Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen put forth an interesting perspective in his book The Innovators Solution. His insight was that consumers don’t buy products, rather they hire them to get jobs done.
The job may be related to productivity, entertainment, education, or other, but there are jobs consumer want done and the products they buy are designed to accomplish those jobs or tasks.
When we apply this same line of thinking to the computing industry we see why it is important for many different kinds of computing solutions to exist. I often speak of the variation in computing form factors from smartphones (pocket computers), to tablets of all sizes, to notebooks, and to desktops, as representing the multi-screen computing reality that we are entering into.
There will no longer be one computing device serving the needs of all consumers, but rather we will spread our computing tasks across multiple screens.
What Clayton Christensen’s perspective gives us is a insightful way to think about the correct computing solutions for any given context. In particular this thinking is helpful when understanding 7-8” tablets vs. 9-10” tablets and any other size the industry may bring to market.
It is my conviction that 7-8” tablets will be better at some jobs than 9-10” tablets and vice-versa.
For example 7-8” tablets offer significantly more portability and ease of use while being truly mobile. 7-8” tablets also offer an easier one-handed operation versus larger tablets. Making it particularly useful for the most mobile of workers who often may only have one hand free to operate a tablet.
Meanwhile, 9-10” tablets are still more portable than notebooks, and they are also more capable than 7-8” tablets due to their larger screen size and faster CPU+GPU combination.
Things like browsing the web, or doing more touch centric productivity tasks are better on a larger screen tablet. And the most obvious advantage is that they offer a bigger screen to consume information. More graphically intense applications or virtual environments will also be superior on larger tablets.
So while the 7-8” tablet is more portable, the 9-10” tablet is more capable. Understanding the trade-offs in each is important in choosing the right solution.
Hybrids and convertibles
Looking at tablets even more holistically we can use the jobs to be done perspective to understand the role of devices like hybrids and convertibles.
These devices operate more like notebooks than pure slate tablets, but offer a different set of strengths. Specifically, they can be larger screened devices more like notebooks, but have the ability to be used in tablet mode for specific tasks.
Convertibles will appeal more to those have a majority of notebook tasks, generally more keyboard and mouse centric jobs like writing or spreadsheets, but also have a few jobs that require more touch centric or tablet like modes.
This could include collaborating on a document, presentation, or being held to show off sales or marketing data to a client.
The innovation dilemma
The hardware innovation around pure slate tablets, hybrids, and convertibles is encouraging, but can also be confusing. This is where more thought, research, and reflection is required by anyone looking to buy any of these products and use them to uniquely to accomplish specific sets of tasks.
In order to pick the correct product to get jobs done, we will need to be smarter about our own computing habits and prioritize features and functions in ways we have never had to before.
This applies to IT companies who provide hardware to employees as well as consumers who are purchasing themselves to get specific jobs done.
The key take away as I look at how the market is shaking out is that first and foremost tablets have a significant role to play in many of our lives. However, the form factor variation will present confusing challenges to picking the right product.
It is absolutely clear to me that tablets will do many jobs uniquely and in superior ways to other products. The question each business and consumer will have to individually address is what those jobs are.