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Tablets no longer a status symbol for the chief

Adam Bender | Aug. 30, 2013
Smart devices have gone from 'cool toy' to 'critical business tool.'

Australia Post's Simon Gowland (left) and Mark Bryant from the Victoria Department of Environment and Primary Industries.
Australia Post's Simon Gowland (left) and Mark Bryant from the Victoria Department of Environment and Primary Industries.

Smartphones and tablets have moved from executive toys to essential work tools, according to customers on a panel at the AirWatch Connect conference in Melbourne. However, smart mobile devices have not replaced laptops in all cases, they said.

At the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) in Victoria, the smart devices were initially seen as a "cool toy," said Mark Bryant, application and web development manager at DEPI. Executives began to buy them as a "status symbol" and demand increased among the rest of employees.

While DEPI originally didn't allow the devices, the department now provides them to any employee who has a good reason. "They're now a critical business tool and we couldn't live without them--already--and that's only going to grow."

Australia Post has become "a tablet-oriented organisation" after a similar transition, said Simon Gowland, head of network and voice service. It started with "executives getting nice new toys" and now it's a "critical tool of trade for everyone," he said.

Australia Post plans to use mobility and geo-location to increase engagement with customers, Gowland said. For example, mail truck drivers will be able to use tablets to communicate with the recipient of a parcel an hour before delivery, he said.

Telstra is moving its 40,000 internal users from BlackBerry and other legacy devices, said Telstra program manager, James Beaine. "For us, it was a staged approach," he said. "We were heavily BlackBerry at one stage, and that's slowly turning into Android and iPad."

China Light and Power (CLP) has about 1000 devices, including 800 iOS and 200 Android, said Pubudu Abayasiri, an IT official at the company. The devices are used by the company's information and field workers, he said.

The mobile devices are only a "partial laptop replacement" for the information workers, said Abayasiri. The other officials agreed that laptops aren't going anywhere yet.

"We had grand ambitions of giving everyone iPads and taking back their laptops," said Bryant. However, the tablets have allowed DEPI to save some money by trading in some of the laptops for desktop computers. Simultaneously, DEPI has reduced the number of desktop computers in certain remote locations, he said.

"There are some scenarios where we can do a replacement, but it's not the utopia we thought it might be."

Tablets are replacing laptops in Australia Post's sales team, said Gowland. "Are we there yet? Probably not. From the corporate perspective, it's just another device."


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