Are Tablets the Next Big Opportunity?

Will IP communications get a massive shot in the arm via a wave of new tablet computers?

If you are an IP communications company you have to be salivating at the opportunity afforded by Moore’s Law. Moreover when a new category called netbook was launched, the market for IP voice and video solutions just grew along the growth curve that netbooks carved out.

Thanks to netbooks and smartphones consumers have become accustomed to cheap but powerful computing platforms which allow more effective communications.

When the iPhone 3G S was rolled out many were not happy there was no front-facing camera included. After all, this device is a good entry-level device for taking and posting video clips – real time videoconferencing on this Apple smartphone may not be confused with telepresence but it could be darn good based on the video clips I have taken.

While laptops and netbooks have embraced forward-facing cameras, the smartphone market has a way to go before we see commonplace videoconferences on planes, trains and autos.

Netbooks – as cool as they are still aren’t as cool as an iPhone or iPod Touch. In fact there is a trend towards people using these Apple devices and those from other companies instead of these mini-laptops.

This leads one to believe that the “next big thing” could be MIDs or Mobile Internet Devices. Certainly Intel has been pushing the idea and both Apple and Dell are rumored to have these MID tablets on the market soon.

Predicting the next big thing is tough to do but it seems like a small logical leap to believe that if the iPod Touch and iPhone can sell in volume and touch-screen competitors from RIM and others are selling as well – a larger version will be more of a good thing.

In a way in fact a tablet on in your lap is a much better solution than a widget-enabled TV 15 feet away which requires a keyboard or some arcane remote-control to pseudo-keyboard interface. Then again the tablet will likely become the remote control of the future allowing you to interact with television like never before and preview clips before viewing them on the “big screen.”

The TV experience today is pretty terrible – it hasn’t evolved much over my lifetime unless you consider low-cost remote control, color and more channels to be innovative. Sure TVs are thinner and bigger but is this so innovative?

Just as touch-screen devices and app stores have revolutionized the world of mobile phones there is an opportunity for these devices to do the same for home entertainment.

Similarly as the relationship between carrier and customer was marginalized by Apple and its App Store, we can expect Apple to be working overtime to make the cable company an afterthought. One has to imagine Apple is collaborating with AT&T to develop the killer in-home entertainment device which will drive customers to AT&T broadband and TV like the iPhone drove them to AT&T Mobility.

As I think about my recent article on Minerva Networks and TV 2.0 I realize the interface needs to evolve as well. I just don’t think long-term we will be happy with our TV fixed to our walls. We will want to take TV with us as we take our computing with us. Netbooks and tablets are ideally suited to this transition and I expect tablets to be the “next big thing” by next Christmas if not sooner.

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