The Apple ( AAPL) iPad -- frankly, tablets and smartphones in general -- are especially useful for small businesses while engaging with customers. "If you're in a customer-facing engagement, having something that you can engage and share information and interact with" is increasingly important -- better than sitting behind a laptop screen, says Ed Ludwigson, vice president and general manager of Staples Technology Solutions. Other things to consider: Wi-Fi spots on store premises and a way for employees and customers to do Skype and video calling. "I think that access is important," Ludwigson says. "It's really going to change how people interact with each other," along with the ability to "transmit in fairly near time, especially if you have a visual business." The devices will save business owners time, money and headaches. Ludwigson used the example of a plumber who, using a Web-connected smartphone, can take a snapshot of a broken item and be able to send it on the spot to a parts supplier -- minimizing travel time and increasing the speed at which the job can get done.