We look to movies or science fiction novels to foster our dreams of what technology may some day offer. Be it James Bond or Star Wars, we let our imaginations go to where devices may someday equip us with tools our ancestors would never even have fathomed, performing every entertainment and workspace computing task our minds can conceive.
We are now seeing incredible breakthroughs daily, and tablets have effectively become an icon for bleeding edge tech. Many newly released tablets have essentially been a disappointment. We expect with each new release that this one will "have it all." Cell phone carriers and device manufacturers have moved to leverage this and continually update the tools we use, making perfectly good hardware obsolete in order to tempt our insatiable thirst for the shiny new breakthrough. So when we look to the tablet, we continually are disappointed.
One thing we do know is tablets aren't going away as a form factor. By 2015 The Gartner Group predicts that the market will grow in sales of units by 23 percent with the total number of units in consumer hands reaching nearly 300 million! We will continue to see a variety of different operating systems powering these tablets.
This is why I call for patience when it comes to tablet development; we are just beginning to understand how these technologies can be used and formulate new questions that arise as they advance. For a while, there was a push for users to prove the iPad could replace laptops. It did not take long for this idea to diminish. Just look at the arrival of external keyboards and docking stations flooding the accessory market. A friend reminded me recently of when early Jornada and Palm handheld users were trying to use fold out keyboards to type documents in the late '90s. Now when we do the same thing with tablets we look pretty silly. I have not used my Apple keyboard and dock station since I bought them with my iPad a year ago. Together, tablets with all their accessories, end up weighing more than the laptop they were trying to replace.
I get to have the first look at devices like the BlackBerry Playbook, New HP Palm WebOS products, Meego tablets, and iDevices. Right now the tablet is expressed in many varieties. Tablets come in a range of sizes from 7 inches to 11 inches, ones with slide out keyboards and hybrids that dock or clamshells with detachable screens. The designs will continue to evolve to address user demands. I am convinced consumers are still not sure what to use them for. I don't believe we will have universal adoption of tablets until we have mastered instantaneous synchronization across platforms and hardware. That is the next major leap we will see. While tools like Dropbox and Google Apps get us closer, they still are too cumbersome.
Some day, just like we saw in films like Avatar, real-time synchronized tablets, touch tables, consoles and other marvelous technology will be fully integrated in our lives. We are stuck with a cumbersome array of devices for different purposes. These devices might just be an iteration of the many devices we will see in the future.
Last, we will arrive sooner if we collaborate. Open innovation where companies share breakthroughs can only help the whole community of tablet developers. Making the users experience universally easy and convenient through syncing technology and cloud computing alone will propel the tablet far beyond the experience it allows today. Competition is great but maybe it should be left to companies racing to best embody both of these, not creating parallel ecosystems, app stores and incompatible hardware.
Hurdles like these still lie ahead. In the meantime, let's be patient with tablets and embrace a lab coat approach to our technology use and experience. Today the consumer and technician are kindred travelers in this dreamlike world of technology, where in short order, we can have that which we imagine.
John Bergquist works in tablet and mobile technology development as a member of the Intel Appup Developer Program and a Meego community member. He is the Communications Director for both Soma Games and Code-Monkeys and a mobile app evangelist.
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