Tablets – New Wine In Your Old Bottle

“Well Apple fans needs a new device every few years like an addict who needs a new high with a larger dose or different weed” This was what I thought when Apple announced iPad back in January 2010.

For the last six months, many electronics consumers are excited about the arrival of the new(?) category devices – tablets. Though the concept is nothing new, the latest avatar use best of the breed technologies – touchscreens, longer battery life, more power and memory and a strong ecosystem of applications and content. All forms of media is going agog over the Apple’s announcement – some excited, some disappointed but mostly talking about this. Instead of going deep into the technology details, I wanted to touch upon few things like social aspects, economics and media impact of such devices.

There is certain group we call early adapters/ Apple fanboys/ Kool Aid-geeks who will but anything that starts with an ‘i’ and sold by Apple’. Let us keep them aside and talk about regular consumers. What would they look for in a tablet and how will they use it? One thing that occurs to me whenever I use iPhone either at my office or my couch is – screen size. Many times I find that the full browser in the iPhone is underutilized due to the smaller size. It has great form factor, usually responsive though I might like a little more processing power and longer battery life, and importantly literally unlimited choice of applications.  But to read any thing using Safari or mail apps, is a royal pain. Now ipad is literally 3 times the diagonal width of iPhone. Will that be good enough for our needs? We will see.

Extensibility – As we all know, with iphone 3G,  Apple showed the world, that hardware and OS are only so much. It is the applications that matter.  With at least 150K potential applications  that can be readily used, the ipad is truly powerful.  I think we can easily replace, many special devices from POS terminals to FedEx delivery guys terminals with special apps. The sky is the limit I think.

Economics – Today we have to spend $300 (in US) for any decent net book.  If we consider a typical net book buyer and their primary reason to buy such a computer, it is usually to check email (web based probably) , browse Internet,  chat, view photos and social media. May be watch few movies though the integrated video cards are usually sloppy.  All these can be done in an ipad elegantly but more. In my opinion, spending that extra $200 (some say Apple tax) may be worth it, particularly, if the plan is to buy now. If we can wait for 8 more months, I expect to see tablets from HP, HTC and Motorola (and Nokia) with more power and battery life, better built in accessories like webcam for less than $300. Buy it or wait, still worth it than Net book. For enterprises, the low cost barrier and high usability should be a very good deal.

The TCO for a typical laptop (say from Lenova), costs enterprises anywhere from 2K to 3k with 2 years warranty, plus high cost software. My guesstimate the same for a tablet will be 60% of that or laptops. Plus less shoulder pains for the workers carrying them.

Social Impact – Amazon, in a way, paved way for these sub 10″ tablets with it’s best selling Kindle. I did not use it much, but it says something if it is the best selling item on their site.  Apple added multi-touch, and I am sure Android will polish it and perhaps make it better as well as open source it.  I will not be surprised if tablets replace typical laptops people carry around. For example, at my work I use Outlook 70% of the time, and remaining 30% all other apps including browsers, skype etc. All these and more can be done with a tablet. With such a potential for becoming ubiquitous, will the laptops become extinct? For example I did not see more than 20 CRT consoles in my entire work place. They got replaced by laptops or laptops with port replicators connected to keyboard, mouse and LCD consoles. Well we can get these for tablets like ipad now. And it is only beginning. Will school children just take one tablet instead of their entire bag of books? What about Doctors, sales people, executives? Why not?  Suddenly useful computing power. It doesn’t matter if I have a computer with 3 GHz processor in my home. And if it has only few free and purchased applications. With these tablets, and their apps price dynamics, we have very high utilization of mobile computing power.

Ergonomics Let us give it to Apple. They craft beautiful hardware. It is like an art and design philosophy.  But others are not far behind. I am very impressed by HTC, Samsung and Nokia.

What do readers think about tablets? Quick poll.

  • What is your typical usage of personal computer?
  • What are your thoughts on the tablets?
  • Do you plan to purchase one?
  • How do you want to use tablets, if you purchase one?
  • Do you agree to what I wrote above
  • Are there any other additional aspects we can cover around the tablets?

Comments

  1. Quote
    Kumaran said May 31, 2010, 11:26 pm:

    Vamsi,

    I got a net book bor my daughter for 16K 2 months ago. So will not be going for an iPad anytime soon. Personally the form factor is definitely worth buying.

    I would go for low cost alternate from HTC/Samsung if meed the basics of portabiliy/usabilty. I am okay to with lesser sophistication as long the price matches it.

    Kumaran

  2. Quote

    Kumaran
    Thanks for your comments
    HTC/ Samsung indeed are good companies. I think mobile market is polarizing into Apple and Google (unless microsoft revives Windows or HP does the same to Palm WebOS). 2010-11 is crucial time for mobile market.

  3. Quote

    Excellent post vamsi.. iPad is definitely going to replace laptop, as the processing power gets more and components gets miniaturised. We dont need DVD drives or CD drives, as the pendrive has crossed the 16 GB limit. So the space needed for these drives may be reduced.

    The iPad is like a salesperson’s suitcase.. with Mobile features inbuilt, a bluetooth handsfree is what needed for our communication while our iPad rests in the bag..

