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Published March 14, 2011
Businesses swallow the tablet and smile
iPad impact touches restaurant menus, gas stations, schools
By VICTORIA HO
(SINGAPORE) The much- awaited iPad 2 became available in the US last Friday and is expected to hit Singapore in a couple of months' time. Apple's offering has caught the attention of Singapore businesses as well.
Local restaurant chain, Fish & Co, is in the midst of replacing its menu with iPad versions. It has placed iPads on each table at its Glass House outlet, allowing customers to send their food orders straight to the kitchen wirelessly from their seats.
The magic centres around a custom menu app, which Fish & Co commissioned Singapore- based app development outfit, Zimerick, to make. The app interfaces with the restaurant's point-of-sale system at the back-end in order to complete the order.
Jayss Rajashwary, Fish & Co's marketing manager, said this system has been a boon during peak hours, where customers struggled to catch a waiter's attention.
Fish & Co has installed 30 tablets at its flagship outlet and intends to place more at its other restaurants.
The F&B outlet is one of an increasing number of businesses looking to take advantage of the tablet phenomenon.
Bryan Ma, IDC Asia-Pacific associate vice-president of client devices research, said there has been an explosion of interest in the tablet form factor.
While the iPad was the only such device available for the most part of last year, tablets from HP and Motorola will join the fray this year.
Is the magic simply in the novelty? 'While a restaurant with a very big wine list could save on printing menus, you have to question the return on investment spending a thousand bucks on an iPad,' he said.
However, Zimerick founder Quek Choon Yang said return on investment goes beyond the differences in printing costs.
Fish & Co's app was designed with features intended to help upsell menu items, he said. The app is able to pair dishes with additional side order recommendations and set items, which are displayed to customers.
And there is an element of marketing worked into the app. It is connected to social media networks such as Facebook, and enables customers to broadcast their meal choices to friends - a subtle way of additional advertising for Fish & Co, he added.
A growing number of businesses are getting more savvy with what they can do on tablets, said Mr Quek.
Caltex, for example, commissioned an app which allows users to find a petrol kiosk nearby. It has released the free app in Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia in the region, and uses the iPad's GPS chip to locate users.
Schools, too, are coming onboard the tablet craze with some innovative ideas on how to use the tablet.
Nanyang Girls' High School started a pilot project this year replacing textbooks with iPads for four classes of students.
The girls no longer sit in the traditional layout of rows of desks. Instead, they sit in a circle facing the teacher, their iPads perched on their laps as they participate in class work.
This has been a revolution for peer work, said the school's dean of curriculum, Seah Hui Yong.
She said the children complete most of their assignments in soft copy and work is submitted to a wiki- style collaborative space for peer evaluation.
Chinese language classes have employed voice recording apps and interactive titles in order to engage students. The audio recordings have helped many of the students who don't speak Mandarin at home to refer to how some of the words are read, she said.
The school, which did not negotiate a price discount with Apple, bought 150 Wi-Fi-equipped 32 gigabyte iPads for about $800 apiece. Most tablets out on the market at the time were going for over $1,000.
The school plans to extend the iPad project to a whole level of classes next year, and has plans to equip every teacher with a device within this year, she added.
IDC estimated that in the third quarter of 2010 some 60,000 tablets shipped in Singapore. This year, the number could hit 400,000.