2011: The Year of the TabletElance_Keith | Jan 13, 2011
Chances are if you read any technology blog predictions for 2011, you would know that tablet devices are going to grow on trees this year. It was a slam dunk prediction that was hammered home as a gaggle of tablet devices were unveiled at the International Consumer Electronics Show this past week in Las Vegas.
There were, by Engadget’s count, a whopping 36 tablets showcased at CES this year, with 24 of them running Google’s Android operating system. A handful of those offerings, including the CES Best in Show winner Motorola Xoom tablet, will run on Android 3.0 (codename Honeycomb), the first operating system to be built entirely for tablet devices—which is a clear indication Google believes the tablet landscape is lucrative enough to warrant its own native OS instead of simply running a modified version of Android for smartphones. Also, several manufacturers offered Windows 7-based tablets, suggesting Microsoft has gone head-first into the tablet space as well.
How popular is the tablet going to be?
The tablet device is going to being saturating the personal computing market very, very quickly. Forrester Research predicts that in 2011, tablet sales in the U.S. will double and that by 2015, nearly a quarter of all personal computing devices will be a tablet. With the majority of these new devices likely running Android, we needn’t look further than the current smartphone marketplace to see the growth potential for Google. ComScore recently released data that showed Android is now the second hottest-selling smartphone OS among US buyers today, with 26 percent of all US smartphone subscribers in the quarter ending November 2010, beating Apple's iPhone for the first time. We’ve seen the growth on the Elance marketplace too, as the number of Android jobs posted has gone up a remarkable 221% from this time a year ago. Expect that number to increase even more as more tablets show up in stores, not to mention the next wave of Android smartphones.
Speaking of Apple, no discussion about the tablet ecosystem would be complete without mention of their market-leading iPad. Though it wasn’t released until April of 2010, the iPad generated over three thousand job posts on the Elance marketplace last year—a remarkable number considering it was the only major tablet available. Now that it’s no longer the only game in tablet town, rumors have been abuzz that Apple is preparing their second generation iPad for a Q1 release in order stave off their new competition—whose offerings have better specs like dual-core processors, front and rear cameras, and higher resolution displays.
Following in the smartphone’s footsteps
This is an awful lot of chatter for an unproven type of device, but fortunately for the long-term success of the tablet, the smartphone has already paved most of its path. Web and application developers have been producing smartphone content for years now, and there are nearly seven thousand mobile development providers on Elance right now, some which have been hired to help build new businesses, like Quoc Bui and Mike Moon’s Free the Apps, or used to turn Phil Michaelson's student side project into an Apple App Store “Staff Pick.”
Tablets also have the advantage of instant distribution through online application stores, which took off in popularity with smartphones and now have expanded to the desktop/laptop with Google Apps Marketplace and Mac App Store. These stores have quickly become the widely-accepted model for digital distribution and download. For developers, this creates a huge opportunity as the flooding of new devices will give them even more chances to build applications, and know that the entire process, from SDK to revenue sharing, will be similar, if not identical, to what they’ve experienced with smartphones.
Implications for enterprise and design
There are currently half a million combined apps in the Apple App Store and Android Market, most of which are geared towards consumers. As we discussed earlier on our blog, the mobile gaming space is as explosive as any. While this will likely continue to be the trend for mobile, potential for tablet use in business will present an opportunity for developers to work on more enterprise applications aimed at productivity and efficiency. As consumer use goes up, it’s inevitable that people are going to want to use their tablets at work, and IT departments are going to feel the pressure to adopt them for several reasons. Three newcomers to the scene–The Cisco Cius, RIM Playbook and soon-to-be-announced HP PalmPad–may able to hit the ground running by leveraging its existing enterprise contracts with businesses. With the iPad and the numerous Android tablets taking the lion’s share of consumers, it’s probably an uphill battle for the tablet rookies to make much of a dent initially, but the enterprise space seems ripe for their picking.
From a design perspective, there should be a continuation of mobile design evolution from the smartphone. Obviously there will be some new developments, as tablets provide more screen real estate compared to smartphones and provide much more flexibility of design. And because tablets are better equipped for browsing and entertainment, there will be more emphasis on multimedia, user interaction and experience—before you know it, you won’t give a second thought to dragging, flipping, pinching and other various finger manipulation.
All in all, we should prepare ourselves for the next device revolution, which should net huge opportunities for Elancers who possess skills in mobile design and application development for Android, iOS, Windows 7, Blackberry Tablet OS and webOS. It’s really as exciting a time as ever for the Elance web, programming and mobile design communities—but remember, the tablet craze doesn’t start until consumers buy them.
So do you plan on purchasing a tablet device in 2011? If so, which one? Let us know by voting in our Facebook poll!