When personal computers were introduced in the 1980s, the most common consumer application was word processing. Millions of consumers abandoned their typewriters to move en masse to sophisticated word processors, which provided them far more productivity. When tablets were introduced, a similar killer application emerged to make them popular. Unlike word processors, which improved productivity, “Angry Bird” and other games were productivity killers among executives. I watched in dismay as my colleagues purchased expensive iPads so that they could conquer the angry birds and invested countless hours in perfecting their skills. Unlike the “punch card” generation to which I belong, these young executives had personal computers when they went to school and had grown up playing hangman and solitaire on them. Tablets gave them the screen size, the power of graphic animation, and a set of games that attracted and held their interest.

Games are far more sophisticated today than the earlier Nintendo games my kids grew up with. My nephew proudly demonstrated the power of collaboration as he downloaded his favorite games on my tablet and his own. Within minutes, we were busy on our respective tablets shooting bullets at each other, using my Wi-Fi to connect the two of us. He showed me numerous ways in which I could collaborate with many others, friends or strangers. If I could let a stranger shoot bullets to my second life going through its third incarnation, why could I not use the power of graphics to sell product features and demonstrate use cases?

Tablets are offering new avenues for a variety of graphic applications. Video content is rapidly finding its tablet audience. I often watch Dancing with the Stars on the ABC app on my iPad, freeing me from the proximity to my television or the prime spot in my day when I am quietly resting on a flight at 35,000 feet or busy with other activities. The show requires me to repeatedly view commercials at regular intervals, which I am not allowed to fast-forward through. I have also found that different apps have different ways of dealing with my preferences. Some ask for a “like” vote to figure out what type of commercials would be of interest to me. Some offer to skip the commercial after a couple of seconds, but if I decide not to skip, the commercials last a lot longer than the customary 20 or 30 seconds.

Videos and games on tablets provide us a new set of capabilities for influencing customers. We have barely scratched the surface. Unlike a television, the tablet is often associated with an individual and is frequently connected to the Internet. We are more likely to carry a tablet with us to malls and stores, especially while making purchases of expensive items. We also use tablets for video calls and video games.

With a large number of observations, and having the knowledge of tablet location, marketers can use tablets for powerful context and intent-specific messaging. This year, as I prepared to watch my favorite tennis tournament—the US Open—I downloaded the US Open app on my smartphone. The app provided me with a lot of information at silicon speed, including player statistics.

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