Tablets, tablets, tablets

Four and a half years ago I was asked a question at a SALT (Society for Applied Learning Technology) conference about what the future learning and training would be delivered on. Most were talking about iPods and handheld units taking over much of the eLearning content we see today. I simply said “tablets”.

“Tablet” is indeed the new buzz word and they’ve only been a reality for less than a year. There are currently so many tablets on the market and more scheduled to drop in the coming months, that MetaMedia, about a year ago, started a spreadsheet comparing all the tablets rumored and confirmed. It lists features and capabilities, something that we as a solutions provider are tasked with discovering for many of our clients. Our job as media developers is to help our clients make an educated decision on what device to go with, and to show them why a certain device is better than another depending on their need. So many organizations are currently seeking mobile development and MetaMedia has been in the throes of developing applications, mobile sites, and solutions for training, job aides, and custom programs.

When looking for a specific tablet for a client, certain requirements will remove a device from the running of possible devices. Questions we often ask our clients when approached to do a mobile project:

  • Will it be used in an area that will have wifi capability, and is that how you are wanting it to connect to the web/networks?
  • Is a stylus or writing tool necessary?
  • Does the user need to input text data or are onscreen buttons with single press interactions going to be used?
  • How rugged does the device need to be? What environment will it be used in? Will it need to have a ruggedized rating?
  • What type of media will be accessed on the device? Is Flash playback necessary for the device?
  • Are there minimum or maximum size restrictions?

Why did I think tablets were the future as I do now? Because our lives have become so fragmented and busy would be the quick answer, but it has more to do with staying connected and productive no matter where one may be. Since the advent of the cell phone people are more mobile with their business and training than ever. On the train you see people checking and answering emails; on the planes, learning how to catch a small-mouth bass; and in their car, listening to safety podcasts on the way to a disaster cleanup effort three states away.

Some reasons I feel tablets are the future:

  • Tablets bridge the gap between computer and phone.
  • Tablets require no peripherals (mouse, keyboard, etc)
  • Tablets have a longer battery life than laptops.
  • Tablets have larger screens and full onscreen keyboards for data entry over cell phones.
  • Tablets have a larger screen for viewing entire web pages and spreadsheets over cell phones.
  • Tablets cost less than a laptop.

There are many more reasons I could list, but the thing that has solidified my belief in tablet technology as the solution for most mobile users has been owning one. I purchased a 3G iPad when it was released. At first , I thought of it as a tool I doubted I would use very often as I felt Apple had missed out on certain features that should be standard to a tablet device, (camera for video/photo capture, multi-tasking). I still think those features are missing, (though this month’s update is rumored to fix the multi-tasking issue), but what I didn’t expect – that I would take it everywhere and use it all the time. It has quickly become a tool I bring to meetings to take notes and work through comps and draw on top of graphics and websites with clients, taking notes on their edits, then sending those marked-up graphics and edits to developers - showing them how I’d like changes made. I bring it to coffee shops and write articles, stories, and emails on it, sending drafts to editors, publishers, and clients, from my parked car, while at lunch, or sitting out on my deck. What is more amusing – I’ve had friends tell me I’m too productive. Is there such a thing?

The next six months will be very telling, as tablets become cheaper, bugs are worked out, and people begin to use them in ways even the manufacturers may not have intended or foreseen. The future is a bright and shiny touchscreen place.

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