iPad success asks what a tablet should be, run and do

While PCs have been sold for over 30 years as general purpose devices, tablets have evolved around central business models, with added capabilities coming in as-needed.

With Apple Stores closing to handle deliveries of the iPad, the company's rivals are going through some head-scratching over what a tablet should be, run and do.

It's a good time for you to do the same.

Both HP and Microsoft recently shuttered plans to launch tablets based on Microsoft Windows, with speculation rising that HP's purchase of Palm is based on its putting the Palm OS onto a tablet. (HP Tablet picture from Wikipedia.)

In its salad days Palm had redefined the mobile space, adding more-and-more PC functions to its pocket organizers. Apple killed that trend with its iPhone, taking Palm's functionality, adding voice to it, and wrapping it up in a cute interface.

But a tablet is not a phone. Even Apple has admitted that. (Jon Stewart joked about it this week, holding up his own iPad and pretending to make a call with one.) While AT&T was the key data player for the iPhone, Apple admits the iPad is built around WiFi.

In terms of software the iPad is roughly compatible with the iPhone, running a new build of the software used on the phone. Because of their size, tablets have traditionally been built around a PC operating system. Some can flip around and become PCs, with their own keyboards.

So what is a tablet? Is it a PC? Is it a phone? Is it something in between? Or is it something else all together?

The first indication a tablet would be something completely different came a few years ago, when Amazon released its Kindle. As the iPod was built around a business model -- music -- so the Kindle was built around one -- electronic books.

It may well be that, within a few yeras, all that will be left of the Kindle will be its format and its store. Even if that is the case, Amazon's intent in pushing the product will have been achieved. It's in the blade business, not razors.

Where the iPad may shine best is as a media player. Its large screen and WiFi access makes it a likely candidate for downloading and using video. As its storage increases with time, in order to maintain the price point, these advantages will only grow.

The business model tail wags the technology dog.

While PCs have been sold for over 30 years as general purpose devices, tablets have evolved around central business models, with added capabilities coming in as-needed.

But is that the way it has to be? What do you think tablets will look like in 2015 and beyond? What do you want them to do? What software should they run? What will they be?

In that conversation, you have the ultimate power. Use it wisely.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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