Why there is no such thing as a ‘killer’ tablet

by Ben Bajarin

August 4 2013

Ben Bajarin is Director of the Consumer Technology Practice at Creative Strategies, a strategy consulting firm in Silicon Valley. His TabTimes column appears every other Sunday.

Not long after Google released the new and improved Nexus 7, I started receiving calls from press, who wanted my opinion on the new device.  During the majority of these calls I got the predictable question: Is this an iPad Killer? 

My perspective on the matter is that there is simply no such thing.  Not because the iPad will dominate forever, but simply because the tablet market will remain diversified.  The iPad, like the Nexus 7, has its place in the market and both products appeal to different groups for different reasons.    

The market for tablets is gigantic. Much bigger than I think people realize. Most forecasts I've seen estimate that half a billion tablets will be sold by 2017.  

But even when we hit 500 million tablets sold I don't see the market slowing down.  A market this large will require many different products and product types to fulfil the needs of tablet customers and this is why we need to drop the idea that any product will kill another. 

Hi-res screen tablets could dominate holiday sales

Tablets will remain hot holiday items for the next few years at least but consumers will need to start exploring the benefits and trade-offs of the specific products they are interested in.

There is an obvious push for more high resolution screens – as evidenced by the iPad, the Nexus 7 and rumors over a Retina Display iPad mini --   and these eye-catching screens certainly add to the visual experience.  

But inevitably there will be tablets on the market without these screens and at lower price points.  So rationalizing the importance of high-resolution screen against the price a consumer is willing to pay is going to be a trade-off in the purchasing decision.  

For many corporate purchases, it is likely that price will be more important than screen resolution although there could be exceptions if the tablets were to be used in more creative environments, like a sales team carrying out presentations.  

This is where understanding the job the tablet is going to do for a customer is centrally important.   

In consumer markets it is likely that the screen resolution is a bigger deal because these devices will have more focused on entertainment.  Consumers want these devices for playing games, browsing the web and reading, which are all enhanced with models that have higher resolution displays.  

Whether it is the iPad, the Nexus 7 or even newer products coming out this holiday season, I expect screen resolution to be big focus point when consumers buy tablets. 

Get ready for gigantic tablets

Picking up again on my point of the market for tablets supporting a wide range of diversification, I feel that this will also lead to a wide range of screen sizes.  

We see tablets starting at the 7-inch range today and I expect more variety all the way up to even 12-inch and possibly 13-inch tablets as well.  There may not be a huge market for these larger screen tablets, but I do think there are some who will find them valuable.  

There are many benefits and trade-offs that come along with each screen size, and knowing which screen size is the best for you is key to making the purchasing decision.  

Smaller screen tablets are more portable and more uniquely suited for entertainment tasks, while larger screen tablets are a bit more conducive to productivity tasks but are also slightly less portable.  

When factoring in the trade-offs of different screen tablets, knowing the task they will be used for is key.

Convertible tablets are a compromise

As I look out forward into the future of the tablet market, there is another factor that will enter the buying process – weighing up if one device can do the job of both a tablet and a laptop.

With Windows 8, Microsoft has enabled a new class of devices that have both PC and tablet functionality.  Some manufactures will create these devices with a more conventional laptop feel, others will tailor their designs for better tablet functionality.   

The benefit of these products is clear. They will be ideal for buyers who want the benefits of both the tablet but who also want to use it like a traditional PC some of the time.

Devices that fit into this category may not be the best pure tablet or the best pure notebook on the market but they will appeal to a market who wants some of the capabilities of both in a single product.  

As I look ahead, I'm not looking for any product to kill another.  I won't be surprised if we see utter failures in the market given the experimentation that will take place, but I do think this market will sustain many varieties of the tablet form factor. 

As we look to tablets to purchase this holiday season and beyond, comprehending the benefits of their features is important.  Whether its price that matters, the breadth and depth of app stores or even customer support, each product will bring with it benefits and pitfalls.  Understanding these will be vital to making good purchase decisions. 

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Ben Bajarin is Director of the Consumer Technology Practice at Creative Strategies, a strategy consulting firm in Silicon Valley. His TabTimes column appears every other Sunday.
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  • ePractical
    1 year 3 months ago

    I take a different point of view on this.

    I think that the rapid rise in popularity of Tablets in particular (beyond just those jumping on the newest, coolest thing) came because Tablets do much better what those who were underutilizing computers to “consume mostly content” were doing. That is mostly why computers have naturally declined. But it is a mistake to forget what Keyboard and Mice computers still do better.

    We need to better describe The Problem!

    I believe that in fact Tablet growth could even level off -- that is unless or until Tablet makers solve the terrible job Tablets do at getting things into them. (Now most people who want to get things into their Tablets are adding keyboards -- in effect now mimicking their Netbooks at twice the price, new clumsiness of two pieces and half the battery life. Apple is still a-sleep-at-the-switch on this and Samsung is leading this effort with their Note offerings.

    Bill Gates recently commented on this, speaking about the next big innovation will come when great voice and handwriting recognition shows up. The vendor(s) who jump on this BIG-TIME I believe will propel Tablets to the next level of popularity . There is still an unsatisfied market. That is Tablets for productivity. People who don’t yet own a Tablet because we’re waiting for Tablets designed and optimized for getting things into them primarily vs a Touch interface which still is only useful for consuming content.

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