When Apple announced the introduction of its iPad, not even the optimist could envisage what was coming on. Users have reconfigured themselves from such a device initially regarded as a bigger iPod touch. The key of the iPad and iPhone success has been the easy development of applications for such a platform. The territory of applications for this and any other "fellow" gadget paves the way for media companies and also for the practice of journalism
First of all, let us clarify the obvious thing -predicting the future is very difficult or almost impossible, particularly concerning technology. Science fiction is pretty bad in this matter. In Star Wars, humans have made headway with technology, to such an extent that they can travel in outer space at speed of light and regenerate human organs, among others. However, their radio sets produce statics and the vessels interface seems to have been developed by Atari.
In 2007, Apple introduced the iPhone. Many experts, even manufacturers, foreboded its failure. Later on, when Apple introduced the iPad, not even the most optimistic analyst could foresee its success. Everybody underestimated the sale of million units.
In 2011, over 80 iPad imitations are being developed by the same companies that demeaned the concept.
Apple devised a new general category as tablets. Note that this is not the first time such a format is tried, yet it is the first time that a combination of factors is tried: multi-touch, light operating system, permanent connectivity, long-life batteries, relatively small and light.
Most importantly, for the first time a change of paradigm has been tried with regard to the role and functional capacity of these devices. In 2002, Microsoft introduced its TabletPCs in an attempt at overcoming standard PCs. Current tablets are a fragmented model of use; they are in the middle of the functional way -not as sophisticated as a PC, but more useful and powerful than a Smartphone. Form and function are hand in hand.
The key of the iPad and iPhone success has been the easy development of applications for such platform, known as IOS. These applications are replacing many usual functions on the web.
A wealth of applications and their ability to embed in the operating system and cash in on the equipment assets have been the revolutionary component. It is true that PC applications also have such a capacity; the difference relies in technical aspects, including GPS, gyroscope, compass, microphone and cameras, light sensors and speedometers. All these sensors confer tablets and telephone a superior capacity which help users mix with their environments and know where they are and what they are making with the device.
While the web can work on any platform, applications, as they are closely related to the used device, provide a better experience for users in general.
Mixing local resources (in the application) with remote resources (in a server) allows for more efficient use of wireless networks and offers better responsiveness. Thus, a well-devised application takes precedence over a webpage.
While some fear that applications will kill webpages, I think they will be a complement and not necessarily excluding.
As for the potential leader of this new platform, this is perhaps the least relevant issue in this discussion. Are they trendy or did they come to remain? Personally, I bet on more tablets than PCs per household, even more than phones. Anyhow, children do not need telephones.
Will tablets save media companies? My statistics professor would say -"It depends." I have absolutely no doubt that this world of applications is a more arable land for the business of audiences and contents compared with the web. After all, content is and will be the king. The big difference is that the definition of content has substantially changed. Nowadays, "content" means any content produced both by experts and beginners, including applications, data bases, games and the wealth of information supplied by all the groups in society.
The low cost of the ticket to the world of contents makes competition fiercer. Potential niches are open and traditional thematic items are at stake. By definition, each topic is better dealt with a unique combination of constituent elements. Managing to give full coverage to Formula One is not the same as giving full coverage to politics.
Media companies able to fit in this reality will survive; any other companies which fail to do it will be replaced with new players who will do a better work by capitalizing on a great array of available tools.
Besides consumption and access to information, tablets are becoming excellent creative tools to catch attraction and prepare drafts. A journalist could perfectly go out equipped with a good digital camera and an iPad and get virtually the same as with a PC. In addition, he/she needs not to be worried about batteries and, undoubtedly, will make much more than what can be done with standard tools. PCs would be used to finish off the content.
As these devices move forward, they turn into a tool, not only of information and entertainment, but also of work, social contacts and personal expression. A PC hardly formed an integral part of ours; a tablet, a telephone, is somewhat intimate.
Translated by Adrián Valera
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