Report offers peek into the future of tablet computing

A new report published by research and advisory firm Gartner predicts how gadget design--and usage--will evolve in the next 5-10 years, thanks to the influence of the iPad and other multi-touch tablets

How will the success of the iPad affect device design in the next 5-10 years? Some clues can be found in new report (released October 10) by research and advisory firm Gartner. In the report, “iPad and Beyond: What the Future of Computing Holds,” Gartner research director Angela McIntyre describes numerous computing prototypes that are already in development by various manufacturers to predict how consumers and businesses alike will likely change their gadget habits within the next decade as numerous devices are designed increasingly similar to today's tablets.

“Media tablets will instigate change in computing form factors,” writes McIntyre. “Modular designs will enable tablets to take on new functions, becoming the cross-platform controller and brain for hybrid consumer electronics and computers.”

The report lists examples of cross-function tablet devices already in labs and going through testing, based on Gartner research, without revealing what companies or design firms are considering producing them. (Worth noting: Gartner will host a webinar on the report on October 27).

The prototypes mentioned in the report include:

  • phones that use a docked tablet as a screen for videoconferencing
  • home media systems that come with a tablet for controlling the TV and accessing the Internet
  • washing machines that allow users to start the machine or change settings through a tablet from another room in the home
  • point-of-sale systems that retail staff use to enter customer orders or data from anywhere in the store (similar to how Apple stores use iPhones today)
  • tablets docked in car dashboards to replace navigation devices, in-car music and video systems, and car-interior temperature and other controls
  • wirelessly connected at-home healthcare systems, such as a blood-pressure-reading bracelet device, oximeter, and a bathroom scale that together sync with a tablet to help analyze a user’s health and send data to a doctor
  • tablets that replace digital signage in retail environments
  • two tablets that can hinge their screens together to be opened and read like a traditional book

McIntyre also predicts that tablets, and not just smart phones, will become more like digital wallets, replacing the need to carry physical currency or identification. She suggests that identity will be vouched by "voiceprint" (speech verification) or software that can analyze an individual's keystroke patterns.

Multi-touch tablet computing could also spur PC usage in new markets, namely among people who have had no training or desire to learn how to type using a traditional keyboard, the report suggests.

Analyzing this statement, it could be possible that very young children could use tablets earlier than previous generations began using PCs, opening up new potential consumer and educational markets. In addition, people in resource-challenged communities without previous access to PCs with keyboards or typing training could learn to use tablets with instinctive gesture controls more easily and quickly than learning to use PCs in the past.

Of course, all of these concepts are currently just theory. Whether the inventions and innovations discussed in Gartner's report will become widespread will depend on how well their makers market them to their desired audiences. And then, only the real-world habits and tastes of consumers and businesses will truly affect which directions tablet and other device design will take by 2016 or 2021--just as the popular iPad had likely inspired many of the prototypes mentioned in Gartner's new report.

image: Blake Patterson/Wikimedia commons

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com