“The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated” – Mark Twain
In 1897, these memorable words were attributed to Mark Twain, the masterful writer and observer of American life. Now—nearly 120 years later—the same diction can be applied to the turbulent tablet marketplace.
In late July the mainstream media (i.e. Wall Street Journal) announced Apple iPhone sales were soaring! Unfortunately, iPad sales were not coming in as hot. In WSJ writer, Daisuke Wakabayashi’s, words: The iPhone roared while the iPad whimpered. Apparently the unpredicted decrease in iPad sales for two consecutive quarters caused the prognosticators to proclaim the demise of the tablet industry was nearing. The tablet sky was falling and the rest of us had better head for the exits before a wayward tablet hit us in the head.
Just one month prior to the announcement of the tablet’s down-spiral, the same publication reported that Apple’s main competitor, Samsung, was pouring money and engineering resources into the Galaxy “S” tablet platform.
Samsung has apparently been determined to replicate their smartphone success in the tablet market by taking a page from the Apple playbook and improving the design and feel of their premium tablets. The result was a big gain in market share for Samsung, offset by a loss of market share for iPads.
Even more bad news surfaced with the “phablet crisis” when smartphones with larger displays would ultimately begin to displace the tablets. While this development is still being played out with the pending Sept. 9 release of the iPhone 6, one thing is for certain: The display on this generation of iPhones will be larger in response to the “phablet crisis.”
Let’s remember tablets have only been around since 2010 with the release of the first generation of iPads. The tablet marketplace remains an immature marketplace with scarcely enough history for us to learn from. While the cell phone market has evolved and even stratified, the tablet market is a crazy quilt of different sizes, shapes and pricing.
Apple IOS certainly set the standard for tablet operating systems, but Android has developed rapidly and since overtaken Apple. Let us also not forget the understated Windows OS. After a poor start, the Windows OS has passed IOS according to the IDC reports.
On the secondary market it is easy to determine equipment values for cell phones, particularly the iPhone and Galaxy phones. Outside of the iPad, the secondary market for tablets is just getting started and, as a result, it is confusing and elusive. Not long ago “WiFi only” connectivity might have been perceived as limiting, but now we are surprised to learn that 70% of tablets sold are WiFi only.
Here are my conclusions on what is known about the evolving tablet market:
*Tablets have a longer useful life than a cell phone. When a user gets a new cell phone, the old phone goes into the desk drawer, where it is rarely re-deployed to be reused or recycled. A new tablet however means the old tablet goes to another member of the family for continued use. In my family my children are generous enough to allow me to use their old technology, so as long as I continue to pay the carrier bills.
*Tablet design is evolving. The newer tablets appear closer in design and function to laptops than they do to smartphones. Tablets are becoming multi-functional and innovative.
The best example may be the Microsoft Surface. Put a keyboard on a Surface and voila! It becomes a more powerful IT device. The Surface may become the best mobile business tablet device on today’s market, not to mention it runs Windows Office.
*Tablet sales are “taking a breather.” Tablet technology made a Hollywood entrance and stirred up big sales and bigger expectations. Now the market is in a period of quiet consolidation. The low end of the tablet market is heavily commoditized. The high end continues to evolve and break new ground.
*Tablets remain in the future plans of buyers. Consumers may not own a tablet now, but are seriously considering buying one in the near future. That was one key result from a survey conducted by Field Technologies magazine earlier this summer. Additionally, 83% of tablet users stated that when it comes time for an upgrade, they will stick with the tablet format instead of switching back to laptops.
Not to mention the demand for tablets that CIOs can fit into their IT programs. It is possible in the near future for these devices to become more multifunctional than laptops and provide a bigger screen than phablets. The tablet marketplace will remain volatile as more apps are developed for BYOD and the mobile workforce.