Where do tablets fit into the marketplace?

Android, iOS, Windows, WebOS or Blackerry. Galaxy Pad, iPad, EeePad or PlayBook. Each spells change in the personal computing market, but where exactly will tablets end up within the computing spectrum.
Let’s take a step back to the beginning. Desktops lead to notebooks, availability of mobile broadband and the success and subsequent adoption of the smartphone app model brought the age of the netbook. This chain of events pushed tablet computing further than predicted within the last two decades and now the market is growing more and more addicted to mobile computing primarily via their smartphone. The natural transition for the user is to upgrade their computing power, battery life, screen size and port over basic notebook/netbook features to a multipurpose tablet following the same app model they have become hocked on.
Tablet computing only existed as over-marketed attempts to push a barely usable product with pen input as the only option but a design still married to the traditional keyboard configuration. Smartphone screen real estate across the board was significantly limited and the input method whether scroll wheel, touch screen or stylus limited the user experience dramatically. Fast forward to early 2010, pre-iPad era, when users complained of lack of features and processing power from their iPhones not knowing that the iPad was just around the corner. The Apple iPad debuted in January 2010 with only glimmers of hope and expectations for the future the tablet in the marketplace. Much like the early netbooks, many said it had no place in the marketplace beyond the endearment to the Apple fan boys around the globe.
Fourth quarter 2010 brought 4.19 million iPad units sold. Big numbers for a device that was said to not have a spot in the market. Apple already had 75 million plus users worldwide familiar with their iOS and consuming apps by the billions. Apply that same logic to Android coupled with recent talk of the mobile platform taking the number one slot worldwide in early 2011 for mobile OS installations and we see that some form of tablet plus smartphone configuration may just be in the cards. Then assuming success of future devices like the RIM PlayBook, HP WebOS Topax tablet and Windows 7 powered EePads, we see a far more diverse marketplace simply built on the consumers addiction to app and desire to do more.
It’s not difficult to find a real world use of tablet technology from bands to speeches to presentations but are they really the best use of current technology? They are more portable than notebooks to a small extent, overall tablets have a more refined user interface and if units sold are any indication they may be the future of computing. Heavy lifting desktops will be necessary for the foreseeable future, but as we move closer to cloud computing being used by the average user, the move toward a basic browser with Internet connectivity may just be the best fit.

Author: John Carew


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