Tablets are "epicentre of convergence"

Analysts are predicting that with the arrival of Apple’s iPad and the subsequent proliferation of the tablet there has a been a convergence between consumer, computer and communications which will have a massive effect on the market for OS based devices in the future.

According to William Kidd, director and principal analyst for iSuppli, the definition of convergence has changed over time with the latest describing it as “voice, video and data services” being delivered to the home via a broadband connection. 

“While that trend still exists,” said Kidd, “the convergence of consumer electronics devices and industries are now coming together at a fast pace, with the tablet form factor serving a tangible representation of that convergence, since it is part smart phone and part notebook.”

It is noted that the implications of strong links between consumer, computer and communications will have an effect in consumer electronics in areas beyond tablets. Kidd points toward the rise of the iPad as a parallel to the growing importance of the mobile operating system in a number of devices where an OS was not previously a factor – or there was previously no OS at all.

According to Kidd this is why so many manufacturers are racing to deliver the next game-changing tablet or smartphone device like the iPad.  Though companies are incredibly keen to stay one step ahead, designs are being kept open as it is still so early in the product life cycle.

Kidd believes that it is imperative companies realise the rise of the mobile OS means distinct product categories are blurring together. “For example, note the similarity both in external functionality and internal electronics between Apple’s tablet, smart phone, MP3 player and set top box product lines,” he said.

“Not only do they run the same OS, but all these Apple devices are internally similar, plus or minus a screen and touch interface. Industries likely to face the impact of convergence through the proliferation of mobile OSs include televisions, cell phones and notebook PCs.”

According to iSuppli, televisions are likely to be the next important catalyst in the evolution toward a more unified consumer platform that can connect with significantly more devices.

Despite challenges and past failures in this area, iSuppli expects mobile OS providers will in the near future get the formula right for the integration of TV sets.

It’s predicted that in the long term, tablets are likely to reshape the computer market as well.

It is thought that functionality for tablets could move away from simply being a tool for the consumption of content such as online newspapers, and begin to see the devices take on content creation capabilities like that of notebooks.

It is thought that this will coincide with growth in the tablet segment in 2012.

However this transformation would require the development of OS’ that are more evolved that those currently used in, for example, the iPad.  It is even predicted that Microsoft may be the one to design such a functional tablet OS. Furthermore it’s thought Apple may combine its iOS and Mac OS at some point.