The paperless office has been a fantasy for years, but tablets have made cutting down on printouts a little easier. At the beginning of this year, the city of Vancouver (the one in Washington, not British Columbia) started replacing some of its BlackBerrys with iPads in order to let employees read documents online rather than printing them out. In the first two months of the program, the city saw the number of pages it printed for council meetings drop from 5,371 to 3,182, a roughly 40 percent reduction. The cost of connecting the devices also dropped: instead of paying $71 a month to connect each BlackBerry, the city now pays about $43 for each iPad data plan. That means each BlackBerry that's traded in for an iPad saves $336 per year.
The pilot program was fairly limited, involving a total of 54 iPads used by members of the city council, leadership team, and police department. The city says it may keep replacing BlackBerrys with iPads but has no definite plans to expand the program. As an experiment, the project shows that tablets can replace paper printouts in a way that phones and computers have not. It also gives us a look at how much the government agencies that have dropped RIM's services might be saving.