Now that the iPad is declared “Gadget of the Year” by T3 magazine and there is a flood of tablets coming our way, it’s time to ponder about how these will be used productively in the enterprise. And it’s not hard to predict the next killer app for the corporate world.
The smartphone, already an essential tool, and the tablet, each have their inherent limitations. The smartphone is in essence a mini computer, but is just not practical for extended periods of usage. For one, its screen size is too small, and secondly, onscreen keyboards or slide-out physical keyboards are just not comfortable enough. Those who have attempted typing an entire report or story on their smartphones will agree.
The tablet too has its limitations. It’s a device for consuming content and is not very apt for creating content or editing documents.
But pair these two devices together and you have a killer app. That’s what RIM is trying to do with its PlayBook tablet (due early next year). The PlayBook will pair up with a BlackBerry handset via a Bluetooth connection. Then content that appears on the Blackberry phone’s screen will also appear on the tablet. That will overcome the limitation of screen size. We can also expect a virtual keypad with animation that simulates the tactile key presses of a physical keyboard.
Microsoft and Samsung will be launching tablets this year and Dell has just launched the Streak. And Cisco’s Cius enterprise tablet is expected in Q4 2010.
I see lots of useful applications for the smartphone-tablet combo. One of these is video conferencing on-the-go. Then there’s virtual computing—images of your desktop environment will be pushed to your smartphone and tablet, thus enabling employees to work from anywhere. But for that we are going to need faster 3G connectivity. The possibilities seem endless especially when you consider the hundreds of enterprise applications available from App stores. And then a company could have custom-built applications for the highly-specific needs of its mobile workforce. *