How Automation Professionals Use iPads for Business

A survey reveals how automation professionals are using iPads and other tablet computers for accessing information. New Automation World apps build on the trends.

When a new consumer technology is invented, it usually takes years before it is widely adopted—we humans simply like to resist change. There are exceptions, however, including Google, Facebook and now the Apple iPad and other tablet hardware devices. The explosive growth the iPad—and its projected trajectory over the next few years—is already impacting publishers, readers, machine builders and technicians.

Tablet computing has been around for years, but the category didn’t take off until Apple launched the iPad in April 2010.

A year and a half later, Apple has sold more than 25 million iPads, and that’s nothing compared to what’s to come. Millions and millions more will be sold over the next 12 months, by Apple and the slew of competitors using Google’s Android operating system.

The iPad will be as revolutionary to media as the Web was when it first erupted in the mid 1990s. What Automation World wanted to understand was how many of our readers are using iPads (or other tablets), to what extent these devices are used for accessing work-related text, pictures and video, and how readers intend to use them in the next 12 months.

An Internet-based survey was conducted in June 2011, receiving an impressive 624 responses. The results are shaping new options for automation information dissemination.

Rapid adoption

As the accompanying charts show, more than a third of Automation World readers currently have an iPad, and nearly half currently own some form of tablet computing device. Even more astounding, nearly 80 percent of respondents are expected to own some form of tablet computer in the next 12 months, with about half represented by the iPad.

These devices are definitely being used to access industry- or work-related content, whether in the form of e-mail newsletters, industry web sites, or digital magazines. Twenty-three printed pages of verbatim responses offered much feedback and nuance.

Respondents were asked how they want work-related apps to function. Many readers suggested starting with a page-by-page replica of a print magazine. “Keep it simple,” we were told by more than a few respondents. Though digital replicas on laptops and desktops have their die-hard fans, many users simply haven’t tolerated the clumsy panning and zooming inherent in the platform. However, a digital replica on an iPad is a completely different experience. Page flipping, panning and zooming are intuitive thanks to the touch display, bringing the tablet experience a step or two closer to the print experience. You still lack the fidelity of paper, but no more stacks of magazines sitting on your shelf, and the always-with-you factor is hard to beat.

>> September, 2011, Automation Applications for Tablets
To read the feature article, visit www.automationworld.com/columns-9294

Other readers encouraged us to start over and design something specifically for the iPad. There was a definite call for brevity: more summaries, more bullet points, with the ability to drill down for more information provided by deep links and numerous cross references.

Still other readers asked for an app with continuously updated headlines, more resembling a Web site than a linear, page-for-page publication.

Regardless of the type of app readers wanted to see, there was a chorus of agreement on some basic features. People wanted to be able to easily share individual articles, usually by e-mail. The ability to save articles was important, too—the digital equivalent of tearing out a page, if you will. Many wanted the ability to search back issues or previously posted content.

One of the most important features readers asked for was the ability to download the content for offline reading—not only for the convenience of being able to read while offline, but for the speed that’s involved in serving up content that’s already on your device, versus retrieving it from the Internet.

A little over half of the respondents indicated security restrictions at work had the potential to interfere with access, but most said they’d simply access our content elsewhere.

A beginning, not an end

After analyzing the results and poring over all the comments, one thing became clear. There is no one correct answer of what Automation World should look like on the iPad or any other tablet computer. No one app will address every need. As a result, we’re pleased to announce not one but two innovative and free iOS apps that you can download from the Apple App Store.

The first app is called, simply, Automation World Magazine. It consists of an exact replica of our print magazine. Like reading a book on a Kindle, you gain a range of benefits with the digital edition:

1. Convenience—your issue is always available, no matter where you are.
2. Timeliness—you don’t have to wait for the Post Office to deliver the latest issue.
3. Easy to store—back issues (2011 and forward) are always available for reference.
4. Easy to share—forward the issue with a personal message about what caught your eye via popular social media 5. platforms, including LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

When you download the app, you immediately get access to all 2011 issues. Then, you will automatically receive notices right to your iPad when the next issue comes out. Breezing through Automation World in the app is fast, simple and convenient. Zooming in is quick and easy, and the type remains highly legible even at high magnifications.

The second iPad app that we plan to release in October is called Automation World Real-Time. As its name implies, this truly innovative app displays the latest articles, news, new products and videos in an easy-to-scan format. Closely patterned after the widely acclaimed USA Today app, Automation World Real-Time automatically updates itself with the latest content from Automationworld.com every time you launch it. Then you can quickly scroll through articles and tap into the ones of interest. Articles appear on your screen instantly, without waiting for further downloads. Android versions of both of these apps will be available by the end of the year.


David Newcorn, dnewcorn@summitmediagroup.com, is vice president of digital and custom media for Automation World magazine.

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