by As Told to Michael J. Shapiro | May 01, 2010

Will the iPad and competing tablets transform meetings? On the eve of the iPad's release, M&C tapped a variety of tech-focused people in the industry for their thoughts. (For more information and insights, see "What iPad Means to Meetings" in the May issue of M&C.)

"Don't buy the first edition! Many things need to be worked out, and the next generations will be much better. Although the iPad does many things very well, there are many thing you can't do with it: You can't multitask, you can't make a [cellular] call, you can't take a picture, you can't do many things we expect from basic computers. However, the iPad is a paradigm shifter in a similar manner that the iPhone was. It will lead the way for tablet PCs with multitouch capabilities to become ‘cool.' These are exciting times -- portable PCs will change forever."
-- Corbin Ball, CSP, CMP, Corbin Ball Associates

"I think that the iPad is going to have a big impact on meetings, one that will be felt immediately around mobile interaction between the audience and speakers/presenters. We've seen a lot of smart phone interactions over the last 12 months, and I think this is only going to increase due to the easier interaction capabilities of the iPad. Smart phone interaction will continue to include social media conversations, but the iPad is also going to enable richer mobile interactions. Things like interactive polling, voting and whiteboarding will be a lot easier from an iPad than from mobile phones. Previously, companies invested in stand-alone devices to do those types of things, but increasingly those will be provided as applications on the iPad. On the technology side, the iPad should accelerate the adoption of HTML5 apps [vs. native iPad/iPhone apps]. It's a lot easier to develop web apps that work on the iPhone, iPad, laptops and desktops.  It's really expensive to develop different apps for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Symbian, etc. And now you have to add iPad to the mix, because iPhone apps don't scale up well to the larger screen size. This will encourage more developers to use HTML5. That's where the future is."
-- John Kanarowski, president, Zerista

"Just as the iPod changed the way we connect with entertainment media, the iPad, and tablets in general, will change the way we connect with information media. So much will come down to the specific apps that get created and the content they harvest. Great apps should deliver much richer and more relevant information to meeting/event attendees to support their live-event experience and generate a greater ROI. Collaboration and participation in the room and beyond should also be enhanced significantly as connecting people, information and ideas will be enriched by greater access to information."
-- Bruce MacMillan, president and CEO, Meeting Professionals International (shortly after placing his order for an iPad)

"I love the possibilities of the iPad as a tool for virtual meetings, particularly those held in Second Life. There are already a couple of iPhone apps out there that access Second Life that will also run on the iPad. I currently use Pocket Metaverse, which doesn't provide the full 3D experience but it does deliver access to many major functions. What is very exciting to me is something that has already been developed in Korea, a huge touchscreen user interface for Second Life. [e.g.,] Something like that, shrunk down to iPad size, combined with the exciting prospects of 4G's extremely fast broadband and the promise of continuous connectivity, would be a major plus -- not just for Second Life but for all virtual meeting environments. I do enjoy the thought of being able to coordinate events at Virtualis from my iPad, and joining attendees who are also using this new technology."
-- Dan Parks, president and creative director, Corporate Planners Unlimited Inc. and creator, Virtualis Convention Center

"I think the iPad, or any Internet-connected tablet device, holds great potential to have an impact on meetings, if only by connecting participants to the Internet and facilitating web usage during the meeting. However, the manner of how they can use the Web-connected device to share information and communicate will be what determines the level of impact. The possibilities fostered by the large multitouch screen are certainly intriguing!"
-- Harry Waisbren, community manager, Qworky

"When e-readers and then the first tablets were first released, the initial thought was that the industry would quickly embrace them to deliver content, digital proceedings, etc. I worked on a couple of projects for converting and indexing publications that could then be delivered and searched digitally. While the idea was appealing, the cost of the readers was prohibitive -- most organizers were hesitant to invest in technology that required their attendees to purchase something, and the cost points were too much for them to bundle into registration fees.  The novelty then wore off when there were conflicting technologies -- it was like giving everyone a BetaMax and then providing them with VHS tapes. But what makes the iPad and current tablets more appealing is that the delivery doesn't have to be solely to the device; they can be used as true readers of the content without having to download it. That requires a constant connection to the web, of course. If the format of the content were to be standardized -- so that I could use an iPad or a Sony Reader or the Amazon Kindle or a BlackBerry to read it -- then it may make more sense to download the proceedings or presentations, including streaming video, to the devices themselves. Other uses we should explore for conferences include surveys, audience response and social networking."
-- Bob Walters, technology consultant and regular contributor to M&C's The Tech Files column