“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?