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2011:The Year of Tablets

While the recent arrival of the Chinese New year christens the year as the year of Rabbit,for tech geeks and industry this year is going to be a big transformative year and will potentially drive the tools and technologies across different technology spectrums in next 5-10 years.It has got everyone from the chip manufacturer’s to mobile service provider’s to have a go at a bigger piece of pie.

2011 would be as I like to call it the year of the Tablets.Last month’s CES there were as many as 80 different tablets demo’ed.No doubt some of those will never see a shelf in your nearest electronic store(recently Nokia’s MeeGo was dubbed a No-Go) and some of them will be just crushed by the competition and never see the dawn of 2012.While this is good for consumers to have so many choices as well as a competitive market from price perspective,technologically specially for testing this is going to be a nightmare scenario until we have a settled   market place with one or two dominant players (iPad anyone??) and couple other trying to get the remaining market share.Here are some thoughts on what might be dominant players in this space.

Apple iPad:Nuff’ said.The tablet that started it all.However it would be interesting to see what the rumored iPad 2 brings out this year and how testers deal with the closed ecosystem of iOS to get more testing and more importantly automated testing figured out in iOS.One advantage compared to other tablets is that Applet products clearly have a nice ramp-up and ramp-down release giving testers time to figure out where to put their more testing effort on.But there is still no clear winner with automation testing on iOS applications.Till then Happy manual testing….

Samsung Galaxy Tab:Based on Android,so far has received favorable reviews and will be a good competitior to iPad especially from price perspective and in lot of developing countries where for some reason Apple has not succcessfully developed a crazy fan following like North America but Samsung has a good standing and brand recognition from other consumer devices.The automation tool and testing approaches people develop for Android smartphones will be really useful for Android based tablets as well.Android SDK has a really nicely documented testing framework and we will have to see how automation testers will leverage it to provide a robust and effective solution.

Motorola Xoom:Debuted at CES and has got a lot of industry folks excited.Again being based on Android it will have the advantage of collective work being done on different Android devices but ultimately contributing to Android ecosystem with new and hopefully innovative ways of testing.

Apart from this major players,it can be rest assured that RIM (The Blackberry company) will come out with at least one tablet based on Playbook and try to lure in the Blackberry faithful and you can always trust the old man Microsoft trying to get out at least one tablet based on Windows 7,surely with different partnerships in the mobile ecosystem(Nokia) or also joining hands with Dell who want to stay relevant in the diminishing notebook sales environment that are being replaced by tablet sales.

On the software side specifically from testing perspective,different test tool companies including test management,defect tracking,task management,automation tools will have to adapt to the wider landscape of devices that the tablet industry is going to bring.In a way the field is very similar to what the desktop environment must have looked in the mid 90’s when the browser war was on.

Another way of looking at it would also be emergence of better browser standards which will adapt to tablets/mobiles and eliminate the need for native apps but they are very slow compared to the fast emergence of the tablets.However the battle has just begun so it should be an interesting time for next couple of years for testers and services companies alike…

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