Last Friday the iPad 3 was made commercially available to the world and it is incredible to think that just 24 months ago the original iPad first appeared. One could say that the tablet gold rush is a contemporary phenomenon; however, the tablet—as we know it today—is the result of countless prototypes and commercial blunders of more primitive technologies. While the success of the modern tablet is attributed in large part to Apple’s proven marketing strategy and product excellence, I would add that the underlying technologies that define the tablet experience were not ripe until recently.
If we are to reflect on the pre-iPad world, we must keep in mind that iPad’s predecessors were very different from what we have come to expect from contemporary tablet devices. The modern tablet is the offspring of personal digital assistants (e.g., Palm-Pilot), and the graphics tablets that began to appear in the early 1980s (e.g., Pencept Penpad). These technologies influenced the modern tablet concept—through form factor and functionality—and should be recognized on this date.
It is also worth mentioning that before there were consumer tablets, enterprises were making use of professional tablets that were purposely designed for different vertical markets. These were cumbersome, limited in functionality—no web browser and application store—and costly, making them a niche product. These enterprise-centric products are still around today; however, the ubiquity of the iPad and its contemporaries (e.g., Android-based tablets and the RIM PlayBook) is forcing professional tablet vendors to rethink their product strategy.
Consumer tablets have the peculiarity that they were influenced by professional tablets, and due to their commercial success and broad range of functionalities, have made their way into the enterprise space. Today, we see personally-owned tablets being used by workers across the globe and this is resulting in a paradigm shift within enterprises, particularly within IT departments. Support for bring-your-own-device (BYOD) is the latest trend to hit the ICT world, and this is a direct consequence of the proliferation of tablets and smartphones.
The tablet market is a cash cow in the making. Not only are tablets here to stay, their versatility allows them to be used in almost any enterprise setting. This means that the tablet market will create new markets, making this the opportunity of a lifetime for many ICT vendors. The other side of the coin is that the tablet will destroy pre-existing markets; however, many would say this is the price to pay for progress.
Happy birthday iPad 3, we expect great things from you.