Is 2011 looking to be the year of the ‘tablet’ or the ‘cloud?’ Is it tablet because cloud is just a delivery mode or is it cloud because the tablet is merely an access device, I asked in an online poll started two days ago on a professional networking site.

At the time of writing this column, an equal number of the majority of votes had come in for the two options. Only a few votes went to the other two options, one of which said it was the year of both cloud and tablet, while the last option said it was a year neither of the cloud nor the tablet but of the smart phone.

The poll analysis threw up some interesting insights. Nearly 80 per cent of the respondents who voted for the cloud comprised managers, CXOs, VPs and owners while the remaining 40 per cent formed an “others” category that is likely to have more consumers as respondents. On the contrary, three-fourth of the respondents who voted for the tablet came from the “others” category.

This implies that tablets are of more immediate interest to consumers, while business users would be keener to explore and understand the benefits of cloud. Going forward, as iCloud kind of services gain momentum, more consumers would likely be interested in the cloud.

Not surprisingly, all client device makers, global and Indian, have either launched a tablet or have it on their product roadmap. And most of the service providers already have a cloud strategy in place.

While both cloud and tablet are game-changing industry phenomena, both these are being driven by something even more significant. For the past few years, the newer generations of ICT users have been driving changes in terms of their expectations and preferences for devices and services, among other things. And those changing consumer needs kick-started transformation processes on the suppliers’ side of the market as well. In fact, ‘transformation’ has gone so mainstream that 2011 could actually be called the Year of Transformation. Devices like tablets and delivery paradigms like cloud are manifestations of the ongoing transformation.

There is a growing recognition among stakeholders across various ICT segments to align their offerings to meet the dynamically changing needs and expectations of users. Telecom service providers are not untouched by the developments and have embarked upon the journey to transformation, even if it’s a less conscious decision in cases.

In India, where as per Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, there were more than more than 860 million telecom subscribers at the close of April 2011 and counting, the potential opportunities and rewards could stimulate industry transformation.

(As published in Deccan Chronicle, June 23, 2011.)

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