Often when a new technology hits the market, people treat it like they did the preceding technology. The first cars looked a lot like horse drawn carriages with engines. The first Motorcycles looked like bicycles with engines, and PCs were basically replacements for typewriters and calculators initially. Currently, most eBooks are just electronic books that allow us to turn pages electronically while tablets are kind of a cross between a smartphone and a PC, but the content they showcase isn’t really any different than you can get on those other devices. I expect this will change and that future tablets will be substantially different than what we have today as content providers move to mixed media and then ad social to the mix.
Core to this move will be the introduction of transflective screens like Qualcomm’s Mirasol technology. Right now you have to make a hard choice between ePaper which works anyplace where there is light and uses very little power and TFT screens which are best in low-light and use a ton of power mostly to light the display. I expect the standard TFT display to be obsolete in 10 to 15 years because of this high power requirement and the continued need to conserve energy in an increasingly power short world.
New transflective display technology, which uses ambient light to brighten the screen, is vastly more power efficient and provides much of the power efficiency of ePaper but also allows for high frame rates so that you can enjoymedia and mixed content. This ability to mix media types will be critical for next generation blended media which could become the killer application for anyone who can supply it.
What I mean by blended media is the ability to imbed video into book content. For instance you could create a Harry Potter book that allowed the reader to jump to movie scenes that corresponded to the segment being read or, when watching a movie, see a an indicator that there is a critical connection in the book that the movie doesn’t cover and allow the viewer to either read that section or provide a synopsis of it in order to improve the continuity of the story. Music could be specially selected by the author of the story to enhance the reading and still shots from the movie or TV show could be used to add images to a book as characters or scenes are introduced.
In other words, increasingly I expect the lines will blur between media types on a tablet the way they could never have been blurred on a TV or a traditional book. The result could add so much more if done right, but this is far from the end. What if we added a connected social aspect to all of this?
Blended Social Media
I expect we’ll move to this concept rather quickly if not at the same time. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know if any of your friends had read the same book or watched the same movie you did and had the same or different favorite parts? We are already seeing some of this in products like Internet Explorer 9 where, when you go to a website, you can see which of your friends had visited or commented on it. Rather than just tracks the author chose as background for your reading, why not use suggestions from your friends as to what they liked to listen to while reading the same thing or just a note letting you know they were reading the same book you are and where they are on it? It’d certainly give you something more to chat, email, or IM about.
How about when you end the book or movie suggestions from people you’ve friended on what they suggest you read next or a deeper granularity in how you like or dislike a book so that Amazon or some other vendor, or a friend who had similar feelings, could suggest other things to read or watch?
Once we start really adding a social aspect to books, movies and games we can start to see people gravitate into similar groups, engage more often on common experiences, and even collect into vocal groups that could drive advertising revenue or help studios pick the movies and TV shows that would be most successful.
Wrapping Up: We are Just at the Beginning
My ideas are hardly exhaustive and I’m sure many of you could come up with better ones. However what is clear is we aren’t yet even scratching the surface of what is coming in terms of blended social content that these tablets (granted mostly iPads) coming into the market will create. I think we will eventually end up with new media types and new devices that can better consume them because we’ll not only want to be able to use the tablets outside, we’ll want to use them wherever and whenever we are. I smell change in the wind and it smells incredible.