When the iPad was introduced over four years ago, no one knew what it would become. Many considered it a big ass iPod touch. Others went and created startups around it – Fifty Three, Onswipe, Flipboard, etc. Sales slowed down, but that’s in perspective to its original growth. If you were to take a snapshot of tablet sales by themselves, you would see growth faster than anything we’ve ever seen before. Last week, the Phablet became a mainstream and not just an Android thing with the iPhone Plus.

The iPhone Plus is going to force the tablet to become an adult and make a name for itself. At first, there was a logical reason to have an iPhone (at the time 3.5 inches) and an iPad (at the time 9.7 inches). Today, the gap is much smaller with an iPhone at 5.5 inches and an iPad at 7.9 inches. The default argument to get an iPad of “it’s a bigger screen” isn’t going to resonate anymore. Many people are not going to buy an iPad when they can just have a large screen on an iPhone Plus. This is actually a good thing for the iPad. It’s going to force it to grow up and figure out who it is supposed to be. Developers won’t be able to just release larger and richer versions of their apps, but they’re going to have to build applications uniquely suited to the iPad. Another way of thinking about it is like this:

In 2010, developers should ask themselves what does the iPad allow them to build that you couldn’t build before. That’s gone as many of those use cases can be built on an iPhone Plus now. The question in 2014 and beyond to ask is this – what is the iPad uniquely suited for? What apps would you build that could be a rousing success if they were to only be released for the iPad. I don’t know the exact answers to the question, but my gut feels that it has a lot to do with productivity and the mobile worker. Paper by FiftyThree fits this use case. Future productivity applications and mobile workers are going to need the form factor of the tablet, especially at 9.7 inches.

It’s also likely that this is going to force the iPad to merge with the macbook air. If the main use cases that arise are around productivity, the same thing that the iPhone Plus did to the iPad, the iPad will do to the Macbook Air. Many thought 2010 was the best time to start a company that was tablet centric, but I’d argue that 2014 may be even better as things have shaken out quite nicely to show what the tablet should be relative to the phone.