Tablets, tablets everywhere

tablets everywhere.jpegI was on the amazon.co.uk website the other day, buying a “digital slim” cordless vacuum cleaner. While I was there—I’m not sure how this happened but it’s a testament to the magic of a great online shopping experience—I ended up looking at generic 7-inch Android tablets. And to my surprise, there was one that for which 85 percent of its 354 ratings were four or five stars. It cost just $124.

I wondered to myself, “What if we could afford a reasonably decent tablet for every room in the house?”

So, I did a little experiment. Much to my wife’s annoyance, I bought this $124 tablet (we already own a smartphone per person, three iPod touches, an iPad and four laptops, which may have contributed to her annoyance). I explained, “It’s not for me - it’s for the furtherment of science. You have no idea how many great scientific discoveries have been made on kitchen tables.”

The experiment I’m running now is a “tablet in every kitchen” experiment. What will we use it for?

  • As a household diary, synched to our smartphones
  • For physical addresses and telephone numbers, synched to our smartphones
  • For shopping lists, again, synched to smartphones
  • For writing my “todo” list - the list is actually created and prioritized by my family, but I’m the lucky one who gets to do the work
  • Making lists for the kids—“things to take to cooking lessons next week", that sort of thing
  • Consulting the TV Guide: “Is there anything good on tonight?”
  • Music control for the kitchen/dining room (I play music to an AirPlay box attached to an amplifier)
  • Programming the house’s heating/cooling/water reuse systems (I don’t actually have this capability, but I predict we all will in the future)


Other uses for “tablets everywhere”

If these tablets were affordable enough, where else could we use them?

 

In the lounge: One could complement the smart TV, help with light control, provide access to the household diary, etc

 

In restaurants:  I was out recently with my wife and some friends at our local Indian restaurant. I was telling everyone about my “tablet in every room” experiment. The waiter overheard. He said, “India will release an even cheaper tablet before Christmas. We’re going to have one for every waiter. We may even buy one for each table so you can order for yourselves”. Not everyone thinks that this will take off as a concept, however.


In hotels: In a hotel in Thailand, you get a Samsung Galaxy II when you check in. It allows you to get into your room, control the room, order services, and so on. A tablet would probably be a wiser user interface experience for customers—smartphones can be a little small for “older eyes”

 

In stores: display a limited range of items, but use talets to allow customers to order in different colors, or sizes not currently in the stock. Allow customers to check on stock levels themselves. Suggest complimentary items. Suggest whole outfits - "I'm going to a wedding, what do you suggest?"

 

In hospitals: a tablet for every patient. Show patients a limited view of their customer records. Tell them "what happens next?" (whenever I visit anyone in hospital, I ask, "so what happens next?"  The patient rarely knows, or can't remember because the last doctor's visit was a blur of information and anxiety). Entertain the patients with happy, unlifting content - maybe Amazon and Google would like to provide low-cost content to "hook" patients to TV series or book series while they lie in bed with nothing to do.  Or, one could give them courses on health management - "how to stop smoking", "how to control your weight", "making exercise easy", "getting your drink under control","Pilates in bed", and so on.


In the gym: Experiment number two will be to put my gym workouts into Evernote on this generic tablet. I can then update my weight lifting progress (or lack thereof) as I complete my circuit around the gym

 

In the car: There will be one for the driver for information, advice and directions, and one for each of the passengers

 

In museums and art galleries: Like many museums, the Tate Modern in London already uses limited-functionality iPod Touches, and very useful they are too.

 

In schools: A friend of mine is working on a project to buy a tablet for each senior child in her school. The Indian tablet project’s main aim is to allow each kid to be loaned a tablet for their studies . This is also the $38 tablet our Indian waiter referred to last week.

The tablet market is starting to segment into sub-markets

As markets grow, they segment. I don’t think there is a “tablet market” any more. I think it’s splitting into something like this:

Business and home use: For people who use a tablet for business, but also want to use it at home. No one wants a tablet just for business, of course.

 

Just home use: A lot of people don’t work, and some really don’t need a tablet for their work. But they want to surf the web, view images, listen to music, email, tweet, visit Facebook, etc. This is the segment that Amazon Fire and Google Nexus 7 and 10 are aimed at, I believe.

 

Specific use tablets like the use cases I’ve described above. For this segment, we probably don’t care that the tablet is a generic brand - we just need something with decent battery life, good screen resolution, and good apps on it.

So what?

Right now, we assume that a tablet is either owned by one person or that it is a family device. “Tablets everywhere” will mean that we move to a “many devices, many users” model.

Tablets will need to be “multi-user.” If I walk up to “the kitchen tablet,” I want it give me all my “stuff” (i.e. access to my cloud services, probably). And I want it to do this really, really quickly. Windows 8 RT and the newly announced Android 4.2 have multi-user capabilities.

User context will need to be switchable between tablets. If I book something into the household diary when in the kitchen, I need to able to move that booking when I’m in the lounge, or the car.

If I want to access “my stuff” from a tablet in the kitchen, a tablet in my lounge and in my car, then that stuff needs to be stored off the device, probably in the cloud.

What does this mean for the future of applications?

The success, or otherwise, of “specific-use tablets” lies with the excellence of the applications that run on them.

At HP, we are creating a “crowd-sourced” vision of the world in 2020, including a chapter on application development in 2020. Multi-device applications like those I’ve described above are discussed in the “Dev Center 2020” chapter.

We’d love to hear what you have to say about tablets (and anything else to do with what the world will be like in 2020). Please feel free to go to the Enterprise 2020 website and leap into the discussions.

Results

As for my “kitchen tablet” experiment - how is that working out?

For $124, the tablet really is good—I understand why it gets such good ratings on amazon.co.uk.

However, my wife isn’t interested in helping to usher in an age of “tablets everywhere.” Like the restaurant goers who don’t like to order using tablets at their tables, she likes paper—a paper diary and paper shopping list.

 

Author : Mike Shaw

Comments
Termite barrier(anon) | ‎01-04-2013 03:23 AM
So happy to support your organization.
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About the Author
Mike has been with HP for 30 years. Half of that time was in R&D, mainly as an architect. The other 15 years has been spent in product manag...


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