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Are tablets going the credit card way?

india Updated: Jul 11, 2011 15:03 IST
N Madhavan
N Madhavan
Hindustan Times
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Cisco, the company better known for network routers, has launched its own tablet PC, called Cius.

Cisco describes the device based on Google's Android platform as "an ultra-portable, mobile collaboration enterprise tablet that offers access to essential business applications". So we have a gadget for business use while most tablets talk consumer stuff.

I consider it significant because Cisco is not a computer-maker. But its smart use of the tablet to address its core customer segment -the big corporates - shows a simple lesson: in the world of tablets, it is not the device but the applications (apps) that run on them that will really matter, much like a store where the products matter more than the shelves.

Consider the Indian Railways, which has taken a big step forward by introducing the m-ticket under which print-outs can be done away with. Customers have to download a mobile app from the Indian Railways' Internet portal and a "mobile reservation message" on payment of fees which will serve as the ticket. Apps like these will henceforth drive market value, not who makes the device they are on.

Now, just about everybody gets tablet devices manufactured in China or Taiwan, where mass manufacturing is now an art. Like mobile phones, tablets will also proliferate rapidly.

As the device turns cheaper and the focus shifts to apps, I expect tablets to become more like credit cards - co-branded versions will appear in the market, with sales pitches and customised or bundled apps that are friendly to the selling company or brand. (Think media specific, retail specific or education specific apps)

In credit cards, Visa and Mastercard have boosted their business through easy partnerships with banks, retailers, service providers and companies. Similarly, Android and Windows Mobile platforms might become the back-end for a profusion of tablets bundled with focused apps or services.The front end will be anybody's game.