What Does the Future Hold for Tablet Devices?

The new iPad might be impressive, but it's not revolutionary. What will be the next big thing for the tablet sphere?
March 19, 2012

Technology geeks across the world are eagerly awaiting the new iPad. Even though the newest iteration has some nice features, such as a better camera and a retina display, it isn't revolutionary.

Mashable decided to figure out just what, exactly, will be the next earthshaking development in the tablet sphere. We spoke with Ari Zoldan, CEO of Quantum Networks, to find out what he thinks the future of tablet design and development could become. Quantum Networks specializes in 3G and 4G technologies such as WiMax and Long Term Evolution, or LTE.

Zoldan chose to first highlight the challenges in the way of tablet progress–namely, batteries. Zoldan doesn't think they're about to get any smaller any time soon.

"In terms of the actual weight and thinness (of tablets), the largest roadblock right now is the battery size," says Zoldan. "We’re probably not looking at any device in the next couple years as getting any thinner."

So if paper-thin tablets are out, what improvements can we expect? Toughness and water-resistance, perhaps?

"I think the next focus will be an ergonomic design focused on ruggedness," says Zoldan. "I think some people are paying a premium for tablets, only to be worried about tablets breaking and cracking. I just got back from Mobile World Congress and the big focus there was water-resistance. Everybody had big tanks of water with their tablets submerged."

So the hardware will get better, but Zoldan doesn't think we'll see any up and coming companies enter the hardware market in a major way. Instead, all the innovation will be happening in the app development field.

"I think the big players already dominate the hardware side. But the [tablet] software industry is still at its genesis," says Zoldan. "The (tablet software) industry is wide open and there's going to be no stopping it. There will be opportunities for entrepreneurs to play in the software space."

Zoldan says that software explosion will be boosted by the expansion of 4G networks and Near Field Communications (NFC) technology. In fact, Zoldan believes that NFC will allow tablets to "100% replace the wallet that you carry in your back pocket."

"You'll be able to go to grocery stores and be able to pay with your tablet in totality," Zoldan explains. "Really, the concept of currency is going to change dramatically in the next 10-15 years and it's all because of the tablet."

Finally, Zoldan says that some tablet innovation has to come from wireless companies and the federal government. He thinks they need to address the spectrum crunch by finding ways to open spectrum, building more mobile infrastructure and expanding access for rural customers. He also believes that wireless companies will adopt a tablet business model similar to the one used for cell phones today, where users are allowed a device upgrade every few years.

"I think they'll give tablets away for free or subsidize them, similar to what happened in the cell phone industry. It may be based on a subscription-based model."

What do you think is next for the world of tablets? Sound off in the comments below.