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Wednesday, July 07, 2010, 07:55 am PT (10:55 am ET)

Apple's iPad finds enterprise adoption at Wells Fargo, SAP

A number of companies have turned to Apple's iPad for their business needs, with the hardware used by employees in giving presentations, accessing work e-mail, approving shipping orders, and a variety of other tasks.

Wells Fargo initially bought 15 iPads, and used two of them in May to demonstrate products at an investor conference, the company told Businessweek. Wells Fargo spent two years looking at the iPhone, but approved the iPad in just two weeks after it was released in April.

Now, the bank plans to buy more — when they're available. Megan Minich, senior vice-president with the San Francisco, Calif., company, reportedly said they have "a bunch" ordered that they have not yet received.

And Amy Johnson, vice president with Wells Fargo for the company's online portal and mobile strategy, said she envisions finance officials or account representatives using devices like the iPad to approve multimillion-dollar wire transfers. The company found that finance executives of large companies had used the iPad to access corporate Wells Fargo accounts.

Author Rachael King also noted that SAP, Tellabs, and Mercedes-Benz have all embraced the iPad.

Use of the iPad by Mercedes-Benz to sell cars was detailed in May. The Daimler-owned brand equipped 40 dealerships with Apple's device in an effort to more effectively sell and lease cars, using the hardware to handle credit applications. Now, the company is considering using iPads at all of its 350 U.S. dealerships.

Rob Enslin, president of SAP North America, told Businessweek that when he travels, he only carries an iPad and a BlackBerry. He said Apple's new hardware has almost allowed him to "run a paperless office." SAP developed an application that lets managers approve shipping of customer orders, and has a handful of other apps planned.

King also penned a second story in which she spoke with Tim Markley, president of Markley Enterprise, a 75-person Indiana firm that designs marketing displays for stores and trade shows. Markley's company uses three iPads to replace paperwork and also serve as a portable computing device. They found that the use of the iPad cut down on 30 percent of employee's walking time, making them more efficient.

Another company, Arhaus Furniture, expects to save $100,000 in annual paper costs when it issues 50 iPads to its delivery drivers. The company will rely on a custom iPad application that is being developed.

But Markley didn't want to pay to have his own application developed, so he searched the App Store and found one created by a Japanese developer for $1.99.

Apple made it clear it sees the iPad as a potential business tool when it released its 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.

Users, too, have seen the iPad as a device they can use for work. A survey conducted in March, before the iPad was released, found that more than half of prospective buyers planned to do as Enslin does, and use their iPad for work while traveling.