Positive rolls out 3G tablets to 900 financial advisers to boost service

Independent financial adviser Positive Solutions is equipping its 900-strong field force with 3G-enabled tablet PCs in a £1.2m...

The tablet PCs, to be used by Positive's financial advisers, will not be equipped with a keyboard. Instead staff will rely on the integrated handwriting recognition system to record customer details using a stylus on the tablet "slate".

Positive said this approach was better suited to serving customers than having its advisers constantly looking down at a keyboard to type when recording information from a client.

David Harrison, chief executive at Positive Solutions, said, "Laptops have always represented a compromise between efficiency and usability. It is not ideal to sit down with a client, plug a machine into a socket and stare down at a screen typing in lots of details."

Positive's Fujitsu Siemens tablets, running the Microsoft XP operating system, are being trialled by 12 users before the full roll-out later this summer.

Initially, Positive is connecting its tablets using GPRS/3G wireless data cards from Vodafone, although it said it may change its datacard provider as cheaper cards come onto the market.

Orange launched its GPRS/3G datacard earlier this month. It is cheaper than Vodafone's card and offers double the 3G coverage by UK population. T-Mobile and O2 are also preparing to launch 3G cards.

Harrison said of the wireless tablet PCs, "While with a client, advisers can access all the information they need, including up-to-the-minute valuations from our extranet. They can do this unobtrusively, without compromising the social situation."

The laptops currently used by Positive cost about £400 each from a leasing company. The new tablets will cost less than £1,000 each, after the firm negotiated over the £1,800 list price, said Harrison.

Tablet take-up

The take-up of tablet PCs in will continue to be gradual, according to Brian O'Rourke, an analyst at research group In-Stat/MDR. He said, "With limited budgets, enterprise IT managers have been hesitant to take a chance on a new PC form factor.

"But as tablet PC prices come down over the next few years, and tablet PC software offerings increase, interest will rise."

O'Rourke said sales would start to become significant in 2005, as average selling prices fall below $2,000 (£1,150) for the first time.

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