Taking Tablets: The Future of the Detail Aid?
Taking Tablets: The Future of the Detail Aid?

Taking Tablets: The Future of the Detail Aid?

Creating Rich Conversations with Customers

Gadget enthusiasts aren't the only ones who should be excited about the coming wave of 'tablet computers': they promise flexibility, portability, and maybe a few of the bells and whistles from your iPhone or Blackberry that you wish your laptop shared.

For tech watchers and Mac enthusiasts, rumors of an Apple Tablet have alternately sent its stock up or left on-line blogs arguing over the features of a new Apple product that has been neither seen, heard, nor confirmed. The online chatter probably represents the most press ever for a product that no one can be entirely sure actually exists.

Microsoft's Takes Two

Over the past week, photos of Courier, a Tablet PC being developed by Microsoft were leaked by Gizmodo and include two screens on either side of a hinge:

Courier Image by way of Gzmodo

"Courier is a real device, and we've heard that it's in the "late prototype" stage of development. It's not a tablet, it's a booklet. The dual 7-inch (or so) screens are multitouch, and designed for writing, flicking and drawing with a stylus, in addition to fingers. They're connected by a hinge that holds a single iPhone-esque home button. Statuses, like wireless signal and battery life, are displayed along the rim of one of the screens. On the back cover is a camera, and it might charge through an inductive pad, like the Palm Touchstone charging dock for Pre."

Assuming that the Courier (or the Apple Tablet, or the HP Tablet, or all the others that may hit the market in the coming year) boots up as quickly as an iPhone or a Kindle, then this new wave of tablet computers may be an indispensible part of the sale rep's tool kit - a more portable laptop, something you can carry on the road, whip out of your briefcase, and have up-and-running in a minute or two. With multiple ways to interact with the content, these compact machines will let you write with a stylus, input on a screen-embedded keyboard, or simply point with your finger to click.

While some marketers are already using tablets, the new generation may unleash a new wave of innovation that allows easier application development and richer interfaces that take greater advantage of the format. If Apple or Microsoft can tip the market to tablets, expect to see a larger number of developers who are able to take their skills developing Web sites or iPhone applications to the challenge of developing tablet software.

From Linear to Rich Information

Tablets have the potential to be game changers. Whether they gain wide-spread consumer use remains to be seen. But as a tool for the sales rep or other road warriors, they may well be a 'can't lose' proposition and could easily replace most laptops when the current equipment life cycle runs out.

But the challenge in adopting new technology isn't replacing equipment or even supporting it, so much as understanding what business processes might change as a result. Tablet computers are, in fact, just one way of thinking about the sales force of the future. They provide an intuitive ability to access rich information and fewer of the obstacles of laptops (I mean - you can't pop a laptop open in a hospital hallway, but you COULD unfold a tablet and navigate with your fingrertip).

While one-to-one conversation will always be the most effective sales technique there is, the sales call of the future will increasingly have access to rich supporting content. Imagine being able to quickly call up a procedural demonstration video, or to flip through to a clinical trial with your fingertip, or to tap into an expert database at will. These rich information appliances will create a greater demand by customers that reps be armed with answers - and will create pressure to maintain a focused message.

Tablet computers may seem like just the latest gizmo from the land of digital cameras and increasingly cool phones - but they're also further evidence that with knowledge and rich media in everyone's back pocket, the role of the marketer is to make sense of how to navigate these new technologies towards creating deeper and more meaningful conversations with customers.


doug thompson
Taking Tablets: The Future of the Detail Aid?

doug thompson

Doug Thompson is CEO of Remedy which he founded a decade or so ago with a couple of old laptops and one of those fax machines with curling paper. Doug keeps a pulse on innovation and on maintaining the team-based culture that has allowed Remedy to grow from that modest start.