Strap yourself in, now it gets exciting…

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On the heels of Apple’s earning report the Wall Street Journal posed a question (in a headline) that asked: “Are Tablet Computers a Passing Fad?” The article discussed the fall-off in sales of the iPad for the fifth straight quarter and suggested that this category of personal device is on the decline. Apple helped create the tablet market in 2010 with its first iPad. But growth has plummeted from 2012, as larger phones became more popular and people are delaying the replacement of their tablets. The article further alluded to potential cannibalism (by Apple (itself)) who will be bringing to market a larger iPhone in the fall. With larger phones and smaller laptops, are the personal use tablets quickly becoming anachronistic?

Ah, the speed of the digital age – what was only introduced in 2010, now may fade to be known as a ‘period-piece’?…)
I did a brief survey (unofficial), of Gen-Xers, on their personal use of the tablet. (BTW – to qualify for this survey, they actually needed to own one. My survey, my rules.) The following is a sampling of the survey and responses: (One survey came back “Hey, I’m responding on my tablet…”)
• Do you use your tablet and about what percentage of the time?
o If you looked at my computing time across the 3 devices it would probably be 50% phone, 35% tab, and 15% laptop.
• What features of the tablet are more convenient than using a laptop or smart phone?
o Mostly for entertainment. Youtube, fantasy football, games, etc.
• What features of the tablet are less convenient than using a laptop or smart phone?
o It doesn’t quite have the mobility that a phone does… but for home or in a wifi zone it is convenient. I don’t use it for work functions… prefer a laptop for typing long emails or  working ms office.
• If you could add features to the tablet what would they be
o A tab with a low cost bluetooth keyboard for typing and a better “kickstand” to prop it up.
• Commercially – on your job, how useful do you see tablets being (current and prospective uses)
o At work, a stylus and to take notes that translated to text or emails, use it as a notebook. Other than that, it needs to be practical for Excel jockeying.
• If a Laptop is extremely light weight – getting within 20% of a tablet, is there still a place for a tablet?
o If its light and has better keyboard functionality, it could replace both devices phone and laptop

I am not going to argue with the prognostications about personal use tablets, but I am going to offer this countering thought; the decline may be in ‘personal use’ but commercial application is an untapped opportunity. Instead, I am feeling bullish on the potential commercial application of the tablet and even more so because it appears to be rather nascent. At this point, the iPad penetration is only providing about 20% (of revenue) from the commercial sector. Most of that use has been in retail but the applications for insurance are already beginning to push forward.

In July, IBM and Apple entered an alliance, in which the two companies will work on a suite of secure business apps. From an insurance perspective, there has been discussion around the edges of this for a while (e.g.: PoV) and there is even a visual prototype that demonstrates potential tablet applications for underwriting use. I believe the market and industry are very ready for this.

So, this is how I see this coming together; insurers have begun to work their way through the customer experience. They are transforming operational models to accommodate increased mobility, advance multi-modal access, and improve ‘transactional experience’ in an effort to hold onto and win in their markets. We have been observing some clever plays with mobility and claims handling (such as FNOL or ‘Chat with an adjuster’) but the real growth is probably going to come from breaking the underwriter / marketer away from their desk (and even a laptop) which will be accomplished by equipping them with more robust mobility tools enabled by secure applications and quality hardware.
I believe that Big Data has enabled insurance companies (established and new) to gain greater insights into risk, exposures, and predicting outcomes. The current gold standard (in transformational efforts) has been to focus on getting that information to the underwriter – real time. The objective being to provide insight at the point of interaction while monitoring the situational environment to provide ‘in the moment’ contextual data (a pocket genius, kind-of).

Obviously, marrying IBM’s business-software expertise with Apple’s hardware and services will create great stuff, and for the insurance industry, now it’s getting exciting.

Senior Managing Consultant - Insurance: S&T

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