I have been on a 3 month experiment to see if I can really change the way I stay productive. As ISOutsource moved into a full on laptop refresh cycle, I decided to forgo my laptop and work with a combination desktop and tablet (in my case, an iPad). The combination is less expensive than the fairly high end laptops we use for our business, and the real key was for me to determine if it was more EFFECTIVE. After all, at the end of the day, the goal is productivity, not pinching pennies.
Well, it started out with me very excited by the cool form factor of the iPad, and perfectly content with a basic desktop pc (they are cheap to maintain, run forever, and you get far more bang for your buck than you would a laptop). However, as time went on, I found that the iPad traveled with me a lot more than a laptop would (and that is in comparison to a fairly small netbook I was using). In fact, I carried it virtually everywhere, including vacations.
I also found that the ability to turn it on and be checking email in seconds was huge for me. When email is coming in all the time, and phones are handy for reading, but not always responding in detail, being able to turn on and get to work right away without any boot sequence, software load times, etc, was a huge plus. In fact, so much a huge plus that I found myself a lot more plugged in to work. Not only a good thing from a productivity standpoint, but I enjoy the device so much that I don't mind carrying it around, and the fact that my music is there, and various fun apps are on it makes it even more compelling to have with me all the time.
I can open and edit all kinds of attachments with inexpensive apps, and frankly can do everything I would do on a laptop, albeit in slightly different ways.
At the end of 3 months, I can say that tablet computing is a productivity boost, and fun to boot. I am more connected, but don't feel enslaved (the same way I do when hauling around a laptop). The device is cool and fun to use. As a matter of fact, I am in the process of making sure that all of my senior staff members have similar devices. It is clear to me now that even if you still want your laptop, the tablet has a distinct use and value proposition and fits into a productivity niche that is unique to its form factor. I heartily recommend finding users who use laptops to stay in touch and read email and open docs to move to a tablet. Some folks, like those that are coding, creating large and complex documents, etc, will still need the power and functionality of a laptop. I'd argue that even in that case, you may find incremental productivity and satisfaction in having both devices available.
Sometimes when a new technologies and/or device comes out, the cynics of the world (like me) label them as toys and perhaps lose out on the potential value to themselves and their business. This is, I believe, the right time to reconsider the value of tablet computers in your business.
As always Happy (and mobile) Computing!