In-depth

Keep taking the tablets: consumers abandon the PC

Deloitte claims more than half of us will have access to a tablet by the end of 2014. It is time for business to take notice.

Inside the enterprise: Tablets have been one of the few bright lights in an otherwise dark few years for the IT industry. Their adoption has grown steadily since Apple first launched its iPad, but much of that growth has come at the expense of desktop PCs.

By the end of this year, though, Deloitte, the consulting and professional services firm, expects more than half of consumers in the UK to either own, or have access to, a tablet.

The tablet market is changing too. Despite the success of Apple's iPad, smaller (and cheaper) tablets account for most of the growth now. By the end of the first quarter of 2014, compact tablets (sub 8.5 in) will exceed that of larger tablets. Phablets are also expected to enjoy growing sales.

Designers also need to think about how touch interfaces will affect the design of online channels, especially if more than half of a company's customers will be using them as their main way of going online.

For businesses, these trends could affect the way they interact with consumers and not all these changes are positive.

In some fields, retailers are developing and selling tablets at or below cost price, to create a platform for other services they offer, through the device, Deloitte claims.

Amazon's Kindle Fire is perhaps the best-known example, but Tesco's Hudl has also sold well in the UK.

Other companies are struggling to optimise their online services for tablet devices and, in some cases, to make them work at all. This becomes even more difficult, as the range of tablets, and their size and capabilities, increases. It is not enough just to develop an "iPad version" of web-based channels.

Creating an attractive and workable interface for tablet services is possible: responsive web design, for example, allows pages to format themselves on the fly to accommodate a wide range of screen sizes, and orientations. This helps companies to develop one service that works on anything from a smartphone to the handful of 20-inch super tablets on the market.

Deloitte's researchers point out that app and site designers need to research how tablets will affect the way customers use content, which areas work well, and "which legacy features frustrate".

Designers also need to think about how touch interfaces will affect the design of online channels, especially if more than half of a company's customers will be using them as their main way of going online.

And it also affects marketing: conventional online banner adverts, for example designed for larger screens, may not transfer well to tablets. Making advertising work on smaller tablets, such as the Google Nexus or iPad Mini, is harder still, Deloitte's experts claim.

Some progress has, though, been made over the last few years. It is not that long ago when IT managers and web managers in companies only really developed for Internet Explorer and Windows; now supporting a wide range of browsers is good practice, and common sense.

Leaving tablets behind could also mean walking away from valuable business.

Stephen Pritchard is a contributing editor at IT Pro.

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