Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Relaxed mobility

2011 is expected to be the "Year of Tablets" as iPad 2 and a slew of Android based tablets are expected to hit the market especially after the launch of Honeycomb in March 2011.

So why do we need a Tablet?

Operating system wise both iPad and Galaxy Tab have almost the same experience as their mobile phone counterparts but on a bigger screen size. However as a package I think iPad is better placed coz of its 9 inch screen size, 1024x768 resolution and how well the size works for the tablet use case.

iOS SDK has support for bigger and hdpi screens which allows developers to make separate versions of apps for phones and tablets. But when it comes to web, iPad users are redirected to the big websites and takes out the need to show the mobile version of those sites. But when a mobile version of the website is designed with special formats and location based features for phones, why do we have to ignore the aspect of mobility and only focus on the screens size when it comes to a tablet?

My safe assumption is that going forward almost all gadgets will be mobile as technology allows machines to become smaller and affordable; there is no future for desktops and big ass machines.

A tablet is an in-between mobile device has an in-between mobile use case

Mobility is a use case. The scenario where you carry a device from one place to another for whatever reasons. And the scenarios differ and hence the devices you choose to carry.

There are different grades to being mobile, and I think on a high level we can classify them into three.

1. At work mobility: You are sitting and working but also need to run into a room to do a presentation, do a discussion and take notes, do some agile collaboration by temporarily working from another workstation, take some work home..... yes this is when the laptop is used. Duh.

Laptop (big) sites and apps have a format which makes use of the bigger screen real estate and some are also location specific not by using the the user's exact position but a higher level city information as the assumption is that the user is not on the road.

3. On road mobility: This is when you are of course on the road, walking, driving, trying to find some place, waiting for someone to turn up, amidst a crowd..... the scenario every one of us is now aware of. This is when we would use a mobile phone.

Mobile sites and apps are designed to work well with smaller screen sizes, in outdoor light, offer info and services that help some one on the road to find something based on his real time GPS location etc.

Those were the extreme cases of mobility and hence the numbering. The use case which is in between is

2. Relaxed Mobile: You are at home, not at the study desk but on your sofa watching tv and is also online. You are on a long train journey or on a flight. You are on vacation and is in your hotel room bed. Today we use our laptop in these scenarios and I think it is not the right fit. Many times I have burnt my lap while watching tv and tried hard to get the right ergonomic position to use laptops on a sofa. I have been embarrassed to take my laptop out in a train full of people. When on vacation I just dont like to carry my laptop but there were times i missed internet when i was in the hotel room. A mobile phone is also not the ideal device here as its too small, a mobile site is too less of content, there is nothing i'm gaining much using the GPS and also I would want to save the phone's charge to make calls.

This is where the tablet comes into the picture and hence its important to address this space with its own importance. We have to identify the needs, come up with use cases and offer content in the ideal format and not just redirect the user to mobile/laptop sites and apps. This will indeed take time to mature as content providers will not invest in this space unless tablets become popular.

A tablet is not a bigger phone or a smaller laptop. Its is not here to replace the laptop or the phone. All of them are mobile devices used for different grades of mobility and they will all co exist.

Also our needs to go beyond the On road mobility use case is also not far away. What if I'm out and have a phone in my pocket but i cant take it out coz its raining?
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