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New tablets, real estate and the open Web

Can big tech players agree on new standards?

Wow — there were a bunch of new tablets introduced at CES 2011! The International Consumer Electronics Show is an annual trade show held in Las Vegas that has been around for decades.

The exhibition is typically home to new product releases and cutting-edge previews. The show draws huge crowds, and last year’s event saw more than 120,000 attendees.

There was a plethora of tablets showcased this year running different platforms, including: Android 3.0 ("Honeycomb"), Windows 7 and BlackBerry.

Honeycomb is the third and latest version of the Android operating system. Previous versions included Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, Froyo and Gingerbread. If you think these operating systems sound delicious or read like a dessert menu, you are correct.

The naming convention not only incorporates a dessert theme but is alphabetized as well. Matter of fact, the next installment of the mobile OS is entitled "Ice Cream."

Engadget has a comprehensive breakdown and guided tour of the recently released tablets. The majority of the new tablets range from 7-10 inches and incorporate a range of processing speeds, displays, battery life and memory.

Before the iPad was released last year, many industry experts debated whether there was even a market for tablets. Pundits and analysts wondered if consumers would embrace such a device.

Apple went on to sell 3 million iPads in its first 80 days on the market — and judging by the number of tablets unveiled at CES 2011, it’s probably safe to say that we have just scratched the surface of tablet development.

As I mentioned in a previous column, "Top 10 tech trends of 2010," some analysts are predicting that the combined sales of smart phones and mobile devices like tablets will surpass sales of personal computers by 2012.

The explosion in mobile computing is reshaping content development and how media is being delivered. Mobile is also influencing how we design our nonmobile websites, and just last week we saw Apple introduce the Mac App Store.

Jennifer Van Grove, Associate Editor at Mashable, declared, "The Mac App Store represents a big shift in Mac application discovery and development."

The emergence of mobile computing does represent a big shift. It also magnifies the need for cross-platform applications.

Can we move beyond closed systems? Allow me to indulge for a moment. How glorious would it be to have full access to your multiple listing service across all devices, including your desktop, laptop, tablet and smart phone?

Imagine being able to generate a comparative market analysis of properties on your iPad or creating a cross-property search from your smart phone and sending the customer display sheet via e-mail. All of this without the need for a third-party app or an additional paid service.

The software would be fully accessible from any browser on any device. How productive would that be? Now, back to reality — I just wish my local MLS worked independent of ActiveX (a software technology developed by Microsoft that Internet Explorer utilizes) and was available on other browsers besides Internet Explorer 7 and occasionally version 8.

The emergence of HTML5 and CSS3 certainly open the door to possibilities. Although standards are still being developed, support continues to grow. The concept of an "open Web" poses many challenges.

The business motives of colossal technology companies like Adobe, Apple, Google and Microsoft certainly play major roles.

Jeremy Allaire, founder and CEO of Brightcove, wrote an insightful article, "The Future of Web Content — HTML5, Flash & Mobile Apps." Having previously worked for Macromedia and helping to develop the Flash platform, Allaire has a unique perspective on the open Web.

He discusses many issues regarding the topic, including patents, video, mobile devices and more. Ultimately, it’s about reach, Jeremy states: "For platform makers, these battles will continue as they all seek to drive sufficient reach for their open and proprietary standards such that they can exploit this distribution for their core commercial goals.

"Likewise, and more important, whatever standards and models deliver the broadest reach will ultimately drive what is adopted by publishers, developers and ISVs (independent software vendors)."

What I find to be most intriguing in this statement is that the "broadest reach" will eventually be a reality. Mobile computing will play a major role in shaping the development of these models, and the open Web may not be such an open question.

Tom Flanagan is the director of information technology at Residential Properties Ltd. in Providence, R.I. You can contact him at or @tflan on Twitter.

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