5 things tablet makers don’t want you to know

by Don Reisinger

June 30 2013

TabTimes columnist Don Reisinger is a New York-based technology writer whose work has appeared in CNet, eWeek and other publications.

"The trouble with tablets is that they really can't change all that much," says Don Reisinger

I love tablets. And chances are, if you’re reading this here on TabTimes - a site dedicated to slates and the people who have them - you love the devices as well. But there are some secrets in the tablet market that not everyone thinks about when they go to the store looking for something new.

Now, I’m sure there are some who might say that those secrets don’t exist. Those are the same people that might believe that Apple is doing something so amazingly different that no Android alternative can ever match the company’s iPad. Those might also be the same people that think one Android tablet is really all that different from the device their friend just bought from another vendor.

Sorry to say, there are some things about tablets that, whether we like it or not, tablet vendors don’t want us to realize. 

1. They’re practically all the same devices

Save for the name on a respective tablet, the chances of customers finding something truly different in one competitor or another is practically impossible in the tablet market.

Unfortunately, the tablet market has become its own version of the PC industry; the entire space has been commoditized.

Look no further than the rash of Android tablets available right now. From the Galaxy Tab to the Kindle Fire, all of the devices are running one version or another of an ARM-based processor, they all have about the same camera quality, and save for the Galaxy Note, which adds a stylus, they all come with the same, black finish, big, prominent display, and rounded corners.

Things have become so similar in the tablet market that it’s hard to differentiate performance between one device or another. They all come with about the same storage and if they’re running a modified Android version, they’re still offering the same overall experience and feel. It’s kind of boring when you think about it.

2. They’ll launch a new, slightly better version next year

Second acts are tough. Just look at Apple. The company revolutionized the tablet industry with its iPad and has done some nice things to improve it since. But if you bought an original iPad or iPad 2 that's still in good working order, is there really that compelling a need to ditch it for one of the newer models?

Simply put, Apple, like all other tablet makers, will launch a slightly updated iPad later this year and another next year and another the year after that. Faster? Sure? A little better camera and screen resolution? Very likely, along with a bunch of other touches that justify a new model number, but don't substantially improve on the utility of the current model.

Like the PCs that tablets are now fighting against, slates have become confined by their own design elements. What’s worse, companies are realizing that if they keep the same, basic design and only update products just a bit each year, they can increase margins, and thus, their own profits.

Sorry to say, but that new tablet your favorite company plans to release this year really won’t be all that impressive.

3. The software is really sub-par

I can’t express this enough: I love tablets. But still, I can’t quite see anyone trying to say that the software running on the many slates available today are really all that great. Yes, the application marketplaces are nice and iOS and Android do some things nicely, like allow for intuitive interaction with the interface, but beyond that, I’m still hoping for more.

For instance, where’s the high-end file system that we have on PCs? Until we have that functionality in tablets, I’m hard-pressed to see the form factor replacing notebooks or Ultrabooks. I also don’t understand why it’s taken this long for companies to realize that a convertible tablet really is appealing. As of this writing, Lenovo is the only company doing a good job of it with its ThinkPad tablets, but those products are running Windows – not exactly the best option in the tablet form factor.

It’s time Apple and Google do a better job of delivering high-quality, high-powered tablet software. Until we get that, expect to be a little disappointed.

4. Prices will eventually come down

Here’s a fun one: that tablet you’re drooling over right now will probably be $100 or $200 cheaper when the company offering it realizes that sales aren’t nearly as strong as they could be.

Apple is right now the only company that’s actually able to maintain the same prices on its devices until another version launches in the next year. All other companies enter the market at a certain price point, and before long, need to start discounting the tablet to boost sales.

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So, next time you jump at the chance to buy that latest tablet, wait a few months – your pocketbook will be happy you did.

5. There’s nothing revolutionary even remotely on the horizon

The trouble with tablets is that they can’t really change all that much. The devices are designed to deliver a certain experience, and in order to do so, need to have a big display with a bezel around it, some Wi-Fi connectivity, a certain amount of Flash storage, and an operating system that most people are used to.

At this point, there’s nothing revolutionary even remotely on the horizon that could change that. Tablets are, well, tablets. And we need to accept that.

TabTimes columnist Don Reisinger is a New York-based technology writer whose work has appeared in CNet, eWeek and other publications.
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  • sightsandsounds
    1 year 3 months ago

    You got it Don, I wouldnt be surprized to find out all tablets are made in the same factory in china. They just box them with different names. What I deem important is the support system, the new 8 inch nextbook I just got at walmart basically runs on chrome, and Im convinced by researching for 2 months, Its a great tool for my friends 10 year old girl for school. I am nervous because alot of reviews Ive read all over various sellers, say that it was to be a gift, but after setting it up, and not being able to put it down the buyers said, "Im keeping it !They can get their own." LOL

  • Lorrie C
    1 year 4 months ago

    Thanks for this article.You said what I thought but couldn't articulate. Now I know why I haven't purchased a tablet.....yet. Agree too with apelles' comment below. Bring on the software!

  • apelles
    1 year 4 months ago

    True ! What really needs to be dealt with is mediocre and incapacitated software, a million apps will never makeup for a bad OS. Hardware is not the issue, for me from a hardware point of view nothing has really dramatically surpassed the original iPad with it's aluminum casing. Now that 120 GB of storage or more is possible, desktop software is urgently needed!

  • rdelucia
    1 year 4 months ago

    Once again, right on point.

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