The future of tablets: More sensory, personalized devices, less ‘awful’ enterprise apps

by David Needle

February 22 2013

Robert Scoble (far right) points to his imaginary iWatch. Left to right, Ben Bajarin, Maribel Lopez and Rob Enderle at Tablet Strategy West.
Robert Scoble (far right) points to his imaginary iWatch. Left to right, Ben Bajarin, Maribel Lopez and Rob Enderle at Tablet Strategy West.

No one can say what the next breakthrough tablet device will be for sure, but we’re definitely going to see a lot of attempts to create “the next big thing.”

A lively, free-spirited discussion on the future of tablets by a trio of well-known Silicon Valley analysts wrapped up the first TabTimes Tablet Strategy West conference this week.

Tech blog superstar Robert Scoble moderated the discussion and contributed plenty of his own ideas including the notion that “predictive technology” like Google Now is filtering out to our devices.

He said, for example, that sports arenas and stadiums are starting to design services for customers at the events who bring their devices (smartphones and tablets) with them such as exclusive video views of the game action.


“Now that they know people will bring their devices to the game, they want to figure out 'how do you get a beer to that person'?” said Scoble, the Startup Liaison Officer at Rackspace.

Ben Bajarin of Creative Strategies agreed there is a lot of personalization, but said we sometimes give our devices and services too much credit for being “smart.”

“Google Now is an anticipation engine, but our devices aren’t really that smart, we have to set them up and customize them first,’ he said. “We’re nowhere near a future of uber personalization.”

Analyst Rob Enderle disagreed, noting that services from Google and Amazon do learn a lot by simply tracking our behavior online.

“Amazon is the best example. They do learn about you and what to sell you and they turn that into revenue,” he said.

Analyst Maribel Lopez said a related trend is a variation on the idea of real-time information called the Right Time experience. “It’s the idea of getting you the information or service just when you need it.

“Google Now is an example. It started out as a set of contextual services, but now where Google knows your location, your calendar and other information it can pull together what you need at the right time so it’s just there for you; it knows ‘what Maribel wants’.”

Handheld phablets to big ass tablets

There was agreement among the panel that the new category of phablets that began with Samsung’s Galaxy Note line, is starting to get traction.

Scoble said Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was dismissive of the oversized smartphone factor at first as were other tech leaders he’s interviewed.

“But after playing with one for awhile he (Zuckerberg) is now pro-Phablet,” said Scoble.

The phablet has a chance, we just have to find the right combination of features and technology that will make it work,” said Lopez. She also noted it’s not necessarily a case of the phablet replacing other devices. “We keep trying to kill devices, but the reality is nothing ever really goes away,” she said.

At the other extreme in terms of size, Enderle noted tablet technology is showing up in new places like cars.

“Look at Tesla’s Model S, it has a big ass tablet display right in the dash.”

A new generation of apps

Touch and other sensory technology, some of it being pioneered by gaming and educational apps, promises to improve enterprise apps that are “really pretty awful right now,” said Lopez. “There’s a real opportunity with mobile devices to figure out a better way.”

Bajarin pointed to an app from Pixa called Perspective that he said is one of the best ways to analyze data and “tell a story” on the iPad. “They created this for the iPad because they believe the tablet is the best way to use the software. You can create something by just dragging your finger.”

The next Tablet Strategy conference is April 30 in New York

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