Tablets optimize

Predicting how tablets will evolve by 2015

Patrick Gray discusses some of the ways he thinks tablets will evolve in the next three years. Do you agree?

Tablets have finally made it through the struggles of childhood and are now entering their rambunctious teenage years. We've weeded out the "me too" products and are left with three major players in the tablet market: Apple, Google, and a resurgent Microsoft. The products from the former two are reaching a state of maturity, where they can reliably serve enterprise computing functions, while Microsoft is gearing up for a major push into the market it once owned. With the market maturing, how might tablets evolve and be serving the enterprise in the coming three years?

Personalized, schizophrenic

Just as mobile phones and laptops have increasingly become tools of personal expression, tablets have continued the trend. This has created a difficult task for CIOs, who are now asked to allow any and all devices into the corporate network while simultaneously maintaining security. I believe users will win out in terms of bringing their personal tablets to work, but we'll increasingly see software that allows the devices to act differently based on context. At work, a user's preferred device might present a corporate-approved series of applications and access rights, while at home the device "opens up" as it abandons access to critical corporate data and applications. We're seeing software like this already, but it's too clunky, essentially creating two computing environments in a single device.

Content creation

The big complaint with the current crop of tablets is that they fail to offer adequate tools for content creation. An iPad may be perfect for web browsing, but it's severally lacking for the unglamorous yet ubiquitous task of writing a long email or jockeying a spreadsheet. Hardware has already responded with everything from detachable keyboards to transforming tablets, but by 2015, we'll see better software and evolved storage, the biggest remaining obstacles to content creation on mobile devices.

Storage, evolved

Cloud-based storage has hit its stride, along with the increased uptake of mobile devices, but it's still neither ubiquitous nor seamless. By 2015, users will likely purchase blocks of storage from a handful of cloud providers, just as we now purchase a hard drive from a vendor. This storage will be accessed in a standardized manner that's transparent to the user, as opposed to today's variety of incompatible services that each require specialized software on every device. Once our content is universally accessible, we'll demand the ability to view and modify it from any device.

The end all device

Tablets also have the potential to become many users' primary computing device. I foresee the tablet acting in a traditional content-browsing role, then being plugged into a docking station at work and acting as a traditional desktop. A power user might even have augmented processing power in that dock, allowing him or her to browse the web while sitting on the couch, then dropping the same tablet into a dock and doing high-performance video editing the next minute.

Smartphones are increasingly becoming small tablet computers with augmented communications abilities, and we'll start seeing manufacturers further integrating the two. It's borderline technology sacrilege that my iPhone and iPad effectively ignore each other, just as a Nexus tablet and Samsung Galaxy barely acknowledge each other, despite running complementary operating systems.

While predictions about the future are little more than educated guesses, it's safe to say that the era of the tablet will continue for the coming years, and it has a high potential for becoming most users' primary computing device. With ubiquitous storage and integration to other devices and corporate computing environments, an already personal device is about to become an inseparable part of our computing lives.

What do you think the future holds for tablets? Do you agree with my predictions? What did I miss? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.

About

Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company, and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology, as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. Patrick has...

11 comments
brix10
brix10

Everything you described is available right now and its still 2012. Microsoft offers with the surface and SkyDrive (for cloud storage). It is seamless and while you might only get 7gb free you can access any file on your computer from anywhere using the browser. I have a desktop that has everything and while it's connected to the internet i can grab anything off it i want. I swear most people who review Microsoft's new products have never used them because they're incredible. They offer the type of integration apple and google can only dream of at this point

Bill Day
Bill Day

I respectfully dissent on a few points: 1) There is no way a tablet matches up to the wide screen, full-size keyboard, and large hard drive of my desktop, or even my laptop. 2) Tablets are pretty much closed systems. Forget about installing Linux or plugging in a better video card. In addition, there is no upgrade path. Buy the expensive tablet one year, and it will be obsolete, unsupported, and unupgradable the next. (See first-generation iPad.) 3) You mention using the same device for work and home. Not unless there is a radical change in the law, I don't. I am very happy with my employer, but no employer is going to sink its legal teeth into my iPhone, thus opening up access to all my personal data. And I don't see any way that corporations are going to give up their near-absolute right to all data on "their" machines. So I will buy and use and pay for my own iPhone, thank you very much; our corporate masters can keep their grubby hands off it. 4) In sum, I don't have a tablet; I don't need a tablet, and I don't want a tablet. As for a future in which we are all tablet zombies, it is not a future I relish.

docnorton
docnorton

While I would be charged twice for a contract to use my iPhone and iPad I think the big mobile providers need to address the fact that cost could be hindering a unified solution between the two. If people could take out a single contract for multiple devices we would be progressing the potential of the technology forward. Until then I will opt for a phone and an offline iPad...

