The new year has kicked off with a barrage of commentary on the state of mobile devices. Without too much effort, you can find plenty of chatter from tech-industry writers and gadget gurus on the emerging hierarchy of smartphone, tablet, laptop etc.
Interesting to note is a kind of grumpy-old-man mentality among some who are contorting themselves to explain why tablets (the iPad, Kindle Fire, Galaxy, etc.) are redundant. Initially hyped as an over-sized smartphone, the tablet is now being dismissed as an under-sized laptop. Why, many wonder, would one want another “brick in their bag” when all they really need is a laptop and phone?
This question overlooks the intricacy of today’s sophisticated, multi-faceted mobile market. Hey, if you’re a fast-moving, high-flying tech reporter trying to get through airport security on your way to CES, then sure, all you have time for is popping open your laptop. (Extra pro-tip: wear slip-off shoes. Laces will cost you precious seconds after that full-body scan.)
Seriously, mobility isn’t about the device. Mobility is – surprise – about mobility. For some, a smartphone that can access email is a marvel. Others need the full capacity and capability of their laptop or notebook.
But tablets aren’t about being equal measures of these devices. They’re about being their own device.
We’re seeing plenty of apps that function beautifully on a tablet, and the tablet itself being ideally suited for distinct client environments. Getting back to airports as a perfect example, pilots are now carrying iPads that can access the schematics for all airports they will fly over during a trip. Before, they used to wheel around a huge briefcase loaded with appropriate documents. So, for every grouchy reporter wondering why anyone would want to lug an extra device through the airport, consider that that “extra device” has become indispensable for the professional responsible for keeping you in the air.
And that’s just one example. Consider the pharmaceutical salesperson using an iPad to make a fast but informative multimedia pitch on the latest prescription to a doctor now carrying an iPad his or herself instead of a clipboard. From logistics to law enforcement, sales to scientific research, specialized apps operating on tablets are meeting an almost unthinkable array of job-specific mobility needs.
If you’ve ever taken any kind of econ class, you know that innovation at its best disrupts the market at different price points, but it also disrupts with different features and new functionality. Devices along the mobile spectrum are making this possible, and to try and dismiss one as redundant is short-sighted. 2012 is not about an already adept mobile user being frustrated by a new gizmo. It’s about new users finding the right tool to suit a particular process. It’s about someone who didn’t use mobile before, now having access to all its power and convenience.
So, to the tablet naysayers of 2012, I say, take a deep breath. Mobility is not an all-or-nothing game. It’s not a one- or two-device game. Mobility is a mobile game, and it’s one that everyone should get to play.