Why 2014 is going to be a big year for big tablets

by Ben Bajarin

January 19 2014

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


The bulk of the tablets sold over the past few years have been tablets in the 7-8" range and by my estimates the installed base of tablets 9" or larger is only 33%.  Which highlights the point that most tablet sales over the past few years have been in smaller tablets. 

Now, if you’ll recall what I said in my last column, you know that I believe we are on the cusp of a new buying cycle for more computing capable devices. While we can argue that even some smaller tablets are computing capable, we can't argue that the more productive someone wants to be the more they may value a larger screen.  

To that end, I believe we are on the cusp of a market buying cycle for larger screen computing devices. Some of these may be notebooks, some may be desktops, but I think the larger screen tablet has a real opportunity to take a percentage of sales in this upcoming refresh cycle.  

Bigger tablets trending

It seems like most of the larger PC OEMS and tablet OEMs sense this opportunity as well. Samsung introduced their Tab Pro 12.2 at CES earlier this month. I got to spend some time with this tablet and after some hands on I have to say it’s more impressive than I originally thought.  

I was somewhat skeptical of the 12" tablet form factor, but after seeing the Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 I can see this being an attractive form factor for many large screen tablet intenders.  

One of the things that impressed me the most was the virtual keyboard. I am a heavy iPad Air user and I can type faster than most people on the virtual keyboard with ease. But Samsung's keyboard was even a bit larger than the iPad's allowing me to incorporate my pinky into they typing process, which is a finger I don't use on the iPad. 

Ultimately Samsung's, and all the other Android OEMs, challenge with larger tablets will be with the apps. The iPad is the uncontested leader in tablet optimized apps and I don't see any evidence to think that is going to change anytime soon.  

For larger Android tablets to have a strong case as better productivity devices the way the iPad Air is the tablet optimized Android app ecosystem will need to grow dramatically.

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Emerging market growth 

Interestingly the potential for larger screen tablets to grow as a percent of overall tablet sales is not limited to developed markets like North America and Europe. I met with several of the main SoC companies providing chips for tablet OEMs in China and India who told me they are seeing demand for larger tablets as well.  

While the US and Europe had a higher installed base of tablet 9" and larger, emerging markets had a very low installed base of this form factor.  

Several of the devices going into emerging markets are also slated to be a duel-boot Android and Windows tablet.  

Micromax, a popular brand in India, was showing off its LapTab dual-boot Windows 8 and Android tablet. They tell me the demand for this product in India is quite high.

While I remain quite skeptical of the potential for dual-boot Android and Windows tablets in developed market, I can see them doing moderately well in emerging markets.   

Why? Because consumers in many of these markets have never owned a PC.  And while they are increasingly purchasing small tablets for primarily entertainment use cases, at some point in time they may graduate to more computing capable tablets.  The likelihood is that many of these will be larger screen devices.  

Is Apple next?

All these points add to narrative I agree with that 2014 could see strong growth of larger tablets.  he reality is that bigger screen computing devices remain relevant for hundreds of millions of consumers. In emerging markets we are seeing new computer users coming online with tablets first.  

Apple may also be sensing the opportuity as well if the rumors about an "iPad Pro" are true. If any company could stand to benefit from a surge in demand for large tablets it's Cupertino.

In any case, I think it's clear larger screen tablets will play a critical role in the future of computing and 2014 is shaping up as the year we start to see progress in that direction. 

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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 is published every other Sunday.
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