    In short, iPad is a boon for all travellers, (both business and others)

  4. Quote

    Nice blog Vamsi. Here are my answers to your questions.

    What is your typical usage of personal computer?
    Actually now computers become very important thing in our life. We can’t live with out it for 1 week continually because most of our day-by-day schedules,meetings,bill payments reminders, newspaper and books all in there.

    What are your thoughts on the tablets?
    Tablets are very handy for business travelers and people like me who spend atleast 2 hours in public transport. I see tablets as expandable device, we can live with out it though.

    Do you plan to purchase one?
    No, not for foreseeable future. I had a plan to buy iPad as e-Reader but dropped the plan because of my eye strain caused by it’s color screen.

    How do you want to use tablets, if you purchase one?
    If i purchase one, i want to use it for e-Reader and some browsing to expand my knowledge further even in train, bus.

    Do you agree to what I wrote above
    Yes, agree but i disagree that Apple fans will buy anything that Apple offer, as long as it has some innovation thoughts behind it, they will buy. For example, they rejected Apple TV because there are millions out there and many more.

    Are there any other additional aspects we can cover around the tablets?
    I think we can cover business impact of tablets. Countries like U.S where 1 trillion moving south or north within 30 mins, just imagine, you are travelling some where in Arizona, where you got a text from friend that “XYZ dropped $x,please buy”, you can just use tablet to do some last minute research and place a market order to buy it, all on wheels.

  5. Quote

    Senthil. Thanks for your comments.
    I liked your phrase – these tablets are like salesperson’s suitcases. Not sure if I understand the use case well – how the ipad can be kept in the suitcase with another mobile device connected with bluetooth.

    I am envisioning the future where tablet is the only gadget one need to carry ( with a smart phone used for data tethering over 3G/4G). There could be custom accessories for special functions like say – a barcode reader (or Camera with an app can do that), RFID detector, special i/o devices, mini-projector, printer for instant receipt etc.

  6. Quote

    Subba.
    Thank you for your comments. I think you made some valuable points and feedback. I particularly like your comment of how somebody can do trading on the go. I personally know one friend who lost quite a bit by trading on iphone e-trade app. He is a savvy trader. He stopped using iphone for trading because it is not giving him complete data analysis due to screen size and he is making too many mistakes. For such folks, tablets may be a boon.

    I am trying to understand whether tablets have potential to replace a typical personal computer that a household buys today. With mobility, form factor, usefulness (can do almost all stuff we do), may be these are going to create a paradigm shift.

    Other day I was reading a Time article that these could create millions of content consumers who just be come dumb consumers of content versus the current PC users, who usually create something on their computer. Not sure I agree but from device capability point of view, this could be true.

  7. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said June 6, 2010, 8:54 pm:

    Nice post Vamsi. As i wrote sometime back in this post – http://www.sastwingees.org/2009/12/03/microsoft-3screen-strategy-doa/

    I do see a need for a 4th screen. At this time iPad seems to be the strongest contender for the 4th screen spot in our lives. I am sure Android based tablets will catch up with iPad soon and may also be more cost effective for emerging markets like India.

  8. Quote

    Thanks Vamsi, Glad that you liked it. I think still it is long way to go for tablets replacing typical personal computer a)personal computer also still evolving b)tablets has its own disadvantages c)no real competition in tablet field. But i can see some point of time, the chip makers and other support firms have to make a decision whether to continue PC evolution or accelerate tablets/mobile device. It all depends on how people fast adapting apple tablets for now.

    Subba

  9. Quote

    Sukumar

    Your blog post is indeed an inspiration for my post. The 4th screen paradigm is brilliant.

    Like we discussed though we are thinking currently of Android and iphone OS, there is a great chance that Microsoft, HP and 100s of Linux distributions can be effectively ported to tablets. I think it is just a matter of time. Just imagining 3 years back there is no real smart phone, iphone came, within an year opened store and showed world a model. Within an year, Android established an open market place and other are following.

    Interesting times ahead.

    BTW I read this interesting post on Gizmodo on what could be Microsoft’s strategy http://gizmodo.com/5547676/

  10. Quote

    Apple iOS was done for tablets and it’s steve job idea to make a phone out of it coz multitouch was the next biggest leap in UI.
    ( source D8 talk)

    In Australia, people are fancied by Apple’s ipad launch and see them regularly in trams. I feel iPhone is better than iPad. Apart from bigger screen size and processing power, iPhone beats iPad.

    iPad is all about web experience and how people do things. Netbooks, the screen size is 10inch and you have to strain your eyes and annoying WIN7 starter edition which restricts only 3 apps running concurrently.

    Apple is trying to reinvent the wheel. Please check my below post for more details

    http://selvaraaju.wordpress.com/2010/04/07/why-apple-is-reinventing-the-wheel/

    Cheers,
    Selvaraaju

  11. Quote

    Selvaraju

    Thanks for your comments. I checked your blog post. You are absolutely right. People do not buy any product, particularly lifestyle consumer electronics, just by better marketing. It should impact their lives if not at least be useful.

    The proof is in the pudding – Apple is able to sell 1M ipads a month, a great feat whatever way we look at it. I am very upbeat about these devices due to their portability, reasonable power and extended battery life.

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