American Marketer


Severing the tablet’s technological umbilical cord for good

January 25, 2013

Vanessa Horwell is chief visibility officer of ThinkInk


By Vanessa Horwell

Earlier this week, as I was curled up with my hubby and tablet, watching the telly, I caught a dishwasher commercial that included that obligatory question: “Why do you wash the dishes before you wash the dishes?”

Guilty as charged: one wash before the dishes go in the dishwasher and another to remove that filmy substance I am sure does little for my glass of sauvignon blanc.

If you are counting, that is actually three washes.

Was technology not supposed to reduce my workload? Instead, I end up with more work than if I had just washed the dishes by hand in the first place.

Kitchens are not the only places where technological redundancy resides.

Tablets, too, have a case of the “dishwasher double wash.” In fact, Steve Smith, a mobile reporter for MediaPost, wrote about the phenomenon in a recent article.

Due to shortcomings in how Web sites are tailored for the tablet space, relying on too many page reloads – leading to network sluggishness – and excessive fine-print hyperlinks, much of the time spent on tablets is redundant.

I research products or browse the Web just enough so I can send myself an email with links to investigate further on my laptop or desktop. I have washed the dishes before I have washed the dishes – again.

T-commerce and tablets must stand on their own two feet
Mr. Smith’s article spends a good deal of time touting tablet’s market gains.

In late 2012, IDC raised its forecast for total 2012 tablet shipments to 122.3 million units, up from 117.1 million – a 4 percent increase.

And while Apple may lament a predicted 2013 tablet market share drop of nearly 3 percent, from 56.3 percent to 53.8 percent, competition from Google’s Android and Windows is probably a good thing from the consumer’s perspective.

More tablets means more choices and, ideally, lower prices. That is especially true as smaller-screened devices such as Apple’s iPad mini and Amazon’s Kindle Fire continue to blur the line between smartphones and tablets, improving their usefulness as mobile devices, despite what Business Insider writer Jay Yarow argues in his January missive.

Just because 90 percent of tablet usage is done at home does not mean: a) that out-of-home usage will not increase and, b) that tablet usage is not intended for intimate out-of-home experiences. Try that with your desktop or your “sort of” mobile laptop.

Considering that tablets figured prominently at Mobile Marketer’s Mobile FirstLook: Strategy 2013 summit in New York Jan. 17, calling tablets non-mobile devices is just wrong.

For tablets to really take off and live up to the hype their fathers and grandfathers envisioned, both on Apple’s side of the family, including the original iPad but also the Newton, the devices must cut their technological umbilical cords and become standalone products.

To do that, tablet makers must address the performance and display snags that Mr. Smith tackles to expand the t-commerce marketplace.

EMarketer predicts that in 2012 tablet-generated purchases reached nearly $14 billion and forecasts 17 percent of all online sales by 2016.

Tablet makers would also benefit from taking a digital leaf from the book of convergence.

Marketing channels and touch points, be they mobile Web, email, smartphone, television, radio, print and kiosk, are all being used and engaged with in interchangeable and simultaneous ways.

Multichannel usage is key, but so are screens that perform in cross-channel ways: a Skype-enabled TV, a print ad augmented by augmented reality, a functioning QR code made out of Lego bricks and so on.

Tapping tomorrow’s tablet
Soon, a tablet will come out that truly replaces the laptop. Its keyboard will not be some clunky extra, but an organic part of the device.

Can you imagine a semi-rigid, ultra-slim keyboard that slides off the back of a tablet, connected via Bluetooth, or an onscreen keyboard that detects a user’s fingers and mimics the feel of a physical keyboard? Apple has already begun working on such innovations, filing a patent for the technology in September.

Or what about flexible tablets? Devices that could fold down to smartphone size and combine the computing power of a desktop with the functionality of a laptop?

Now that is the kind of “super device” the tablet can become.

While I was not there to see it, Samsung has already unveiled its flexible smartphone prototype at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, so a flexible tablet would be a natural progression.

ONLY WHEN tablets combine the abilities of other devices will they reach their full t-commerce potential.

Sadly, my days of double-washing dishes probably are not over. But perhaps I will buy that streak-free soap just to test it out.

And I will make that purchase on a slinky paper-thin and feather-weight tablet folded on the kitchen counter, right as I am doing my next load of dishes.

Vanessa Horwell is chief visibility officer of ThinkInk, Miami Beach, FL. Reach her at