL's AIM or private software running on your own servers, can provide connections between employees not possible in other ways. While phone texting has become the norm, you can't text to non-cell phones, meaning IM is the best way to reach employees at their computers.

The small size of a netbook (10" x 6.5" or so) and the iPad (9.5" x 7.5") make them far easier to carry around than traditional laptops. Weight makes a difference as well, with netbooks in the three pound range and iPads at a pound and a half. Mobile computing devices are no good if they're so large they become a hassle to carry, like traditional laptops. Netbooks fit into purses and book bags, and iPads are only a bit bigger, and are lighter. When slates from HP and others arrive, chances are they'll be slightly bigger and heavier than the iPad, but still smaller and lighter than most laptops.

3. Green sells lately, both for environmental and monetary reasons. Replacing 400 watt desktop computers with 90 watt laptops save energy. Replacing older desktops with netbooks using 40-70 watts can save you a little more. Most companies have replaced all their old CRT monitors with lighter weight, smaller, and less power hungry LCD monitors, and those work fine as external monitors for netbooks.

Not all desktop users will be happy with a netbook or slate or iPad replacement, of course. Match the computer device to the user's job. Someone who crunches huge spreadsheets or creates marketing brochures needs desktop power and a big monitor. Someone who works almost entirely within e-mail and their browser are excellent candidates for a desktop replacement laptop or even a netbook with an external monitor. Either way, you save money, from spending around $100 for electricity per desktop computer per year down to spending $20-40 per netbook or laptop per year.

4. A higher quality of life increases employee retention. Telework may be a fancy term for working from home, but the telework concept provides greater quality of life for employees (no commuting hassles or expenses) and thereby aids retention. To experts, telework is working from home, or some other location, with all the resources you have when working at the office. As a bonus, it fulfills an important requirement in a disaster recovery system: work continues if the office is unusable or unreachable for some reason. In February 2010, when snowstorms shut down Washington D.C. and other major northeastern cities, those companies with a telework system in place were able to keep their (virtual) doors open.

Combining netbooks with hosted SaaS applications and online file access means the weather will no longer shut down your business. Netbooks provide a more secure access point than relying on employee's personal computers for access, and they have the advantage of working from anywhere with a network connection in bad weather or good.

5. Netbooks and slates support free video conferencing. All netbooks have a basic Webcam built into their lid, and many of the pre-release details about upcoming slate computers also mention Webcams. While the iPad does not currently have a Webcam, many expect the next version to include one.

Combine a netbook with a Webcam and the free voice and video service Skype, and you have free desktop video conferencing. These are no more trouble to connect than a phone call, and the value of seeing faces during discussions makes personal video conferencing well worth the effort.

Inexpensive company video conferencing systems support multiple video conferencing users. These video conferencing services leverage the Webcams in netbooks. There are even free add-ons for Skype to allow more than two people to meet in one video conference.

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