Everyone and their mom (and mine) got a tablet this holiday season. What next?

By Richard Nieva , written on January 2, 2013

From The News Desk

The holidays are officially over, and some of you may be returning to work today with a shiny new tablet in hand.

It’s already been covered to death that Christmas 2012 was the retail season of the tablet -- the moment when those devices took an important step toward ubiquity. Case in point, I gave my mom an iPad Mini this year. I love her, but she is one of the most-- how do you say? -- tech-deficient people I know. I wouldn’t have given it to her if I didn’t think she could handle it.

So, now that a slightly bigger chunk of people in the world have tablets, this coming year may be poised to be a big one for tablet developers.

Onswipe is a company that knows the device particularly astutely. The company works with publishers to tailor their Web properties to the tablet, instead of just transposing the same mobile product to the slightly bigger screen – or desktop product to a smaller screen. Chief executive Jason Baptiste claims Onswipe has a bigger online audience than Tumblr and combined on the iPad. “We believed the Web was changing,” he says. “And we thought, ‘Here’s a chance to recreate everything.'”

I asked Baptiste a few things about what we might expect out of tablets this year.

Mass adoption: While the smartphone has already dug its claws into our collective daily habits, tablet adoption has also been rapid. Javelin Strategy and Research forecasts a 40 percent adoption growth by 2016. Baptiste is even more bullish. He says to look to mid-2013 to reach that smartphone-level tipping point. He also has high hopes for iPad Mini as a gateway drug -- even with its high price point and lack of retina display.

Tablet and TV pairing: One thing Baptiste says people aren’t talking about as much is the relationship between the television and tablet, which he calls the “TV of our generation.” It gets overlooked that every iPad automatically has the capacity to work with Apple airplay. Whether or not Apple makes significant advances in its TV offering aside, the ability for a TV screen to mirror a tablet’s opens the door to a whole other arena of development.

Networks are already doing things to cater to the tablet-wielding TV crowd. Shows like "Conan" offer original content on tablets, to add on to the traditional TV-watching experience. For broadcasters, it's a way to take advantage of a savvy crowd when normal ratings might not be as strong. Certainly #TeamCoCo falls into that camp.

Interacting tablets: As more households become multiple-tablet households, there’s an interesting opportunity for developers to tackle a specific use case: What happens when someone using a tablet is sitting next to another person using a tablet. How do those two devices talk to each other? “When we usually talk about social, it’s usually antisocial,” he says, referring to someone on a PC, sharing things with friends all around the world on a social network. “How do you focus on social as in, people who are sitting next to each other, not people who are sitting afar?” The obvious entry point, he says, is games, while organically doing that with other types of content is a lot harder.

On phones, Bump and the NFC options have explored this phenomenon of devices in close proximity. For payments and file transferring, the benefit seems apparent. Still, you don't see a whole lot of people tapping phones every day when you're out and about. Creating an experience for tablets will likely be more born out of entertainment than utility.

Certainly a larger tablet owning audience means innovation for the devices is integral. Baptiste’s comment about TV mirroring suggests an added nuance to the relationship. The proliferation of tablets means the move from a PC screen to a smaller, touch-based screen. But the jump to television, while a user is still holding that same tablet, creates an even more extended, twice removed experience: How do you simultaneously develop for a smaller, touchable, bigger, non-touchable set of screens?

Challenge of the year. As for me, I still have to teach my mom how to open up a Web browser on her tablet.  You can only make these things so intuitive.

[Image courtesy: Yutaka Tsutano]