When Steve Jobs and Apple first launched the iPad in April 2010, they were initially met with a wave of criticism based around the theme of: “Who is the target market for this product, anyway?”

Do we need tablets?

At the time, smartphone sales were skyrocketing, and the iPhone was already on its way to becoming an icon. Consumers were presented with two simple choices. If you needed freedom of movement, you could run your life from a small screen, since smartphones came equipped with full internet and email access, apps, and games. While stationed at home or at the office, you had a desktop computer, or for added mobility, you could spend extra for a laptop; and if you wanted to read an e-book, there was the ready-made Kindle. Easy!

So it seemed logical to ask who would want to use a tablet, and for what purpose. Journalists and commentators claimed that Jobs had finally lost his magic touch and that the launch would be a disaster. However, as April 3rd arrived, lines formed around the block in front of Apple stores as the public rushed to grab the first iPad. The rest is history, with Android operators launching various tablets in response, and leaving the slow to react Microsoft playing catch up.

Where tablets come in

What happened, and how did it catch tech industry pundits by surprise? Where is the need for a tablet? To help define the niche into which the tablet fits, it may be easier to start with what a tablet is not, rather than what it is. First, a tablet is not a laptop – even though Microsoft is now trying to change this with Windows 8. Tablets do not have the full range of functionality, especially in terms of productivity, of even a low end laptop, but with the addition of specially made apps, they can come very close.

Tablets are also not smartphones – even though some Android phones are getting so large you can use them as a life raft for a family of four if your cruise ship sinks. Nevertheless, smartphones changed the way we all look at mobile technology. When Nokia ruled the world, our mobile phones were primarily for keeping in touch with each other, be that through traditional phone calls or via SMS/MMS. Top end phones might include a simple camera (of usually poor quality), a couple of basic games (because using a number pad meant you could not press two numbers at the same time), and music capabilities limited to downloading custom ringtones. After the adoption of the first smartphone, our cellphones have become more than just a communication device; now they are also mobile entertainment centers and internet portals available wherever you go.

This is where the tablet steps in. Strip out the telephonic part of a smartphone, and you’re left with an entertainment center and internet access on a small screen. By increasing the screen size, you can dramatically improve the entertainment experience. Watching movies, playing games, accessing the internet, browsing emails, and reading eBooks then becomes much more pleasurable and useful.

Although we frequently use our tablets as a primary entertainment center and internet connection while traveling, the most interesting use of tablets happens not when we are out, but while at home or in the office. If you have a tablet, think about how often you use it at home. Most people would admit to using a tablet while watching TV for secondary purposes like games, email, social media or gathering information from the internet. It is also common to see the tablet used in more private places in the home like the bedroom, or even the bathroom, as a portable entertainment center.

Optimizing the Sirix platform for tablets

The challenge for Product Managers is to turn our daily habits and interaction with technology into smart products that makes sense in our ever-evolving world. A common process is to take the PC version of a product, strip it down a bit for tablet, and then produce a bare bones version for mobile. The next step is to change the interface a little to take advantage of “touchscreen” capability, and perhaps even to modify the way we see it in both portrait and landscape. But what we should be doing is looking not at the technology limitations first, but at the expected usage patterns, in order to give our users added value based on their lifestyle and habits.

At Leverate we are careful to plot out the ways traders might use our Sirix Tablet platform in various settings. We have studied the quantity of information required to make educated Forex trades and we’ve adjusted Sirix to maximize the benefits of the touchscreen interface while minimizing possible tablet limitations – for example, the difference between left and right clicks on the mouse. We are therefore able to plan and execute a roadmap of features in a way that allows us to truly meet the needs of traders.

Our use of AGILE/SCRUM Project Management means we are constantly releasing and testing against the market, so that we can optimize the evolution of our products. Based on this behind-the-scenes look at the thought process behind the development of the Sirix Tablet platform, we hope that you now better understand how to differentiate trader interactions with different devices, and why top brokers turn to Sirix to keep their tablet traders satisfied.