For the general population and media, iPads have become synonymous with the tablet PC. This development isn’t surprising. Just three years ago, Apple introduced a new device that captured the imagination and revolutionized how people consume information. By the end of 2012, industry observers estimate that Apple will have sold 100 million iPads.
Even as Apple has dominated the tablet market, it’s far from alone in offering top-quality products. The Samsung Note and Galaxy tablets, for instance, offer comparable functionality on an Android operating system, and other manufacturers are churning out new versions that are constantly raising the standard.
Since introducing the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet last year, Amazon has increased its number of offerings (some with Internet access for just $50 a year) while keeping prices low. And in October, Microsoft will roll out its Window 8 operating system to coincide with the launch of the Windows phone and Surface tablet.
With such a dizzying array of choices and the constant, accelerating drumbeat of new product launches, it’s easy to lose sight of major trends that are shaping tablet development and adoption.
To be successful, a tablet must do three things:
1. Create an ecosystem. One of the reasons Apple has been so dominant with its products is that each device is part of a larger ecosystem of platforms such as iTunes, Apple TV, cloud offerings, and the like. So the iPad serves as your passport to a world where one device allows you to do everything from control your home media system to FaceTime with your nearest and dearest. Other tablet manufacturers are catching up, however. As functionality continues to converge in a single device, the ecosystem will be more important than ever.
2. Emphasize mobility. While the laptop PC was the first shot in the mobile revolution, that all seems like ancient history now. Internet access, built-in HD cameras for video, and extended battery life are prerequisites for the mobile user. Currently, mobile carriers are feverishly expanding the data capacity of their networks, so that in the very near future people will be able to enjoy the same high-quality connections on the go as at home or in the workplace.
3. Enable productivity. While the tablet was always a natural fit for consumption (of media, entertainment, and music), its ability to create documents or get things done has been lacking. It quickly became evident that the tablet couldn’t supplant the PC in the workplace. (For evidence, how many times have you seen business travelers putting both their laptop and tablet through airport security?) That might be about to change: Microsoft’s entry into tablet territory will create a work ecosystem supported by platforms and a functional keyboard. What Apple did for leisure time, Microsoft seems poised to accomplish in the workplace.
If the past several years are any indication, the impact of the tablet on how we work, live, and play will only increase. More significantly, the time when a single tablet will fulfill the vast majority of our needs is rapidly approaching.
What do you think it would take to convince you to move from a traditional PC to a tablet PC?
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