Catching the Vision of What Tablets Can Represent

A month or two ago I submitted an offer to buy a house. I received the paperwork about an hour before the submission deadline.  Five years ago I would have needed to meet someone in person to sign the required paperwork.  Or possibly I might have been able to receive the paperwork electronically but I still would have been required to print a copy, sign the physical copy, scan it and finally submitted it electronically. Five years ago we weren’t yet in a world capable of supporting an all-digital transaction.

But this time was different.  I received and signed the documents through DocuSign Ink.  I was able to electronically sign the required paperwork which then went immediately to the next parties required to review and sign the paperwork.  I was able to save a copy of the submitted paperwork within my account which I could subsequently access within the app on either my iPhone or iPad.

For the first time I felt like I finally saw the potential of tablets and smartphones.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m an extremely heavy use of smartphones and tablets. But I’m also a heavy use of traditional notebook computers.  I’ve always been a believer that smartphones and tablets make sense for situations defined by a time/location/task  context.  In other words, tablets and smartphones make sense, but some times traditional computing makes more sense.  This experience called that believe into question.  I’m beginning to think innovation over time can close any chasm between what one can do on a tablet and one can do more easily on a notebook computer.  Notebooks are still far more efficient than smartphones and tablets for some activities (again defined by time/location/task) but I’m no longer convinced that is always going to be the case.

Since 2010 ownership rates have increased significantly – rising from roughly 10 percent at the start of 2011 to over 40 percent today (in another post I’ll talk through why I think tablet ownership rates are actually close to plateauing).  While this ownership rate has largely been driven by entertainment consumption, I’m beginning to think that could change.

In the last three years I’ve witnessed my kids relying almost exclusively on tablets and smartphones. While I’ve largely assumed this was a result of the type of computing activities they are involved in (gaming), I’m beginning to wander if tablets will mature and evolve quickly enough to satisfy their future computing needs. We might soon start talking about “notebook-nevers” as a cohort of heavy computer users who never owned a notebook computer. A recent survey of smartphone and tablet adult owners found 35% of users prefer to access the Internet on their smartphone and 14% prefer their tablet – suggesting a bare majority prefer desktop or laptop computers to access the Internet.

Tablets and smartphones are more personal than traditional PCs – as a result they are redefining what personal means.

One of the next big hurdles for the tablet/smartphone platform is file organization. Apps are largely siloed and as a result related documents are siloed within the apps. Yes, there are cloud storage services like Dropbox or services like Google docs and these services might play a large role. In the recently released iOS 7, Apple redesigned the photo gallery by adding curation features – organizing the photos into “moments.”