We could all use more hours in the day. Well, James Wolfe has a place to find some—his iPad. “It helps me manufacture time,” he quips. “I no longer think, ‘When I get back to my office I will do this…’ I’ve got my office on my iPad.” Wolfe, CMP, director of administrative services at NCCI Holdings in Boca Raton, Fla., initially bought the tablet because “it was the new toy.” Now, he says, “I have my world on it.”

His colleague, meanwhile, recently succeeded in having NCCI’s entire annual meeting on it. “He uploaded PDFs for all of the BEOs, and went entirely paperless.”

James Spellos, CMP, leading voice among the meetings digerati, sees tablets replacing not just the 6-inch binder and the paper within, but ultimately laptops as well. “I don’t see any reason a planner needs a laptop anymore,” he says. “Tablets like the iPad are ultra-portable. You wouldn’t bring a laptop to a meeting with your CSM, you’d bring your hard copies. But you would bring a tablet.

“It’s also a great tool on a site visit. You just plug information into digital files, include notes, take photos. You have everything in a single device.” (And, starting this month, you can download the technology site-inspection checklist created by Spellos and fellow meetings tech consultant Corbin Ball as an interactive app, TechSpec. The tool rates hotels from a technology perspective, penalizing them for, say, multiple charges for Internet access by multiple devices. You can also check out the TechSpec Facebook page.)

In the Cloud
The iPad’s long-noted downside as a business tool is that it’s great for consuming content, but not for creating it. “You don’t have full data input functionality,” Spellos says. “If you have to do a lot of data entry on the road, your laptop is better.” Microsoft Office (i.e., Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) isn’t available for the iPad. Rumors at press time peg November as a likely Office for iPad release date. Until then, the iPad is not a full laptop substitute for most people, even with available Office apps such as OnLive. (There’s also the lack of a keyboard, but that’s not really a limitation with so many options for wireless keyboards and cases with keyboards attached.)

Still, a significant number of people have made the switch already. An IDG survey of worldwide IT and business decision-makers in January reported that an iPad has “completely replaced” a laptop for 12 percent of respondents, and has “partially replaced” a laptop for 54 percent of respondents.

Part of what makes it possible for planners to trade laptops for tablets is the “cloud.” We are moving from a server-based world to a cloud-based world, says Spellos. Documents in the cloud are available from any device, anywhere (with an Internet connection, of course). And the way you manage them is with tools like Dropbox, iCloud, and GoogleDocs. “For small and mid-sized companies, these are all great approaches” to updating and syncing shared documents, Spellos says. “There is still the security fear. But 10 years ago the fear was buying something online.” Indeed, one planner cites his company’s ban on cloud use as a stumbling block to going paperless on site. He does, however, relish using his iPad on site inspections.

And Wolfe was glad to have his at the airport recently, when his flight to New York was delayed. Even as the sign at the gate was being reset with a new departure time, Wolfe was receiving an alert on his iPad with a different (and earlier) new flight time.

Try These Apps

Dropbox
A filing cabinet in the cloud. You and your team can access it with any smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop. When docs are updated somewhere, they are updated everywhere. Free; upgrade available for purchase.

Evernote
Create digital “notebooks” in the cloud, fill them with text, photos, even recorded messages. Use it to create a site-inspection summary and start brainstorming your program. Free; upgrade available.

Super Planner
Event-planning calculators at your fingertips for seating, production, F&B pricing—even dance-floor sizing. $9.99

Airport Remote
Arrival and departure information for all airports in U.S. and Canada. Free.

Gate Guru
Wait times at security checkpoints, GPS guide for what’s around you (restaurants, shops, bathrooms). Free.

Flipboard and Zite
Two news aggregators, so you can curate your information overload. Free.