Is it Time to Take the Tablet? The Rise and (Possible) Fall of a Digital Device

Posted on Monday, January 14th, 2013 by Print This Post Print This Post

Categories - Mobile

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The other day, blekko (the ‘spam-free search engine’) released a search engine and browser specifically tailored for tablets called izik. Instead of simply redesigning their current site for tablets, blekko have created a whole new tablet-inspired engine from the ground up, designed specifically for the this emerging platform. Could this lay down the gauntlet for other search engines and online services to start putting tablets at the centre of their technologies, rather than as an afterthought in the form of an ‘optimised’ site?

Maybe.

It does seem that everyone is getting on the tablet zeitgeist at last – you can’t move for tablets, or tablet-related stories these days (e.g. this recent one on tablet paid search spend surpassing that of smartphones). But can you believe it was actually three years ago now that they first (properly) sidled into view?

Here in the heady heights of 2013 it’s hard to remember life before the portable pad. But try your hardest for me, and stretch your mind way back to 2010 when Apple’s iPad was first released. Remember the backlash against the silly name, the size and the price? Mmm, it doesn’t seem so silly now. Apart from the price, which for stringent consumers like myself, is still a bit ridiculous. But what I’m getting at is how tablet computers are beginning to be whole heartedly embraced in 2013, almost as must-have gadgets, whereas before they were seen (by me, at least) to be slightly superfluous and extravagant. So what’s changed? And why has the tablet become essential gadget fodder all of a sudden?

Now, I don’t actually own a tablet myself, but like a lot of people, I do want one and I’m not alone in my second (third? fourth?) screen desire. Apple’s latest release, the iPad’s little brother – an on-trend 7 inch contender – the iPad ‘Mini’, was apparently the most in-demand gift this past holiday season and two friends of mine also received 7 inch tablets in their stockings. So is it the size? Was the initial 9½ inch iPad too big? One of my hesitations about the iPad when it was first released was the size – although more convenient than a laptop, it wasn’t safely convenient and portable enough to convince me it was better than a smartphone in your pocket. If you wanted to go out and about with your 10 or so inch tablet then you needed a bag, and a large enough one at that. But a 7 inch fits in a (big) pocket and slips easily into your small bag. Perfect.

Amazon’s Kindle managed to strike the right size-chord, but to begin with was simply an e-reader. Now the size of a Kindle with the functionality of an iPad have been merged to bring to life the current crop of tablets that are currently flying off the digital shelves – the Kindle Fire HD, Google Nexus 7 and iPad Mini being some of the most well-known.

However, I don’t believe it’s solely to do with size. A lot of new devices do take a while to catch on and for the designers and developers to really get it right. This is the first time, however, that I’ve found myself quite skeptical with a new piece of technology to start, but then slowly finding myself convinced otherwise. Maybe that’s simply a sign of my age – I’m beginning to no longer flow happily along with the river of ever-moving and evolving technology like children so easily do, but starting to sink in a flood of incomprehensible information, innovation and invention like a tired old adult. *GASP*

Anyway, I do feel like there is an unspoken consensus that this is the year of the tablet. I think it may be because we are slowly but surely wending our way towards the perfect digital platform. What with the new ‘convertible’ devices that switch from laptop to tablet and back again, smartwatches (see the much hyped Pebble watch) and ‘phablets’, we have the option of browsing the internet or playing with apps on screens of numerous different shapes and sizes. Where will it end? I can’t help but imagine a device that conquers all – capable of changing sizes when we want it to and having the functionality of a mobile, tablet and laptop, all in one.

So perhaps tablets are a necessary stepping stone on the walk to this ultimate, unfathomable device. And maybe the real question is how long will we be satisfied with the tablet before we move onto something else on our road to get there? We’re seeing how tablets are affecting laptops and we saw how laptops affected desktop PCs, so what product will be the downfall of the tablet? A different sized tablet (which is maybe already the case with the new wave of 7 inchers) or a mobile phone convergence in the shape of a phablet? I think we’ve already explored all the sizes possible, so now it will have to be something convertible.  I don’t know, all of these different devices are getting a bit much, and I’m not the only one a bit overwhelmed.

I don’t think online and digital businesses will be able to risk assuming the tablet will only be with us for a short time longer, though. Tablets are what the masses want now so building tablet-focused products and services like izik is a good move, as far as I’m concerned. Hopefully, products like izik will spur other businesses to develop platform-specific sites and services more often – when an application is designed purposefully for one device it (usually) improves the user experience.

So, if 2013 is the year where the tablet firmly places itself as the digital device frontrunner, even if

it seems like it’s taken quite a while to get there, how long will it last on top?

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4 Responses to “Is it Time to Take the Tablet? The Rise and (Possible) Fall of a Digital Device”

  1. Nice article Louise…

    The main hurdle of price has been leaped. Size doesn’t seem to matter (can you you Phablet anyone?) and it’s passed fab into functional.

    Input options appear to be the biggest challenge, until talk to type is perfected (*perfected* not 95%), or until the stylus is less clunky, the only reasons I still have a desktop or laptop are:

    1) Second screen or screen real estate
    2) Mouse & keyboard work *really* well
    3) Computing speed
    4) Available applications

    Tablets are here, and here to stay… the question I have is “can we negate the reasoning above?” so I can dump my laptop and desktop once and for all??

  2. Louise Vine says:

    Thanks Grant.

    I agree that size and price have been tackled, but I’m not sure about the input problem being solved by talk to type. Even if talk to type is 100% perfect, I’d still feel like an idiot doing it out in public! Surely it’s only practical in your own home?

    But yes, next on the list for tablets to confront are computing speed and available applications.

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