The iPad has kicked it off but the others (see Cisco Cius story) rushing to market with fully functional, user friendly wireless internet tablets will have real impact on the events, meetings, learning and collaboration…just as soon as they hit the market. I spoke at a recent Event Tech meeting and the last note I made was that I felt these new devices would drive a whole new round of application development in the digital event and meeting space. During the next break, that was obviously the topic that people were most interested in.
I don’t have an iPad but visit the Apple store every once in a while to see what it can and can’t do as I think more about possible uses. I’ve come to the conclusion that the current iPad won’t have much of an impact in this market due to lack of basic functionality like no camera, no ability to run Flash video (I think the reason is that it uses up too much battery power), no USB port, etc. But looking at what other vendors are developing and the reported functionality they are adding in makes me excited for the possibilities and even IE9 (coming soon) will be running HTML5 which means you won’t need a video player (like Flash) to watch video on the web. The first step for a tablet is putting a camera on the display side of the tablet for web conferencing, video chat and perhaps even simple webcasting.
Judging from the interest from some of the developers at the Event Tech meeting and other calls from companies wondering if I knew anyone developing event apps for the iPad or tablets, I think you can expect to see some cool event and meeting applications developed for these devices soon. One company has a product already out that basically offers the event manager a real time dashboard and reporting tool to look at any up to the minute data around your event. Need onsite registration data as of right now, no problem, need to see a map of the convention center and navigate to a meeting, it’s there, want to check a session evaluation or overall attendee satisfaction in real time, check a contract, alert attendees to a schedule change…well you can do it all. True you could do that all with a notebook but once to use the slim, light, touch screen enabled tablet you won’t want anything else.
Attending a virtual meeting or virtual event using a tablet could be a great experience for attendees with new navigation options with the flip of a finger, access to HD video and interactive content. Exhibitors will no longer need to be tethered to their computer but could jump into a meeting with a visitor to their booth from anywhere. Hybrid events will see the barriers to physical attendees connecting with virtual attendees diminish. As much as the iPad is exciting the magazine publishing and advertising world, I thinking the opportunity in the events and meeting industry will be even more exciting. I see new event form factors and user interfaces designed for tablets that are more fun and more engaging for everyone involved.