Top Tech Topic of 2011: Tablets

I believe the technology winner for 2010 was Cloud Computing. Over the course of 2010 delivery of Cloud-based products heated up and made a mark in the market. This started with releases such as Microsoft’s Azure and continued throughout the year with nearly every major vendor releasing products or strategies. 2010, however, is over and we are in a new year.

Cloud Computing will continue to be big and important, but 2011 will be the year that makes or breaks tablet computing and tablet devices. While the iPad has dominated the market for tablet devices, in 2011 the market will explode with devices from a multitude of companies. Not only will there be a variety of devices, but there will also be a variety sizes and platforms.

In reality, there has actually been a variety of devices, platforms, and manufacturers prior to 2011. Window CE tablet devices have been around for years. A variety of Android devices ranging from just over a hundred dollars up to more than a thousand dollars are already available. There are even existing devices that will let you install multiple operating systems.

The difference in 2011 is that the quality of the devices will continue to improve. Additionally, the platforms (operating systems) will be better tweaked to support the needs of tablet users, such as multi-touch. After all, Windows CE was not really a touch-based operating system, and Android was initially focused on phones. In 2011, we will see Windows 7 appear on tablets. Additionally, Android has also evolved to the point where it is better suited for the platform.

A new version of the iPad is set to release in 2011 as well. This should help raise the bar across the board on what is acceptable for a tablet device. We’ll see if the barrage of Android and Windows 7 tablet devices set to hit the market can keep up with the current leader.

The success of tablets is not predestined. There will be a variety of issues that come up in 2011. The issue of standards will come to a head. Right now there are a variety of sizes for devices ranging from phone screens, to 5, 7, 9, and 10 inch screens. There are expected to be even larger screens.

Of course, it is easy to choose an operating system such as Android. 2011 is going to be the year to determine whether Android becomes a standardized power player or whether it crashes due to fragmentation. It is starting the year with a large number of high profile companies announcing and releasing devices. Some of the companies are starting to tweak Android, so not every company’s release matches everyone else’s. These little tweaks can cause the fragmentation and forking of the platform. Too much fragmentation can dilute the portability and ease of moving from one device to another. We’ll see over 2011 whether Google starts controlling this or if Android beings to spin out of control.

The biggest thing we should see in 2011 that will make or break tablets is the ability to make money writing applications for the platform. Money has been made on iPad applications as well as on phone applications. Will the return on the investment exist for most tablet applications? Reports are already starting to surface about companies that are dropping tablet application development because they are seeing the costs outweigh the return they expect to get. In 2011 we’ll see if more people move to the platform rather than away from it.

I could continue on, but I believe it is enough to say that tablet computing will be one of the top technology battle of 2011, if not the biggest. By the end of 2011, we are likely to know whether tablets are going to be a huge market, or a fad that will peak. Either way, I expect tablets will be the top tech topic of the next twelve months.

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