SMBs employees aren't just using these tablets for work though. Almost half (47%) of the survey respondents said they use the devices for both work and personal matters. A similar trend is playing out in the enterprise where the so-called BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) movement has seen a growing number of employees use tablets and other personally-owned devices at work for both job and personal use.
The survey, by wireless and mobile market strategy firm iGR, shows that about a quarter (24%) of SMBs supply their employees with tablets as part of an official policy. While tablets are often positioned as augmenting laptops and PCs, 26% of the SMBs surveyed indicated their company would be buying fewer or far fewer laptops as a result of their tablet purchases in 2012.
"The enterprise arena in particular is one area in which tablets are anticipated to climb. There has been significant press generated by large corporations (e.g., Dupont, Wells Fargo, United Airlines, American Airlines, etc.) who are using tablet devices to improve, augment or replace existing business processes and practices," said Iain Gillott, president and founder of iGR. "But as our new research clearly shows, tablets are in wide use in small and medium sized businesses as well. Given that tablets are negatively impacting laptop purchases, this trend looks to continue."
The iGR survey of approximately 400 SMB employees found that the IT departments in these companies were most likely to oversee the purchase, management, maintenance and support of desktop computers (90%), and laptops and netbooks (89%). By comparison, approximately 55% of SMBs, many of which may not even have formal IT departments, managed and maintained tablet devices.
The most reported reason for purchasing additional tablets in 2012 was "substituting for laptops" (31.9%), followed by "workforce is increasing" (31%). But it's not all bad for laptop vendors — a majority of companies with plans to buy tablets indicated their plans to buy laptops remained "about the same."
iGR speculates that only a portion of laptops are being substituted or companies are gradually phasing in tablet devices.