Did you notice it? I thought there might be a bit more fanfare when it happened, but it apparently happened anyway. According to data from Gartner, the fourth quarter of 2012 saw more tablets shipped worldwide than notebooks or desktop PCs. It was very, very close, but tablets had the edge over notebooks. See for yourself here. Okay, IDC predicts the tipping point will actually occur later this year, but this is a fun graph:

tabletshipments2

Well, that was fast, considering the first tablets began shipping in 2010.

Why should you care? Mobile learning, of course! Organizations are going to be increasingly faced with armies of tablet-toting workers who are not going to want to chain themselves to even a laptop, let alone a desktop PC, when they need to continue their development.

While there is a general consensus that the majority of large-scale eLearning activities will never make their way onto the smartphone, more learning content is going to have to be configured for tablets. And before you say, “So what, how different is a tablet compared to a laptop, anyway?” remember that most tablet users will probably be using something with a screen that is not only smaller than 15 inches, but probably smaller than 10 inches:

 

Worldwide Tablet Market Share by Screen Size Band, 2011 – 2017 

Screen Size

2011

2013

2017

< 8″

27%

55%

57%

8″ – 11″

73%

43%

37%

11″+

0%

2%

6%

Total

100%

100%

100%

Source: IDC Worldwide Tablet Tracker, May 2013

So combine that with a touch screen (forget keyboards and mice), an app environment and quickly evolving operating systems and you are faced with a completely different animal. The cool thing is that you get additional features such as GPS, cameras and accelerometers, greatly expanding the design possibilities.

Of course, to take full advantage of some of the unique features of tablets, you will have to delve into the world of apps, which means designing for Apple iOS, Android, Windows or whatever else may arise.  However, unless your organization is planning on handing out standardized tablets to all your employees, it’s probably best to remain platform agnostic at this stage. Making sure your web-based content is optimized for multiple platforms and screen sizes is more important.

The mobile future we’ve been talking about is here, so if you haven’t seriously been considering tablets as a tool for learning, it’s time to start.

David Wentworth

David Wentworth has been a senior research analyst in the human capital field since 2005 and joined the Brandon Hall Group in 2013. He has authored reports and articles on various human capital subjects with an emphasis on workforce technology. He has contributed to several reports published by ASTD, including authoring Mobile Learning: Learning in the Palm of Your Hand, The Rise of Social Media: Enhancing Collaboration and Productivity Across Generations, and Instructional Systems Design Today and in the Future. His work has also appeared in Compensation & Benefits Review and T+D Magazine.

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