The introduction of the Apple iPad has ushered in a new era of tablet computing. Over the next 12 months the market will be flooded with competitive tablets based on Google Android, Microsoft Windows 7, RIM’s QNX OS and HP Palm WebOS. ABI research estimates that 11 million tables to be shipped by the end of 2010. Manufacturers such as Cisco, HP, RIM Blackberry, Motorola and Sony are working on new tablets. Tablet computing represents a new battleground where multiple sectors are competing for the first time. Smartphone manufacturers (Apple, RIM), computer companies (HP, Dell), entertainment device manufacturers (Sony) and even networking companies (Cisco) all are competing in the tablet marketplace.
Tablets are a natural device for travel with their high entertainment focus (movies, books), always on connectivity (no need to wait for the computer to boot) and light portable design. As competition heats up in 2010-2011, capabilities such as two cameras will allow video conferencing and AR apps to take on a new enhanced capability on a growing number of tablets.
All travel companies must start now on their tablet strategy for every market segment – business, groups & meetings, and leisure travel. Research has continually shown that frequent travelers are the early adopters of new technology. Though much of the focus has been on the ability of a tablet to replace a laptop, the product category itself represents a new platform. Applications such as Flipboard, which aggregates Facebook, Twitter and other feeds into a very appealing magazine-like style, is an example of a new application that is taking advantage of the tablet platform. As with any new platform, simply taking an existing Website or smartphone app and applying it to the new tablet devices, misses the opportunity the new platform provides. The key for tablet apps is personalization and integration of multiple sources of information into a seamless app that is location and contextually sensitive (a similar mantra to smartphone app development) but also takes advantage of the larger screen and ability to more easily integrate immersive video and gaming.