Can media tablets play a role in the construction industry? The iPad and other tablet devices are beginning to flood the jobsite. Whether construction IT managers like it or not, workers are bringing their tablets to the jobsite—and are finding ways to use them to get the job done.

Tom Mainelli, research director of Mobile Connected Devices at IDC, www.idc.com, Framingham, Mass., confirms most media tablets are finding their way in the back door, but that will change in the next few years. According to Mainelli, last year only 4% of media tablets were sold specifically to the enterprise, but he expects that figure to reach 11% this year and up to 18% by 2015.

It’s no surprise, then, that tablet makers are seeing an opportunity for a more enterprise-friendly version of the tablet. Recently, Motorola Solutions, www.motorolasolutions.com, Schaumburg, Ill., announced its Android-based ET1 tablet that is designed for the rigors of day-to-day professional use. In other words, it can take a beating.

Expected to be out by the fourth quarter, the ET1 is said to be more durable, with “industrial-strength” accessories such as an integrated optional barcode scanner and magnetic stripe reader, hot-swappable battery packs, and secure multi-slot recharging stations. There is even an optional hand strap for more secure, full-shift handling.

But Motorola was careful not to eliminate the “cool” factor that has made tablets the must-have gadget. The ET1 has a 7-inch color display, designed for customer-facing applications containing video and images. In addition, the screen bezel can be customized with company logos and brand images. According to Girish Rishi, Motorola’s corporate vice president and general manager of mobile computing, the ET1 was created to allow users to leverage “the sleek design and user experience of a tablet” with the durability and security needed in industry. The tablet is applicable to any vertical market.

So is this the start of a new wave of “enterprise-class” tablets? Likely, yes. With Apple holding the bulk of the market, it will be interesting to see if it too designs a “beefier,” industrial-grade version of the iPad—or if it’s even necessary. With the latest iPad model running just under $500, Mainelli says, “they’re practically disposable.”