iPad BusinessThe average consumer isn’t the only one taking an interest in the expanding tablet market. A new NPD Group survey suggests nearly three quarters of U.S. small and medium businesses (SMB) with fewer than 1000 employees plan to purchase tablets over the next year, a 68 percent jump over the same survey NPD conducted during the second quarter of 2011. Apple’s iPad is said to be the most considered tablet among SMBs.

“Businesses of all sizes appear to be determined to capitalize on the tablet phenomenon,” said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD. “The iPad, just as it is in the consumer market, is synonymous for ‘Tablet’ in the business market, leaving Apple poised to take advantage of the increased spending intentions of these SMBs.”

NPD said the average investment among SMBs is projected to exceed $21,000 over the next 12 months. Of course, factors depend on business size. 89 percent of larger firms plan on purchasing new tablets, with the average larger SMB planning to throw down nearly $39,000 on tablets. On the smaller business end, only 54 percent of firms with 50 employees or fewer said they plan on buying tablets over the next 12 months.

“NPD’s research shows that iPad purchase preference is higher among larger firms than smaller ones, which is an important indicator that Apple is gaining traction far outside its typical consumer space.”

Tablets, while not full on desktop replacements, make good companion hardware because of their portable nature, robust application ecosystems and killer instant-on functionality. In the case of the iPad, apps like Pages, Keynote and Numbers have been developed to mirror that of its PC counterparts, and the battery life is essential for road warriors. Not only that, but tablets are often cheaper devices from PC alternatives, and for the computer illiterate, they’re much easier to grasp and setup. In addition, many tablets offer convenient 3G (and even some 4G) wireless capabilities, allowing consumers to connect most everywhere they go.

Even despite their many features, tablets have a long way to go before they fully replace desktop computers. They certainly possess the potential to become the go-to device for an SMB. Who knows where we’ll stand in five years time.

How do you see tablets being used in the business setting?

NPD Group Tablets[AllThingsD, via PRWeb]