This Week in Tablets: 8 Faulty assumptions about today’s tablet market

November 10, 2012
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The week of an election is always a little bit of a hangover in the U.S. Literally nothing happens but vote counting and political analysis prior to Tuesday. Then from Wednesday through Friday, everyone (analysts included) retreats to their corner to recuperate and/or lick their wounds.

This is not surprising when you consider that the entire 18-month process 1) determines the leader of the free world; 2) entails massive advertising dollars; and 3) consumes (and generates) endless amounts of energy and attention.

The whole thing was riveting. In the joy and sorrow the Democrats and GOP experienced right before our eyes, one frozen moment stood out: Karl Rove on Fox News fervently insisting that the election wasn’t over, even though all indicators insisted it was.

Rove’s hair was disheveled. He looked kind of sweaty. And his eyes had kind of a crazed look. It was amazing. How in the world did this intelligent, crafty veteran politico of numerous elections get caught so off-guard?

Because everything comes back to tablets (for me), I found myself casting all the reaction shots—Rove’s in particular—in the light of the most recent reactions to the most recent wave of tablet releases. Like Windows 8. The iPad Mini. The Kindle Fire HD. 

Remember 2011, and how everyone thought the 7-inch tablet was a bad idea until Amazon released the Kindle Fire? Yeahhh. 

Here are the potential blind spots I see going forward.

1. Tablets larger than 10-inch tablets aren’t viable

In much the same way that two years ago, we couldn’t see the need for a 7-inch tablet, it’s highly likely that we’re all underestimating demand for bigger sizes. I’ll say this much: Using Lenovo’s 13-inch Yoga in tablet mode was an eye-opening experience for me.

As tablets become lighter, the bigger form-factors will become more viable.

2. Pen-based tablet computing will remain a niche

It’s almost like we need to go through Samsung’s Galaxy Note before we gain a full understanding of what’s possible and necessary with pens and styluses in conjunction with tablet devices. In the meantime, of course, Samsung will be that much farther ahead of everyone.

3. BYOD is the beginning and end of a tablet strategy

Don’t get me wrong—allowing home users to bring their own devices is a great way to begin enabling your employees to work more effectively (and more often). However, at some point, you’re going to have to buy tablets for your most valued employees.

At the very least, you need to make sure that your sales people and anyone touching mobile product strategy has one, right?

4. It’s better to build your own corporate apps (vs. buying them) for tablets

With several years of app building under developers’ belts, the notion of buying your app development is making more sense. The release of Windows 8 will only accelerate this trend given the number of Windows installations in the Enterprise and SMB sectors.

5. You need MS Office and/or Word on your tablets

It sure feels that way, doesn’t it? But it’s just not true. Owners of iPads have survived this long without the most ubiquitous word processor on the planet.

6. First-party services are critical to a tablet’s ecosystem

One of the most annoying things about Windows 8 tablets is how many times you have to sign in to all the various services on Microsoft’s platform. Windows. Skydrive. Xbox Live. Xbox Music. It feels like it goes on and on. It’s even more annoying when you consider how many third-party services we’re all using these days, such as Dropbox, Box, Spotify, etc.

From my perspective, succesfully (and quickly) setting up a tablet is less about integrated first-party services and more about how easily third-party services integrate into the OS.

7. The next-generation of gaming software and hardware will succeed with the same models as the Xbox 360 and PS3 did

I wonder sometimes if the Electronic Arts and Activisions and the other game publishers and developers truly understand the impact tablets are having on their customers as well as their brands

I say this because three years into the tablet revolution, I’m watching ads for Halo 4 and Call of Duty Black Ops II on the major gaming systems, but the mobile platforms—both smartphone and tablet—feel like an afterthought.

In the future, successful gaming companies are going to have brands that cross all the major platforms, perhaps even tying into the same storyline and even the same engine.

Microsoft appears to be getting this. The rumors that the company is working on a 7-inch Xbox Surface tablet is interesting indeed, and makes a lot of sense—particularly given the challenges Sony and Nintendo both face with the PS Vita and the 3DS mobile gaming systems.

8. Apple will dominate forever

It’s hard to imagine, and likely won’t happen for 3-5 years, but we’re already starting to feel some market share slippage and backlash and underdog sentimentality. This past week, a WSJ blog asked the question: Is Apple’s tablet dominance coming to an end?

In contrast to some of the above blind spots, for now there’s no real downside to not seeing Apple’s dominance coming to an end.

The corollary here, of course, is that Microsoft will trail in terms of tablet market share forever.

This week’s winner: Lenovo

We have yet to see any sales results, but the IdeaPad Yoga feels cool in a way that very few previous ThinkPads, IdeaPads, or other Lenovo devices have. The Chinese-based manufacturer has had brand appeal to the IT and corporate set for years now, and it feels like Lenovo has applied years of learning to a surprisingly innovative new product.

Close runner-up here: AT&T subscribers, who are now able to buy tablets at $100 discounts with two-year 3G and 4G subscriptions. AT&T recently reversed its stance that it would not offer subscribers subsidies on new tablet purchases in exchange for long-term contracts.

This week’s loser: American voters

Back in 1996, during the dawning of the content-driven Internet, I remember sitting in a bar in San Francisco (Crow Bar if you know the area) mulling over the long-term ramifications of The Web.

1996 feels like a lifetime ago. Clinton was president.

It seemed like a no-brainer at the time that 16 years later we’d all be voting via the Internet. But we’re not. For whatever reason—despite the fact that the vast majority of Americans are connected—Internet voting remains a fantasy. (With the exception of Virginia.)

That’s surprising. What’s not surprising is how useful the touchscreen experience is for news and political analysts, who repeated used CNN’s big screen to drill down into and come back out of voting patterns and numbers.

Also surprising: remarks by Kaazing CEO Jonas Jacobi that the mobile Internet was up to 90 minutes behind real-life coverage struck me as inaccurate. I was getting up-to-the-minute reports via PBS’s fantastic, regularly updated electoral board.

On the horizon

It’s worth noting that TabTimes’ Tablet Biz conference and expo is coming up. The event is in New York City on November 27.

Also, if you’re on the West Coast: TabTimes just announced a Tablet Strategy West conference, which will be held in the San Francisco Bay Area on February 20, 2013.

Tablet Strategy West will focus on tablets’ role in the workplace and will feature the first-ever Tablet Leaders Summit, which will gather together managers from organizations that have been featured in TabTimes’ Tablet Leader Series. 


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