Apple, of course, did not invent the tablet, but its tremendously successful iPad launch has taken the class of device, which previously had been struggling for face time like a B-list singer at a charity sing-along, and made it a star.
The next phase is upon us. AT&T said late last week that the iPad will be sold to corporate clients. This, according to the InformationWeek story, is unique:
AT&T's move marks the first time a vendor has positioned the iPad as a business tool. Analysts said the strategy is likely to pay dividends as companies look to offer their employees computing tools that mirror those they use in their personal lives.
The traction tablets have gotten from informal use in the marketplace is in verticals such as health care and retail, in which people are highly mobile, especially within a building or campus. It will be interesting to see whether AT&T and Apple, and the carriers/vendors that will inevitably follow, will market to the most apt verticals or take a broader approach.
However it happens, tablets will move to the head of the parade during the next few months. Gartner projects intensive growth for tablets through 2013. Sales will move from 19.5 million this year to 54.8 million next, 103.4 million in 20102 and 154.1 million in 2013. The increases will be propelled by a price of less than $300 during the next two years. The firm predicts that the category that will suffer most from the tablet's growth will be mini-notebooks.
The press release offers interesting commentary on how the tablet will be used by business people. Tablets won't be a primary device, but a handy device after smartphones and notebooks. In many cases, businesses won't pay for a third device, so the tablet will be bought by the consumer and used both for personal and business tasks.
This interesting post at Wired.com uses stats from IDC and a commentary from Deutsche Bank-which, in tern, uses IBM numbers-to do a couple of things. The first is to make the point that the iPad is hot and, if it is grouped with PCs, could be said to make Apple the biggest computer manufacturer in the United States.
The even bigger picture is that the very definitions that folks have been relying on for years may be becoming outdated. Writes Tim Carmody:
Part of what's happening here is a struggle to define "personal computer" in a world of convergent and crossover devices. IDC's data for PCs includes desktops, laptops and mini notebooks and doesn't include "handhelds" or servers. The iPad and other tablets count as handhelds, along with smartphones, e-readers and media players. Even though tablets and ultraportable laptops fall in the same price range, perform many (although not all) of the same tasks and compete with each other for buyers' attention and dollars, they're not grouped in the same category.
The emergence of the smartphone was the first great blow against the line between computers and small handheld mobile devices. The birth of the iPad and other tablets-and their pending invasion of the workplace-is further evidence that the demarcation is fading.