When the iPad was released in 2010 most pundits focused on how it would be a “lean back, content consumption” device for consumers. We challenge you to find anyone who said on the day it was launched, “iPads will be all over the workplace and will replace all sorts of everyday tools you find in a typical small business.” But that’s exactly what is taking place. Here are just eight typical small business functions that tablets are taking over:

1. Sales pitches

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(Photo: via apple.com)

Tablets are becoming valuable sales tools for small businesses. Besides being portable and easy to use, tablets enhance sales pitches by offering real-time data and access to a limitless supply of information and images that can engage customers and close sales fast.

2. Point-of-sale retail marketing tool

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(Photo: via apple.com)

What used to be a poster designed a few months earlier can now be an up-to-the-minute multi-media Swiss Army knife  with features ranging from color selection to price comparison.

3. Cash registers

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(Photo: On Flickr via OldOnliner)

Small businesses are discovering the tablet’s potential as a cash register interface. With the aid of mobile payment services, small businesses can replace costly check-out terminals with tablets.

 4. Logistics management

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(Photo: via apple.com)

Communication, route navigation via Google maps and a permanent place to record data make tablets an incredibly useful and all-in-one tool for tracking all forms of business processes.

5. E-signing on the dotted line

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(Photo: on itunes.apple.com)

What about the need for officially signing a document? There are dozens of apps for that–approved by the courts with the necessary encription  to serve as legally-binding and contractual.

 6. An actual paper-reduction device

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 (Photo: on Flickr via Global partnership for Education)

In many small businesses, tablets are being used simply to replace paper. From boardroom meetings to warehouses, tablets not only replace paper, they can also offer interactive features like editing a meeting prompt or permitting a warehouse worker to video-record the condition of an item before it is shipped. These features improve security, productivity, efficiency and control liability.

 7. Expanding the social web

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(Photo: on pinterest via Lisa Capretto)

You know that social media can be a successful marketing avenue. However, with everything else going on, when can you find the time to sit down at a computer and update Facebook, Twitter, etc? Tablets make it easier for you to manage social media on the run with the help of apps like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and Seesmic.

8. Turning sales over to the customer.

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(Photo: on Flickr via ebayink)

In addition to all the ways you as a small business owner or manager may find tablets helpful, look for ways to put them into your customers’ hands. Tablets in bed and breakfast guest rooms or for people stuck in waiting rooms can improve the customer experience and add value to your business. Some restaurants have even turned menus into interactive presentation and food ordering devices.

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