The Apple (News - Alert) iPad was among Twitter's list of "Overall Top Trends" for 2010. According to Facebook, the iPhone (News - Alert) 4 and the iPad were among the top "status updates" of 2010. The Google "Zeitgeist" shows that, in 2010, "iPad" was the second faster-rising query term.
All of that suggests that the iPad in particular, and by extension tablet devices, were on consumers’ minds in 2010. All of that is important for fixed and mobile service providers for a couple of reasons. For mobile service providers, it is a chance to sell more mobile broadband accounts. It might also create a stronger reason to use mobile hotspot devices and access services.
Indirectly, it creates a new value for access services, whether fixed or mobile, that include WiFi (News - Alert) hotspot access as part of the subscriptions. Tablets also represent the first tangible evidence of new categories of devices that use mobile broadband. Demand for broadband dongle services has, up to this point, been dominated by business users who use such services when working remotely. The iPad, and tablets in general, might represent the first wave of consumer-driven demand for mobile broadband service supporting devices other than feature phones and smartphones.
Beyond that, tablets also represent another step in the direction of cloud computing, since tablets are ideally suited to consuming web-based information. Tablets also might represent a new wave of media devices, more akin to the iPod than a mobile PC, specifically designed to support media consumption.
All of that is a pretty big deal for mobile service providers, as it suggests new markets for mobile broadband services, especially the new fourth-generation networks (using a functional definition rather than the International Telecommunications Union definition) that likely will have to prove they are different from 3G networks in more ways than simply providing more bandwidth.
"More bandwidth" is a good thing, of course. It does provide some amount of marketing interest. But it would be far better if some new lead application emerges, whether than is video entertainment or mobile hot spot capability or something else that simply emerges. As important as 3G networks are, and will become, mobile service providers did not find the "interesting new applications" they originally expected, did develop. As it has turned out, mobile broadband access to the Internet is as close to a killer app as anybody has found.
It might take a while before something similar happens with 4G networks. But history suggests that is likely, at some point. Interest in the iPad though most units so far seem to be WiFi-only units, hints at a possible direction. Gary Kim (News - Alert) is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Gary’s articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Tammy Wolf