Seventy-three percent of small and medium businesses in the U.S. intend to purchase tablets in the next 12 months, but these companies won’t settle for any old tablet — they want iPads.

The iPad is the most-considered tablet by businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees mulling the hardware investment, according to new survey data from research firm The NPD Group and its SMB Technology Monitor.

“The iPad, just as it is in the consumer market, is synonymous for ‘Tablet’ in the business market, leaving Apple poised to take advantage of the increased spending intentions of these SMBs,” Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD, said.

Small and medium businesses indicated that they will spend, on average, more than $21,000 on tablets over a 12-month period, NPD found, though the amount skews higher or lower depending on business size.

Medium-sized business with 501 to 999 employees are the most tablet-hungry — well iPad-anxious, actually. Nearly 90 percent of businesses in this category said they plan to purchase new tablets, with each planning to spend an average of $39,000 on the new hardware over the next 12 months.

The data supports a perceptible shift in the workplace, with Apple mobile products being embraced by business users and IT departments alike. At VentureBeat’s CloudBeat conference in early December, the consensus among a panel of cloud and enterprise experts was that corporate CEOs (and their egos) are the driving force behind iPad adoption in the enterprise.

[Image via OU Platform/Flickr]