One of the most popular questions clients ask me is, “When will tablets be used for productivity, rather than just consumption?” My answer: They already are, but in different ways than we have come to expect from the PC era. As I discuss in a new Forrester report, tablets, smartphones, and future devices like wearables are tools of a new era of post-PC productivity.

Combining the native capabilities of post-PC devices with cloud connectivity yields powerful new productivity scenarios that weren’t available in the PC era, such as:

  • On-screen, in-person presentations. With a laptop, the screen is a wall that divides participants; tablets enable participants to share a screen, and their lightweight, instant-on form factor makes spontaneous presentations using apps like Slideshark possible in hallways or trade show floors — not just conference rooms.
  • Scanning, processing, and sharing from a single, portable device. The combination of a high-quality camera combined with the ability to annotate and share documents condenses document workflow, using apps like DocScanner and PaperPort by Nuance Communications.
  • Remote, anywhere document access, editing, and sync. Before its acquisition by Google, Quickoffice generated $30 million in revenue in 2011 with products that allow users to remotely access, search, edit, sync, and share documents across devices, platforms, and cloud services.
  • Multimodal note-taking, ideation, and mind-mapping. Note-taking and ideation are not new, but post-PC devices enhance these activities with dimensions they didn’t have on the PC, including voice, images from the camera, and locational context via apps like Evernote.

In addition, post-PC devices — via their app stores — also mark a shift in the way productivity software is distributed and monetized. Selling directly to end users via app stores requires different strengths than selling to the enterprise or selling to retail stores where consumers bought software in the PC era — and it levels the playing field for small developers to compete. Andrew Sinkov, VP of marketing for Evernote, puts it this way: “Thank God app stores exist.” When Evernote started in 2008 on Mac, Windows, and Windows Mobile, “It was almost impossible to download an app.” Now, he says, 80% of new users come through mobile app stores.

While app stores are a boon to startups, they disrupt the pecking order for established software companies. “A lot of companies are going to have to adjust to software getting cheaper,” says iThoughts CEO Craig Scott, noting that Mindjet, the leading mind-mapping software for the PC, is $300, while the iThoughts iOS app is $10.

We’ve seen this pattern of digital disruption before, most notably in the media industries. Now software faces its disruptive moment. Find out what this disruption means for product strategists—and who will come out on top—in our new report for Forrester clients.