Connected Workers Going iPad for Productivity

Nearly 50 percent of the mobile workforce carries more than three devices, causing them to stay connected longer, according to the latest quarterly Mobile Workforce Report from iPass, a Redwood Shores, CA-based enterprise mobility service provider. This combination of technology and connectivity blurs the role of devices between work and home. Signs are indicating that after the smartphone, the future enterprise device of choice for mobile workers will be an iPad.

Breaking the chain of connectivity is increasingly difficult for mobile workers — of the more than 1,100 mobile workers surveyed by iPass, 94 percent are always connected or occasionally connected, even while on vacation. When iPass asked why the disconnected are pulling the plug, the responses indicated more situational reasons such as a lack of signal, as opposed to a conscious effort to stay offline.

While 97 percent of survey respondents carry two or more devices, iPass finds that those who carry a single device are opting for a smartphone over a laptop. A few years ago, I would have expected more workers to choose the laptop in a single device scenario, mainly because of the software and functionality benefits that a portable computer offered over handsets at that time. But the combination of fast-maturing smartphone hardware, a greater range of wireless broadband coverage and more complex software applications has altered the device of choice. The smartphone isn’t yet replacing a laptop for every task or for every mobile worker, but smaller and thinner mobile devices are reducing the relevance of bulkier notebook computers.

In line with a theme of laptop replacement are tablet PCs — which have existed in the business world for nearly a decade — and Apple’s iPad (s aapl). When iPass asked mobile workers if they planned to purchase a Tablet PC or iPad in the next six months, 26.3 percent said they intend to purchase an iPad while just under 7 percent are planning to buy a Tablet PC. These purchases aren’t all fun and games though — 90.6 percent of those who have or plan to get an iPad are expecting to do some work on the slate device and nearly 20 percent said the iPad would be mostly for work or solely for work.

The intended use for iPads in the enterprise should concern traditional PC makers for a few reasons. The iPass report results aren’t an outlier — today’s Wall Street Journal confirms that both employees and employers want iPads for productivity, citing several examples of how businesses are adopting the tablet. And as previously noted, the Tablet PC — a Microsoft Windows (s msft) platform that debuted in 2001 — had relatively little traction in the past and is now getting relegated to a has-been by many mobile workers. Thanks to various remote desktop solutions and improved support for enterprise-level security software features in iOS 4, Apple’s iPad appears poised to invade the Windows workspace.

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

Why the iPad is Right for the Enterprise