Is our taste in tablets changing and fragmenting?

Sections: Features, iPad, iPad Air, iPad mini, iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, Opinions and Editorials, Originals

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In a sponsored article on Quartz, Intel iQ editor-at-large Ken Kaplan observes that whether it’s from fatigue or fragmentation, users’ tastes in tablets are changing.

For some time after the iPad lit a fire under the media tablet market in 2010, it appeared that most aspiring tablet users agreed with Steve Jobs that the iPad’s 7-inch competitors, such as RIM’s Playbook, didn’t fare especially well.


However, that began to change with Google’s Nexus 7 in July, 2012, and really took hold when Apple released a smaller tablet—the 8-inch iPad mini—in October 2012. But Intel’s Kaplan says the “mad rush to tiny tablets” may be on the wane, based on his observations at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, which marked the introduction of new, purpose-built tablets designed to be used in more ways and places than ever, along with hybrids that offer features of both tablets and laptops in single, convertible machines like Asus’s Transformer Book T100 and Trio—the former the second-best selling laptop on over the recent holiday season.

Kaplan cites CCS Insight vice president of research Geoff Blaber commenting: “…we’re watching out for it to shift back up to larger screen sizes over the next few years, especially if we see a clamor for the 2 in 1 device proposition,” referring to new hybrid laptops that convert to tablets, like the popular Asus Transformer Book T100 and Trio.

While Apple has no hybrid as yet, an iPad Pro with a 13-inch panel is rumored for release next fall, and in the meantime Apple has stirred the pot with its lighter, thinner 9.7-inch iPad Air, which can be expected to regain some of the market share ground it’s lost to smaller slates, including the iPad mini, over the past 20 months or so.

TechKnowledge Strategies principal analyst Mike Feibus is quoted by Kaplan noting that “tablet fatigue” is setting in with some people, and that tablet development has slowed and plateaued, while Creative Strategies’ Ben Bajarin projects the tablet market fragmenting into niche segmentation with tablet choices no longer only panel sizes, but also machines custom-tailored to specific tasks or user demographics.

If Bajarin is right, and I think he probably is, it will accelerate annexation of personal computer space by tablets. In terms of function, speed, and do-all flexibility, I much prefer working on my laptops than my iPad, but I spend more than half my work time on the iPad, whose go-anywhere freedom and comfort are irresistibly seductive.

What I would love to see is more PC capability and versatility incorporated into tablets, and if you think that sounds like Microsoft’s Surface Pro, you’re right. I would be delighted if Apple built a true hybrid machine, but I’ll be happy to settle in the meantime for an iPad Pro that addresses the current iPad/iOS productivity shortcomings.

I’m actually of a mind that Steve Jobs was probably right about 10 inches being the tablet size sweet spot, or at least about the physical size of the original iPad. I’m personally not enchanted with using a virtual keyboard any smaller than my current 9.7-inch iPad’s in landscape mode, so the iPad mini or other smaller tablets don’t appeal to me.

However, with the iPad mini’s design conventions having been adopted by the iPad Air, a version with a 13-inch display probably won’t have to be much larger in footprint than the original iPad, and the bigger screen would be no hardship.

Samsung has already stepped up to the plate and begun swinging with its Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 and Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2, but they’re basically just upsized Tab 10.1s with a few more bells and whistles. I hope that the long gestation period for the iPad Pro (or whatever it will be called) will mean that Apple comes up with something more ambitious for pro users than an upsized iPad Air.

Meanwhile, can I be patient soldiering on with this nearly three year old iPad 2 while waiting? I doubt it.

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  • Clive Roberts

    The computer as we know it will more likely suffer a sad fate if WE allow the telcos to manage the Internet. The recent ruling in Federal court leaves a power vacuum that will be filled by Att & Verizon. Internet use will become a high priced luxury item, bastardized by the phone companies.