Back in India, Magesh Ramamurthy, IT director at Four Seasons Hotels, saw something more in the iPad that made sense: He saw it as a device to engage customers effectively.
Quickly, Ramamurthy deployed two iPads at the hotel's front desk and tested customer reaction when the hotel staff began screening the rooms and facilities available on the tablet PC's 10-inch screen.
Today, Four Seasons is getting ready to deploy more tablet PCs at its restaurants across the country with specially designed apps highlighting its menu, recipes and details about the restaurant.
"We plan to get half a dozen iPads to be used in our hotel lobby and restaurants," he says.
By the end of 2011, Four Seasons is looking to have tablet PCs in its top-end suites, eliminating the need for paper stationery. An app on the tablet PC will be the guest's interface for all his needs during his stay.
Ramamurthy is not biased towards the iPad alone. He is aware of the fact that "in the next two years, we will evaluate other tablet PC platforms too".
Long battery life, lack of moving parts, ease of use and the rapid development of applications are the key features that are attracting enterprises to tablet PCs.
While industry estimates peg the tablet PC market at merely a million units in 2011, the adoption rate will be partly dependent on how 3G data packages are priced and the affordable price points of tablet PCs.
An Accenture study claimed almost 10 per cent of the respondents owned a tablet PC.
Another research firm, TBR said the tablet would replace the secondary PCs of many consumers but asserted that the market would ultimately support all three device styles -- the laptop, tablet and smartphone -- for computing and connectivity.
With 40 per cent of Indian consumers expected to spend anywhere between Rs 20,000 and Rs 70,000 on electronics in 2011, Vishal Tripathi, principal research analyst, Gartner, says tablet PCs in India will find it easy to reach consumers who are looking for a second PC.
"Indian enterprises take a longer cycle to move to devices like tablet PCs and while a few are beginning to warm up to devices like Samsung Galaxy Tab and Apple iPad, the number remains dismally low today," he adds.
SAP, a leading provider of business software solutions, has been using 200-odd iPads in its India office and plans to increase the uptake further in 2011.
SAP India COO Alok Goyal says: "From SAP's 5,000-odd development teams to sales staff and senior management, tablet PCs will be given to everyone in the near future."
The company has globally deployed about 2,500 iPads for its workforce. He said SAP now had a growing market for apps meant for the tablet PC platform.
"Be it Apple's iOS or Android or upcoming tablet platforms, we are developing business applications for each platform that can be used by enterprises across the globe," Goyal adds.
Deloitte said enterprises across the globe were likely to buy more than 10 million tablet PCs in 2011, with nearly half the tablets going to the retail and healthcare sectors.
"In retail, tablet PCs can serve as both easy-to-use constantly-updated catalog and point-of-sale terminal. In healthcare, traditional conservatism of practitioners is likely to restrict the tablets to about a million devices globally," it says.
Leading hospitals in New Delhi and Mumbai are also reported to be testing tablet PCs for doctors, as the device works on 'store and forward' approach that can be taken wherever needed and later docked to the network to update patient information.
While hospital managements refused to divulge more details, sources in a New Delhi-based hospital claimed: "The iPhone has already changed the face of healthcare.
"The momentum that started with consumer applications has moved to forward-looking
doctors and health service providers. We know it is becoming a common practice among senior doctors and nurses to carry a hospital-issued BlackBerry and personally-purchased iPhones."
The medical category today is already the highest-aggregate-priced category on the Apple App Store. The iPhone-to-tablet combination may as well be the biggest reason to make iPad successful in India's clinical community.
Android, Google's operating system, is also making its way on to tablet PCs like Samsung Galaxy Tab, but, users argue, the platform was designed for smartphones and is yet to evolve as a tablet PC platform.
Meanwhile, Apple made it clear that it saw the iPad as a potential business tool when it released Office-compatible iWork productivity suite for the multitouch device.
But, that was only the beginning for Apple's enterprise push. It is expected that future software updates will allow direct network printing from iPad apps, as well as support for accessing shared files from a local file server.
Gagandeep Singh Sapra, owner of System3 Group, bought about 25 Apple iPads for his colleagues.
"When iPad launch was announced in the US, we stood in the queue to get our tablets PCs."
He does not think iPads are going to replace laptops at work, but says: "iPads are great second PCs, especially when you have to meet clients or check your spreadsheets on the move.
We have an app on the iPad that allows viewing work-related documents and even exchange data with one another securely, as we don't have to store anything on the device." Sapra uses cloud-based services at work that can be accessed by custom-built apps.
Future growth for tablet PCs in India looks strong, says Accenture.
Ten per cent of Indian respondents are planning to purchase a tablet PC in 2011, even as five per cent of those owning a tablet PC quit using it last year because they had the same functionality in another device (globally, the defection rate for tablet PCs is two per cent).
Real Estate players like Mumbai's Lodha Group were quick to identify customers' inclination for devices like the iPad. Lodha's high-end upcoming residential property at Mumbai's Kanjurmarg area began offering iPads with integrated home automation apps to buyers.
R Karthik, senior VP (marketing), Lodha Group, says: "We have sold about 100 flats in this property and buyers will be given iPads and an inbuilt home automation app, which controls home peripherals, at the time of possession."
The group is now evaluating the possibility of deploying tablet PCs for its employees, to build a more mobile workforce.
Here goes a list:
Apple iPad: A 9.7-inch LED-backlit multi-touchscreen tablet that offers choice of 16GB, 32GB or 64GB flash storage and 60,000 apps on the App Store. A 1GHz Apple A4 chip processor runs this iOS-based device. Price: Rs 27,900
Samsung Galaxy: A 7-inch Android-based touchscreen tablet that sports a large 4000 mAh battery and is powered by a Cortex A8 1.0GHz application processor. Enables video calling with the 1.3 megapixel front camera and capture pictures with 3 megapixel rear camera. Price: Rs 28,000
Olive Pad: A 3G touchscreen tablet PC that runs on Android OS and sports a 7-inch screen. A Zenga TV client gives 6-month subscription free for TV browsing on the device. Price: Rs 21,999.
Asus Eepad: Available in 10- and 12-inch touchscreen sizes and has Nvidia Tegra chips inside. A 2-megapixel camera, USB port and micro SD card support titivate the device.Price: Rs 25,000.
MSI WindPad: Windows 7-based 10-inch touchscreen tablet houses Intel Mobile CPU, 2GB DDR2 RAM, and 32GB SSD for storage. Price: Rs: 34,990.