|The impact of tablets on computing, according to Gartner|
In a special report, titled "iPad and Beyond: What the Future of Computing Holds," Gartner analysts have attempted to fathom the true depth and impact, which devices like the iPad and other media tablets are effecting on the hardware industry, including the consequent changes on users expectations from computing devices.
Multitouch on the iPad and other media tablets, Gartner says, has liberated users from hardware interfaces such as the keyboard, the mouse / touchpad / trackball, etc. As media tablets become more commonplace, Gartner expects users to anticipate the convenience and simplicity of multitouch user interfaces when they interact with other computing devices, as standard.
"During the next five to 10 years, media tablets will instigate change in computing form factors; modular designs will enable tablets to take on new functions, becoming the cross-platform controller and brain for hybrid consumer electronics and computers," said Angela McIntyre, research director at Gartner.
"Tablets will be substitutes for several of the consumer electronics consumers often carry with them. Thin-and-light mobile PCs with tablet-like features will become mainstream, pushing out some bulkier PC styles that have been the norm."
PC and consumer electronics manufacturers are noticing the shift in consumer expectations, Gartner says, which is evident from their incorporation of features first popularized by the iPad into their own new product lineups.
“Multitouch technology has become the de facto interface of high-end smartphones and media tablets, and will extend to additional consumer electronic devices and to PCs,” Gartner's statement said.
"Other hybrid designs leverage the flexibility of tablets to become the brains of consumer electronic devices," Ms. McIntyre said. "One tablet can replace multiple dedicated electronics devices by connecting with different peripherals. Tablets docked in the dashboards of cars can replace dedicated navigation devices and in-car entertainment, and environmental controls. Wirelessly connect a blood pressure cuff, a bathroom scale and an oximeter to a tablet to create a home health monitor that can plot personal health trends and send the data to a doctor. Mount a tablet into a projector, and it becomes digital signage in a retail store or a device for streaming media via the Internet."
Gartner clusters Interface technologies around five basic modalities – state of mind (of the user), human-computer hybrids, action detection, speech and biosensing. Of the interface modalities, action detection has been extensively used to this point because touch — for example, pressing a key, clicking a mouse or touching a screen — is the standard way to interact with computing endpoint devices, such as tablets, PCs and smartphones. As such, the analysts opine that the iPad has created a transformational change in how people interact with computers.
"Alternative user interfaces, such as multitouch, are essential for extending the deployment of computing devices into new markets," Ms. McIntyre said. "Smartphones, tablets and tablet hybrids will become the first pathway to the Internet for many. The keyboard on PCs is a major barrier for those who have had no reason or opportunity to become facile with qwerty."
Image: Courtesy Apple