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The Apple iPad seems to be everywhere these days—heck, we even gave two away last week as part of the Supply Chain Expert Community referral campaign. Apple has never suffered from lack of publicity for its buzzy products. The mainstream and tech media, as well as a cult following of loyal customers, have driven Apple to dizzying success. iPad sales alone reached 1 million in the first 28 days on the market, with 3.27 million iPads sold in Apple’s fiscal third quarter (and we won’t even get into iPhone 4 sales in this discussion).

With one analyst now forecasting that Apple will sell 28 million iPads in 2011, it seems an extreme understatement to say that tablets, and the iPad in particular, will change the way we view personal computing. Will it change the way we view business computing, though?

In a word: yes. Why? Because the tablet combines the mobility and convenience of a smart phone with the advantages of a larger screen. There has been discussion that the iPad will enable Apple to finally infiltrate the offices and boardrooms of corporate America. In fact, it already has. While it may be easy to picture the tablet’s role in a 40th story conference room, I would argue it’s even easier to envision it at ground level—specifically on the floors of factories and warehouses.

The iPad’s form factor, user-friendly qualities, and relatively low cost make it perfectly suited to serve as a technology tool in factories and warehouses, where workers are continually on the move. And the increase in software as a service (SaaS) renders compatibility issues moot for many companies. With cloud-based software, workers are accessing supply chain management systems via web browser, which is literally just a touch away on the iPad, along with email and spreadsheets. The ability for industrial workers to enter and access real-time data on a mobile device translates into tremendous implications for productivity.

The potential seems endless. Before it even launched, the iPad was being discussed as a tool to promote sustainable consumption and greening the supply chain.

Security remains somewhat of a mental barrier for many enterprises—the iPhone was initially rejected as insecure for business use, and that notion lingers with both the iPad and the iPhone. Apple has, however, increased its security options to a level that should satisfy most companies.

What do you think? Are you already using the iPad as a supply chain productivity tool? Where do the greatest opportunities lie for tablets in the realm of supply chain management?

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