HITEC Preview: iPad Mania

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As HITEC, the hotel industry's top technology event, gets underway today, hotel owners, operators and, of course, technology geeks are in Orlando to find the next big thing in hospitality IT systems. Judging by the avalanche of pre-show press releases by many exhibitors, two trends are emerging for this year's HITEC: cloud computing, or software as a service; and mobile technology, particularly applications for Apple's iPad.

While SaaS has been a concept floating through hotel technology for many years, it's startling how many tech suppliers have so quickly created applications for the iPad, a device that's been on the market for less than five months. The questions will be how innovative the applications will be versus just being gimmicky and cool and how many vendors will have fully operating, ready-to-go-to-market iPad-based systems as opposed to theoretical mock-ups.

A final word regarding the HITEC venue: While nearly everyone I spoke to leading up to this year's show expressed aversion to HITEC returning to Orlando (the main complaints are the oppressive heat and the vast distances between the hotels, convention center and the restaurants and other venues where many extra-curricular events are held), early word is that attendance is up, as it usually is when the event in held in central Florida. Go figure. Next year, HITEC returns to Austin, TX, also a hot place but much more fun and manageable. Many veteran HITECers long for the conference to revisit Minneapolis, the consensus all-time best venue for the event.

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