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

Yes, tablets are getting better and have their own place in the IT world, but they're like the the electric town car, good for a few special uses but not a good all round general item. The first two items argue for both movement to mobile device and away from mobile device, as well as both to and from cloud usage. A lot of this is very much personal choice and things like 'latest toy' syndrome. Lots of data will stay in personal devices and never get committed to the cloud for many reason, the big ones being security and cost of access, and a close third will be ease of access - in a lot of cases this will help the mobile device movement. I do see data storage moving to portable USB devices for personal use and some corporate use, but not the cloud.

steve
steve

Maybe the hardware, maybe software too. Take up by IT journalists, most definitely. Take up in large rich corporations debateable. Take up by SME's by 2015 very unlikely. Don't write off the Desktop/server network just yet. A lot of small companies still don't even trust the cloud. The most common comment from the directors of the companies I deal with is "no, I want to keep all my valuable data in house", paranoid about losing business data and advantage they have built up over years. I have a major task in the next couplle of months to come up with business advantage to convince a CEO to even consider Thin client rollout for a new Business Software investment we are planning where it would make a great difference. Yes Windows did adapt to the point where NetBui and MS version of TCP/IP eventually displaced Novell and IPX/SPX but that took years 2015? a little optimistic IMHO Steve

jagadeep007
jagadeep007

i guess the evolution of tablets is in progress but in order the tablets to reach every user they to do be compabilitable with different gadegts so everyone can use and tablets software needs to be stable as after a while the touch screen wont work,so need to resolve those problems in order the tablet to succed the current market.suppose if i want to buy a tablets i will think what if the tablets will give me problem,it might be waste of money ?? things like that

msgrstclair
msgrstclair

will be tied to the advances in screen material where we will have roll up tablets, that will automatically log in and save all docs to the cloud, the computing ability will skyrocket as the microchips are enabled in a layer of the tablet that is micro-thin. So, extreme portability, high computing quotient, and unlimited storage ability on the cloud.

ajt88
ajt88

Tablet, Phone, line is getting fainter and fainter. Suggest the device will become more of a communication window used to view applications that include voice that are inherently cloud based, at home those applications are skewed towards social type content while at work those applications are corporate based, but the point is they are all cloud based. No application or storage located on the device itself, allowing the device to be as thin and light as possible and the decision to be called phone or tablet only dictated by the size of the screen.

rwbyshe
rwbyshe

These machines will become more powerful so that they can easily compete with a laptop. What I see happening to them physically would be that the better models would become thicker to accommodate a better processor and cooling system, possibly a solid state HD, a stand built into the back to prop it up, AND a thin "membrane" style keyboard that would slide into the case itself. I DEFINITELY see some models of the tablets looking more like a laptop when all of it's physical items are deployed, but they can remain in a closed position and the unit would look just like a tablet but would be a little thicker. The tablets HAVE to get more user friendly to the masses. Right now they are still mostly a "toy" in my mind. Yes, they do have some practical uses in some niche areas but on the whole they need to become more like a laptop to increase their practicality. That is JMHO !

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

While I will agree that there are now three major players, only one has so far made any impact in the enterprise. Apple has set the bar and that bar is pretty high. Google, with its Android efforts, has so far failed to even get its foot in the door, consistently failing to offer any level of enterprise-level security even though the OS itself is quite popular among its users. Microsoft, on the other hand, is an unknown that may be coming into the field late, but with the advantage of learning from the successes and failures of its predecessors. Microsoft's Surface tablets offer two levels of hand-carried computing that can not only offer direct competition to the others but with the Pro version perhaps exceed those others in certain areas. In the beginning, everybody except Apple believed that a lightweight tablet would come out stillborn. It was simply not an enterprise-level device in their minds and never would be. This, by the way, despite the already obvious inroads the iPhone had made in that market. Still, there were those who insisted that Apple, out of all of them, would fail spectacularly. They believed that openness and customizability would make Android far easier to adopt and far more adaptable to enterprise needs. Strangely, these two factors appear to be the primary reason Android is failing as it has become impossible to secure. Of them all, Microsoft has the real advantage, though. Windows has been in the enterprise for almost 30 years now and Microsoft knows what is needed for enterprise connectivity. Heck, Microsoft pretty much originated the local area network as far as desktop-to-desktop communications went. With that kind of history, making a tablet version talk with that network should be easy, right? Then again, for whatever reason Microsoft claims that the ARM version--RT--won't have that connectivity. What we don't know as yet is what they've done to at least come up with an iPad level of communications which is currently so successful in the enterprise. Surface Pro is different. Surface Pro is a tablet carrying a full, desktop version of Windows 8 which uses its "Modern" (formerly known as "Metro") interface for touch accessibility. It should give those who need a full laptop level of computing power true tablet functionality while maintaining that tablet ease of use that Apple's iOS has introduced. Desktop Windows has been an abysmal failure on tablets for 12 years now, so we really don't know if Surface Pro will do any better. As such, we're NOT into the teenage years of tablet computing yet; we're barely in grade school. We've already seen one player make a strong move--apparently ready to step up to middle school. The second player seems stuck in second grade; just not willing or able to learn a critical lesson to move forward. The third player is like the child who was held back--old enough in its way to run ahead of the first yet only now entering school to face the ridicule of the second-grade bullies. Well, in this case I believe that newcomer will overwhelm the bullies and may even surpass the leader. We'll just have to see. (Please note that I was oversimplifying Microsoft's role in early enterprise computing. There were many protocols then which Windows either adapted to or otherwise accommodated to the point where Windows replaced almost all other operating systems in use at the time. I am aware of the token ring networks and the daisy chains. Somehow, with NT in particular, Windows adapted to the point where the end users saw nothing but Windows and only IT knew different.)

keshar.hayat
keshar.hayat

With advancement in hardware and application the content creation will be not an issue and I'm sure many CEO and big officials would like to use tablet in office attaching with some accessories that connect it to a comfortable key board and a display unit for comfortable viewing experiance. While go out just pick the tablet and move on with all my files and contents without bothering what is available in PC and what is in my tablet, if internet will be available somewhere or not. It will give big comfort. In very near future i see the PC for designers, Laptop for Network engineers and techies and tablet for other users. Existance of all will be there but to specific use.