Pre iPad, just a few of my “bleeding edge” friends used netbooks and relied on internet hosted tools. But out of everyone I know, only one person made a netbook their main computer and everyone else used it as a back-up or second computer.
Right after the iPad launched in April, hardcore Apple fans rushed to be the first one on the block with the shiny new toy. But within a short time frame, I noticed “mainstream people” buying and using the iPad. In fact by the time the first Buzz2010 session rolled around in June, there were 2 or three people using an iPad to take notes, check e-mail, tweet and do their on-site work.
Fast forward to ASAE Tech in December, and I felt like a Luddite for lugging around my laptop to take notes and get work done during the conference. In every session I attended I was outnumbered by iPads and saw firsthand how people on the go traveled light and still carried all their technology with them. (Yes, an iPad is in my future. Just not now.)
And this trend is only going to accelerate. There are (believable) rumors of the new iPad to be released in the first quarter of 2011. Samsung is releasing the Galaxy. Blackberry is releasing it’s own Tablet – the BlackBerry PlayBook. And even “good-old-fashioned” eReaders like the Nook have apps that allow you to check e-Mail and access online tools like Facebook.
In fact, tablet computers are going to overturn the marketplace so much that eMarketer predicts that worldwide sales will exceed 140 million units by the end of 2012 – a rapid jump from the 15.7 million sold in 2010.
So what does this mean for associations or our software and technology? Much has been written by others about what this means for your members, so instead I’ll focus on a few items from the staff perspective.
Free WiFi at Events is Expected – ASAE Tech did a great job of offering free WiFi throughout the entire show (including meeting rooms) and it was appreciated by all attending.
However, what is noteworthy is how unique this is. How many times have you walked into a seminar and there hasn’t been free WiFi? Or when checking into a hotel felt cheated because you need to pay $17.95 for internet access?
For now this is a market differentiator for facilities, but it won’t be that way for long. For meeting planners (and those selling to meeting planners) this is going to quickly become a key negotiating point as their attendees are going to expect 100% reliable, free accessible.
Mobile Web Will Be a Key Factor in Web Development - Yes, I’ve said before that Mobile is A Next Big Thing, but It’s Not the Only Thing. But as technology changes, associations regularly go through website redesigns and updates – and mobile needs to be on that list of updates.
As they get their technology houses in order, mobile will be a development priority to be considered during the AMS and CMS selection process. Creating a mobile ready site or rapid development of a mobile app is going to be part of the project requirements and updates as well as the ability to deliver relevant member data and experiences to mobile devices.
Web Based Tools Will Drive Staff/Member Interactions – Your association’s members are finding answers in real time on internet enabled tablet devices. Will you serve them in the same manner?
When you bump into a new board member at an event who wants an update on retention numbers can you give him current numbers? What happens when you are walking the show floor and you get accosted by a disgruntled exhibitor complaining about lower than expected attendance?
Once upon a time you could make a note or take a business card and reply when you got back to the office. But real-time information availability means you are going to need real-time access for real-time response. Your choice will be to carry a big-fat binder with you or make sure key systems like your event registration or association management software are 100% web enabled so you can access them on a tablet or similar mobile device.
As a good example, at this month’s ASAE Tech show I happened to catch up with one of Avectra’s sales people who showed me how they used netFORUM association management software on an iPad.
The bottom line is that mobile and tablet computers are changing how we do our business as fast as our member’s and customer’s expectations evolve. It is going to require getting your association’s technology infrastructure updated, realigning some priorities and planning ahead. But the sooner that these discussions and initiatives start happening, the better off your association will be as you look to the future of technology and your member experience.