Tablets to boost app development

Emergence of slates and tablets will inject vigor to developer community, but with few opportunities for enterprise vendors, analysts observe.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

The emergence of slate devices will inject another boost of vigor to the app developer community, but with few opportunities for enterprise vendors to get in the game, industry analysts say.

IDC's Asia-Pacific director for personal systems research, Bryan Ma, said tablet and slate-type devices, which have enjoyed much media attention of late, are likely to spark interest in app development for these device form factors. This boost will also result in some attention spilling into the mobile space, he told ZDNet Asia.

While tablet PCs are not a new device segment, the emergence of a "third category" of devices such as the Apple iPad and e-readers straddle the divide between PC and mobiles roles, Ma said in a phone interview.

Furthermore, some of these devices will be running mobile OSes such as Android or the iPhone OS. This will generate interest from mobile developers who are eyeing the expanded audience, he said, noting that apps made for these devices can be more easily ported from their smaller mobile forms--with some tweaking--for the larger devices.

Joash Chee, a mobile developer who made iPhone app, Chordica, expressed interest in making apps for the iPad.

In an e-mail to ZDNet Asia, Chee said he spotted additional opportunity in the iPad beyond what the iPhone can offer to users, and has plans to make an app specifically for the tablet form factor.

He added that he is in the midst of forming a development team to execute the planned iPad app, which Chee said will neither be suitable for the iPhone nor a PC environment.

But Hydrasight research analyst, Vu Long Tran, said in an e-mail interview the jolt to the mobile apps market would only be temporary, as part of a cyclic trend of interest in new devices.

Tran explained: "The extent that this market will grow will be primarily dependent on meeting the markets needs for functionality, usability, form factor and price, especially for mainstream consumers.

"At this point, we do not see any significant additional benefits in tablets and slate devices, or new applications that make this form factor more attractive."

Fellow Hydrasight analyst, John Brand, said in an earlier interview the tablet would remain niche and part of a hype cycle.

Tran added that although tablets offer mobile developers an option to extend their apps to more devices, the limitations of mobile devices will result in developers maintaining a scaled-back version of their apps on phones, with a fuller version for tablets.

New developers would, nonetheless, be enticed to create apps for tablets, while developers with existing mobile apps would be interested in porting these to the larger format, he said.

However, developers should be careful to determine the likely market size and opportunity before committing substantial development effort to support a new platform, he advised.

No enterprise opportunity for tablet apps
According to Tran, the tablet form factor is primarily suited for passive rather than active uses, such as lightweight input and casual browsing.

IDC's Ma, too, said he did not see any opportunities for enterprise software vendors, yet.

The consumer-targeted, touchscreen slates are not meant to support productivity, he said. Rather, they would be more suited for the consumption of media and not for the creation of work documents or data entry into enterprise systems, he said.

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