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Wyoming Business Tips for May 22-May 28


May 17, 2011 — A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.

By Mark Atkinson, WSBDC regional director

"Are the new tablet computers something a small business owner should buy?" Melanie, Afton

With the launch of the Apple iPad in April 2010, the face of mobile computing has once again changed forever.

This combination computer/cell phone is popular mostly in education, but should it be considered for small business owners? This article will offer opinions to answer that question. The class of device discussed here is considered a "tablet computer" and blurs the lines between a cell phone and laptop.

To answer the question ask: What do I use a computer for in my business and is there something new that tablets offer, which I may be able to improve my business with?

At this point, few if any tablet computers truly support Microsoft Office (Word, Outlook, Excel, Publisher, PowerPoint,), Photoshop, GoToMeeting, or Dreamweaver. Do you rely on one or more of these software programs in your business? If so, you should think twice about a tablet at this point.

Tablets are considered content consumption machines as opposed to content creation machines. Personally, this time I see no innovation related to them that will truly improve your business. Sure, there are hundreds of apps for tablets that even mimic MS Office. But they do not integrate well with each other, especially the Apple product. Here is an article about this point: http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/195942/microsoft_office_is_just_what_the_ipad_needs.html.

So what can a tablet do exactly and why are so many people buying the iPad? With tablets you can check email and on a screen larger than your phone, surf the web, read eBooks and listen to music. The models available allow you to do this with either a cell service like a cell phone or using wireless internet so they can be used anywhere with Wi-Fi. But there is something else that is quite cool and that is the cameras. Yes, two of them. One is on the front of the tablet and the other on the back so you can see and be seen by someone else at the same time during a web conference.

In the next year or so more tablets will be offered and some of them will wisely meet business owner's needs of using business software programs. For now, if you need something to consume content or communicate with others, a tablet could be the ticket for you. If you need to work in spreadsheets, build websites, created Word documents, page layouts, etc., it may be best to wait.

If interested, investigate tablet computers by going to the web and searching for reviews. You will find more than a dozen options including the popular Apple, Motorola Xoom and others. Pay special attention to issues like USB ports and card readers among other items.

A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments is available at http://www.wyomingentrepreneur.typepad.com/blog/.

The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, e-mail wsbdc@uwyo.edu or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.

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