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Tablets Replace Some Small Businesses Tools


And now to the spreading influence of apps and tablets in the business world. As NPR's Sonari Glinton reports, many small businesses are using tablets to replace everything from the menu to the timecard to the cash register.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: That is ceroni, so the green is like a pistachio.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: In downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan, just a block away from the famed University of Michigan, is Iorios Gelateria. Gelato is kind of Italian for ice cream. And it's owned by Nick Lemmer. He's - get this - 20 years old, and a junior studying industrial and operations engineering at the university.

NICK LEMMER: It's hard for a lot of people to grasp. And its fun to see reactions when you walk in the door and kind of looking around and oh, where's - who's the guy I'm supposed to meet?


GLINTON: At 20, Lemmer is a business veteran. He and sister, Mary - she's 23 - started selling Italian ice when they were kids. And this summer, they opened their own gelato store. It was Lemmer's job to figure out which kind of cash register to use.

LEMMER: It ended up kind of being obvious for us, being a small business. And just the overhead cost of going with a bigger system wasn't really what we needed. And so the tablet with the Square card reader was kind of the obvious way to go for us.

GLINTON: So at the gelateria, Lemmer has an iPad jerry-rigged on a Lazy Susan attached to cash drawer. He uses an app called Square that allows you to swipe a credit card and email receipts to customers. Not only does he use the iPad as a cash register, he also has another app for his employees to clock in. He can track sales and trends from the comfort of, say, his classroom.

Lemmer says he's used cash registers before, and he's not going back.

LEMMER: Having to go through about a mile long of receipt tape to figure out how many gelatos you sold, or what the total till is for the day, it's pretty rough.

GLINTON: Lance Ulanoff is an editor at Mashable.com, which covers all things tech-related. He says tablets are an entrepreneur's dream.

LANCE ULANOFF: Forty million iPads were sold over the last two years. But you know what? Businesses - small businesses, medium-sized businesses - they're buying these devices as well. And they're finding these really creative ways to use them to get business, and get commerce done.


GLINTON: Back at the gelato store, Nick Lemmer says he's looking at the iPad for any way he can save time or money.

LEMMER: It's like the snowball effect, rolling down the mountain. It's going to get bigger and bigger, and it would scare me if I'm in the cash register market.

GLINTON: Out of the mouth of babes, or 20-year-olds.

Sonari Glinton, NPR News.

NEARY: One of the things that has made tablets and apps so successful is the touch screen. Join us for a special edition of All Tech Considered next Monday, when we explore how touch screens are changing both the way we consume information, and how we interact as human beings. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.