Thinking different with tablets

I’ve just returned from a trip to the United States. Apart from being stuffed full of good food, I’ve come back to our fair shores with some interesting gadget experiences – and it’s made me a little disappointed about our own progress.

Let me explain.

While I was in Los Angeles, I attended the E3 convention, which is the world’s largest gathering for video games and interactive entertainment. Something like 45,000 people attended the convention over three days.

There were a few big announcements from Sony and Microsoft, but what I found more interesting was the clever ways companies are beginning to use tablets, integrating them into their own products.

An example: in one particular game, players compete on a virtual battlefield. But one person using a tablet can act as a “commander”, dropping supplies and vehicles to players, while giving specific instructions to individual participants.

This role can be played by any person using the specific tablet application, as long as they have an internet connection. They can be a part of the game even if they don’t have access to their main gaming console or system.

There were plenty of these examples across the convention. But while we’ve seen some of that type of tablet integration in Australia, it’s certainly not commonplace.

There are some who are doing it well. Businesses that are creating tablet apps of their own to manage inventory, or show off a particular shopping experience to customers.

Country Road, for instance, is training its shopping staff on how to use iPads so they don’t have to stand behind a till all day. They can walk around the store and assist and even charge customers without having to head back to the counter.

Small businesses might argue they don’t have time or money to create specific, tailored apps. That’s fair enough, but that doesn’t mean they have to miss out on using tablets in interesting ways.

I’ve been to a winery where the managing company used iPads to allow customers to sign up for an emailing list. There are businesses which use iPads to access inventory spreadsheets, while others, like Country Road, are using them for mobile tills.

Tablets are relatively cheap. Perhaps it’s time you should start thinking about how you can use them in different ways – if video games can, why can’t you?

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