Retailer Fry’s Electronics, a key bellwether of what the hot-sellers are in technology, was stone cold quiet on the tablet front heading into the new year, at least in terms of promotion.
"Ring in the New Year with New Technology" blared the headline in Fry’s 8-page supplement in Silicon Valley’s Mercury News that ran Friday, December 28 and Sunday December 30.
But among the hundreds of products advertised, including ultrabooks, PCs and notebooks, tablets were noticeable by their absence. Fry’s standard full back page in the newspaper January 1 had no tablet products.
The only specific tablet advertised in the 8-page supplement was in a 1/10 of a page box for Apple products that featured a MacBook Pro, Apple TV and Wacom’s Bamboo Splash Graphics Tablet (on sale for $20 off the $79 standard price).
Fry’s is only one, albeit significant retailer, so this is not necessarily indicative of a larger trend or even, in the case of Fry’s, likely to last very long. A raft of new tablets expected due out after CES next week could see a wave of new ads and marketing.
Analyst Roger Kay says there would likely be more tablet marketing if Microsoft and partners had pulled off a better coordinated rollout of new Windows tablets.
“With the exception of Lenovo and a reluctant Acer, the PC hardware companies didn't have their product lineups completely in order, and tablets, the showcase form factor for Win8, were hardly to be seen in stores,” said Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates, in an email to TabTimes.
“With the ecosystem out of coordination, it’s no surprise that demand-gen [marketing] money got spent when there weren't products and products got made for which there wasn't sufficient demand-gen expenditure,” he added.
Tablets draw traffic and customers
But retail analyst Stephen Baker says not to make too much of Fry’s lack of tablet ads.
“Retailers want to sell tablets. They draw traffic and customers, as well as drive high-margin accessory business. It is just a timing thing,” Baker, VP of industry analysis at NPD Group, told TabTimes.
“There are certainly tablet companies paying for ads this week, when you look at Best Buy’s ads there is a lot of space for Kindle and they are pushing Windows tablets as well,” he adds.
Another factor is that many of the big tablet players also make PCs and notebooks and may be making more of a push for those higher margin products for the time being.