I spent a few hours at the Chicago Auto Show this afternoon, and I was surprised by the number of iPads on the show floor--not those brought by visitors, but those being used by the auto companies. Several car companies were using iPads for portable data collection, where company representatives were gathering visitors' information for mailing lists and contests.
What I found more interesting, however, is that some companies, including Hyundai, had turned iPads into fixed kiosks that visitors could use to enter their own information. Retail kiosks tend to be expensive computer displays that are built to take severe usage, but here were iPads being used for the same purpose. (You could tell they were iPads by their user interfaces, and in Hyundai's case, because they thoughtfully cut out holes in the backs of the kiosks to show the Apple logo.) I looked at many of the kiosks in a number of exhibits and didn't see a single one that had failed.
Now, this was the first weekend day that the show was open to the public, so it's likely that some of the iPads will fail by the time the show ends on February 20th. However, if an iPad fails, the cost to replace it is probably $500. (Who needs 3G or a lot of memory in order to collect names and addresses for a single app?) Compare that to the cost of a custom kiosk or even a portable data collection computer from someone like Motorola. The iPad is making waves in an application that I hadn't considered, and this year's crop of new tablets will get in on the action as soon as customers can judge their reliability.