Overview of TabLife TO 2010 panels and case study

Rogers Communications Inc.

Two panel discussions and a case study followed the two TabLife TO keynotes that kicked off the TabLife 2010 conference.

The first panel discussion focused on tablets and the media. Claude Gallipeau (Senior Vice President and General Manager, Digital Media, Rogers Media Inc.), Stephanie Jackson (Vice President, Client Services, Zinio), Bob Stein (Co-Director, Institute for the Future of the Book), and Matt Hartley (Journalist, National Post) spoke about digital media in general, the impact of tablets, and more particularly about the impact of both on their trades.

There was little argument that pretty much all content will be digital within the next 15 years. According to Bob Stein, Co-Director, Institute for the Future of the Book, once media escapes its physical boundaries, distinctions between books, music, video will disappear as it all blends. The panel also agreed at the growing social aspect of media. Publishers are already having to adjust to this new reality where rich content is blended with traditional magazine publications. Digitization is also enabling greater social interaction around media.

While tablets will play a bigger role in content creation in the future, they are not quite there today. On one side, you have Marc Saltzman, a technology journalist and TV host who wrote an article while on the subway on his way to TabLife and on the other, you have Matt Hartley from the National Post who still does most of his writing with a physical keyboard.

The second panel discussion focused on the use of tablets in the business world. I found this discussion less interesting as much of what tablets apparently promise is in many ways already offered by existing devices. Rather than enabling new ways of doing business, they build on what other technology already provides. Rather than revolutionizing business, tablets seem to be a natural technological evolution. One area where tablets could bring genuine benefit is health care. But as Dr. Wendy Graham, the founder of the Association of Family Health Teams, pointed out, there is a lot of bureaucracy that stands in the way.

In the case study, Professor Rhonda McEwen, of University of Toronto’s iSchool talked about how tablets are changing the way autistic children communicate with their teachers and other non-verbal children. Limitations imposed by other tools are melting away both in terms of capabilities and in costs. Dedicated equipment can cost up to CA$30,000 but a $600 tablet can now do as much if not more.

All in all, tablets seem to hold a lot of promise but could also be quite a disruptive force in many areas.