want to make a dent in the universe?

As I’ve written recently, nobody sets out to be the world’s largest jumbo shrimp. So how do you make sure you’re the disruptive force, not the minor tremor? How do you make sure you’re doing something truly unique and innovative?

Build for tablets.

Let me illustrate my point with two simple charts, both from Business Insider’sChart of the Day“.

First look that the unit shipments for iPhone and iPad in the first few months. The iPad has immediately exploded, and with Google now shipping the Nexus 7, Amazon working on a new Kindle Fire and Microsoft Surface coming (eventually) there is going to be a huge, though someone fragmented, installed base of tablet form factor devices. Even if you focus on the iPad alone, clearly the leading tablet you’re looking at a huge potential market with a low price barrier for more and more people to join.

Now let’s take a look at what has been happening with how much people are actually using their tablets in comparison to their laptops. Though specifically this is talking about iPads there’s a huge shift of almost 20 points the first and last survey.

So you might be thinking, “Great Steve. Tell me something I don’t know. There are lots of tablets being sold and people are using them more and more.” That’s a lot, and maybe that’s enough for you. But I want to take it a step further.

Building for a touch specific tablet form factor device means you have to take a completely different mindset into your design. There’s no room on a tablet for extraneous options or the “old way” of doing things. For an example of what happens when you don’t simplify enough, see this review of Microsoft Office 2013 running on a Windows tablet.

Mobile design isn’t about just bigger buttons and touch controls. It’s about eliminating everything that creates unnecessary complexity. 

Prof. Clayton Christensen’s seminal book The Innovator’s Dilemma talked about how hard it is for established companies to move into new markets as the technology platform changes. I was a student of Prof. Christensen in the late ’90s at Havard Business School, often arguing with him that his ideas wouldn’t apply to software companies. As I’ve gotten older, experiencing software development beyond the closed environment (at the time) of Microsoft I have come to realize that his idea might apply to software companies most of all.

Your opportunity as an entrepreneur, as a product designer, and as a application developer is look at markets in a completely new way, to throw away the “we’ve always done it this way” approaches and to create something completely new. That’s not news. In fact it’s the way it’s always been. The touch tablet form, along with all the smartphone platforms that go with it, is just creating a powerful new way to jump into a space and cut out of the old competitors.

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