Taking It To Tablets

Tablets are going to change the world, whether we like it or not. You can’t go anywhere these days without running into someone who is tapping away on their iPad. So far in 2011, we’ve seen a parade of competitors take the field as well, with everyone from Samsung to Motorola to Research In Motion (Blackberry) entering the hot new tablet market. Of course the iPad 2 also came out this spring, and it solidified Apple’s position as the market leader.

I’ve used both an iPad and a Motorola Xoom (which runs the Android Honeycomb tablet-specific operating system), and I can report to you that they both do a great job. There’s something exciting about holding a flat piece of technology in your hand that can do so much. Maybe I’m only excited because we finally seem to be getting Star Trek-worthy gadgets, but everyone else seems to be excited, too. In fact, laptop sales have fallen off dramatically, leading one to believe that for casual use, tablets are taking over. It may still be a while before we use them to type papers and build spreadsheets, but I have no doubt that the day will come.

So why am I telling you a bunch of stuff that you already know (or at least may have guessed)? Because one thing you may not know is that programming for a tablet is a lot different than programming for a traditional computer. Take something as basic as “hovering.” When you hold your cursor over the top of a link, many times you will get a small “pop-up” that explains what will happen if you click. With a tablet, there is no such thing as “hovering,” because it uses a touch screen. That means that you need to think of a way to do that job with multiple clicks or slides or holding a click. It’s not necessarily complicated, but it is certainly different – and it means that a web site built only for traditional computers may be cumbersome on an iPad. Food for thought when you are evaluating the lifespan of your web site.

I will be interested to see how the evolution of the tablet computer plays out. Not only because of my questions about how it will impact marketing communication, but because I really want to buy one myself!