It's not all fun and games for iPad and other tablet computer users. The hand-held devices are finding an increasing role in the workplace.
HACKENSACK, N.J. - In some business jets, pilots are bringing iPads into their cockpits instead of heavy flight bags stuffed with paper charts, operation manuals and checklists.
The Federal Aviation Administration recently authorized Cleveland-based jet services provider Flight Options LLC to use Apple Inc.'s iPads as "electronic flight bags" in the company's large 13-seat jets.
The technology "enhances safety and significantly reduces the pilot's workload," said Matt Doyle, vice president of Flight Options, which operates a fleet of more than 100 aircraft and has a maintenance facility in Teterboro, N.J. He is seeking authorizations to put tablets in the cockpits of the company's smaller aircraft as well.
It's not just aviation where tablets are making inroads in the workplace. From bank execs to beauty salon owners to restaurateurs, businesses are putting the most popular tablet to work to inform clients, travel lighter and save paper.
In aviation, specialized programs allow pilots to use iPads to calculate flight paths, proper passenger load balances, takeoff speeds and fuel requirements. Pilots can also use them to check real-time weather reports and pinpoint an aircraft's position on a navigational chart.
Flight Options is the first business jet operator to receive the authorization. Three commercial carriers so far -- United Airlines, American Airlines and Alaska Airlines -- also have received FAA approvals to use iPads in the cockpit, although the devices have not yet been widely deployed by those companies.
The average pilots' flight bag weighs 40 to 45 pounds, but some weigh as much as 70 pounds. A tablet weighs about a pound.
Tablets are having an impact among small-business owners. Corey Mania, owner of Mania Hair Studio in Park Ridge, N.J., said she uses iPads to help clients choose a hairstyle and make their next appointments. Teaneck, N.J., jewelry designer Scott Kay uses them to replace heavy product display cases carried by its salespeople.
The iPad provides "a means in which a rep can carry and showcase their wares at their fingertips without the overhead of a typical computer operating system," said Rudy Pospisil, Web developer for Scott Kay.
David's Bagels in Montvale, N.J., is saving money on payment processing by using an iPad to take customers' credit and debit card payments with an application called Shopkeep. The iPad is mounted at the checkout area with a card-swiping device attached.
"It tracks all data I need, and customers think it's cool," co-owner Rob Solimano said in an e-mail.
White-collar workers are embracing the device as well. Instead of a briefcase full of legal papers, high-powered Newark, N.J., lawyer Jerry Zaro said he now just carries an iPad. "I have over 500 files on it. It's a walking file room," he said. For him it's the most important technological advancement since the cellphone.
In the health care industry, the federal Food and Drug Administration has approved iPads for diagnostic radiology so doctors can read images when they are away from their desks. Cardiologists are using an iPad application with three-dimensional graphics to teach patients about their hearts and how they can be repaired.
Scientists and conservationists announced last month that they developed a free iPad and iPhone application to help ship captains avoid collisions with right whales in the North Atlantic.
IPads have been around for less than two years, and through the end of last year 55 million were sold. Part of the iPad's allure is the number of applications available -- more than half a million.
Forrester Research predicts tablets will be in the hands of more than 112 million U.S. consumers by 2016. A Forrester online survey of tablet owners -- conducted last year before the Kindle Fire hit the market -- showed 73 percent used iPads. A Hewlett-Packard device came in at a distant second at 6 percent.
Statistics on how many tablets are being used at work are hard to find; however, a Forrester survey late last year of information technology workers at companies with 20 or more employees showed 13 percent of them used tablets for their jobs. Penetration is higher among executives and salespeople, the researcher said.
The Amazon Kindle Fire, which cost about $200 compared with $400 and up for iPads, had a strong start last year selling 5.5 million units in its first quarter on the market. Still, like rivals Hewlett-Packard, Samsung and Motorola, it has a comparatively small share of the market.