Of all the personal technology advances we’ve seen over the past five years, the Tablet PC has to rank among one of the most significant. And thanks to the marketing clout behind Apple’s iPad, the form factor is just now starting to get a lot of recognition.

With business and social lifestyles becoming more demanding, many industry sectors are adapting their workforces to embrace Tablet PCs due to the increase in productivity among workers and lower administration costs compared to pen and paper.

Far and away, the best thing about Tablet PCs is their mobility. Their robust form factor and durable screens mean you can take and use them anywhere you go, the same way you would a notebook and pen. That means that when your boss bumps into you in the hallway and gives you a number of assignments, you can write them down.

Or, if you’re at a jobsite you can easily connect with the office to access or share customer details, thanks to integrated wireless connections. Tablet PCs are also useful in meetings or customer interactions, because you write on them like an actual clipboard and paper, so you don’t have a screen impacting your interaction.

When you’re working out of the office you have the full power of your desktop computer with you (including the ability to run multiple applications simultaneously), either working at a client site, or doing office tasks while commuting. In addition, you have all your phone numbers and schedules without having to synchronise with another computer and just as fast as launching a PDA. You also have all your standard software and files – everything you need to make effective use of the Tablet PC in the enterprise environment.

The latest Tablet PC display technology takes performance measurement beyond that of nits, combining brightness, contrast and viewing angle to create great viewability outdoors. Designed specifically for mobile users that compute outdoors, a quality Tablet PC provides around 10:1 reduction in unwanted reflectance and glare, 15% improvement in light pass-through efficiency, 225% increase in sunlight contrast ratio over standard displays, and better viewability at wide viewing angles.

High quality Tablets also offer thin-sheet glass that protects the display against real-world events that can cause damage – with the strength needed for real-world mobile work environments. Designed to provide durability where high strength is required, mobile rugged Tablet PCs add protection without impacting pen response. Water, chemical and disinfectant resistant coating on some models also makes a Tablet easy to clean and remove dust, dirt, or other elements.

You don’t lose any functionality from a desktop computer either. Tablets typically operate on the same architecture and run many of the same programs as a regular desktop computer, and they have the added advantage of some special tablet-only software enhancements. In fact, many programs integrate all of their normal functions with digital ink, so you can add notes to documents and even e-mail your handwritten notes to someone – there’s nothing quite like seeing your own scribbles on a computer screen.

Is a Tablet PC right for you?

Tablet PCs perfectly address vertical markets, among interest groups like medical professionals (for access to electronic patient records), field service (empowering mobile professionals to work from anywhere at anytime), manufacturing (bringing a new level of automation to manufacturing and warehousing operations), and sales (for forms and order taking). But now that the momentum has built up, the real market is much larger.

As with any technology, Tablet PCs have advantages and disadvantages. Thanks to the last few years of development and enhancement, the disadvantages are shrinking in number and the perks are becoming more and more enticing. If you’re a highly mobile person and have never considered getting a Tablet PC, now is as good a time as any to start checking them out – the technology is cutting-edge and the usability is superb.

If you’re thinking about a new laptop and data access and entry on the move is a key factor, a Tablet PC should be at the top of your shopping list.