Tablets- The New Craze
IN my previous article comparing Ebook readers to Tablet PC, I had basically focused on a very specific functionality of Tablet PC's. However, since that post, the landscape has changed considerably and the market is exploding in directions hitherto unknown.
A few years back, very few people could have predicted the present technological market. Today, we have devices to suit a wide range of applications and the pockets of various persons. So, if a poor person wants to buy a tablet, he shall be able to buy a resistive touchscreen tablet for which he needs a stylus to interact. For a rich person, we have the capacitative touch screen, which accepts finger inputs. There are cheap mobiles that give us this functionality, but like all cheap electronics - They rarely last and give lasting satisfaction.
Therefore, to what can be this present Tablet Craze be attributed to? The top reason that comes to mind is the mind blowing and exceptional design of the iPhone and iPad, which gave people the confidence that portable, retail touch screen devices were easy to use. Buried under this deluge of Apple products are some excellent tablets that did not set the market on fire. Right on top is the Microsoft tablet (yes!!! impossible as it may sound, they were one of the first companies to think about and release a tablet). Read this PCWorld article on the History of Microsoft Tablets. Apple was a mere follower (atleast this time...Hats off to Steve Jobs for timing the launch of Apple touchscreen devices just when the market was getting bored of the normal desktops and plain vanilla mobiles).
Anyways, the ever increasing busy lifestyle demanded products that would enable people to delegate mundane things like remembering phone numbers, addresses and anniversaries to their gadgets so that they would have more time to concentrate on their core jobs and not fret over these details. It was OH-SO boring to carry about a diary (an assistant was a more upmarket option for those who could afford it). For the rest, a diary did just fine and mind you, they were very successful. The irony of the situation is that once they became successful, they gave up the diary (which had helped them achieve success) and went for an assistant instead. Then came the PDA's (Personal digital assistants) like the Palm Pilot which made the diary almost redundant (though many people still preferred it). However, their quest to make a digital diary which would be capable of mimicking the paper one, with automated reminders and fast searches continued.
Then came the wireless revolution, with the mobile phones and their basic PDA functionality (addresses, numbers, Appointments, reminders and alarm clock etc). Therefore now people had to carry their expensive PDA's in addition to their mobile phones (which were bulky). As technology advanced, mobiles became smaller, more powerful and featured a large number of applications. This led to the slow death of the PDA. The search for an All-in-one convergent device started in earnest. A device that was capable of playing music, taking photos,was a PDA, Phone, data storage, browsing the net etc ).
Therefore, manufacturers started designing mobile phones which could browse the internet, manage schedules, take notes, edit documents, send/receive emails, take dictation, play music and videos and much more. However, lack of an ecosystem limited their usage. By lack of an ecosystem I mean:-
(a) Hardware limitations:- Mobiles were limited in their ability to playback high definition videos or even record them as considerable computing power was required. Enhancing the computing power, increased power consumption, costs and battery life. Increasing the size of the screen increased the weight and therefore carrying a phone (alongwith other accessories) meant that a normal person looked completely misshapen with bulging pockets (not with cash!!).
(b) Limited Applications. Mobiles devices being restricted in their functionality because of limited hardware, could not display content rich webpages, pictures and videos. This meant that a website had to keep track whether a mobile device or a desktop was accessing it and then accordingly convert the page to ensure that it could be displayed properly on the mobile device. This meant third party converters or investing in technology to ensure that people could view your webpage correctly (albeit with restrictions).
(c) Bandwidth speed and Cost. Lets face it. Accessing the net on a 56 Kbps dialup was quite painful (and it was wired ...meaning that it was the fastest speed achievable). Now transpose the same to a wireless connection (which gets affected by weather, power supply and many other random factors), the speed of Internet access was pathetic. (thats why webpages had to be downgraded). And to top it all...It was expensive!!! Not many could afford it.
The Tablet Revolution
As with technology, there are many hits and misses (like Apple's Newton) which was far ahead of it time. Like Microsoft's tablet foray was much ahead of its time. It did not fail because it was a bad product, it failed because it didnt have a conducive ecosystem for its survival ( Its like man can survive on the moon only if the essentials like air and food are provided. Bust as the moon does not have any of it nor is it capable of letting us grow stuff, everything has to be taken there and replenished on a daily basis, but the bottomline..moon is still empty of human). Visionaries have predicted what ever we use today almost 100 yrs (if not more) back but they could not implement it at that time because the technology was not there.
As people got more and more comfortable with laptops, phones etc their acceptance grew. The constant needs of humans to seek out each other and keep in touch at all times enabled the mobile market to grow at a furious pace. Manufacturers could experiment with many aspects of design and functionality. Pricing power and growing acceptance led to an abundance of content. Suddenly everything was coming together but...the hardware was lacking soul and appeal.. Then came the iPod and changed the landscape.
The timing of iPod was really fortuitous. The ecosystem for it to succeed was in place and along with the stunning design and great performance, it was a blockbuster hit. Suddenly there was this new kind in town who was enchanting and had won over the hearts of everyone. The other companies had to play catch up. In the meanwhile, tablet PC's like the Fujitsu Lifebook and Dell XT were gaining acceptability. Apple continued to stay ahead of the curve and subsequently launched the iPhone, iPad to even greater success. However, there was a greater threat to Apple which paved the way for the present explosion in Tablets and Touchscreens. It was called the Android operating System.
It was a masterstroke by google to buy the Android Stack and make it open. Suddenly (and similarly as what happened to Linux and the PC), Everyone could potentially now develop their own phone as they had a set of modules readily available. Random developers could develop applications and sell them. It was as if the flood gates had opened. This move by google made a major impact on the earnings of the world largest mobile company - Nokia. Every major/minor mobile manufacturer was now using Android for his phone and the days of the custom OS (Blackberry, Bada, Symbian and hopefully the IOS) seemed to be over.
With Android maturing at a rapid pace, the future of all other phone manufacturers like Nokia, Blackberry seem to be bleak (unless they too get off their high horse and adopt Android). But in the end, its the customer who has benefited. In the recently concluded Consumer Electronics Show, over 100 tablets were showcased and I guess there are more in the pipeline. Why have tablets suddenly become popular? I attribute this trend to the following:-
(a) Typing is tough and using the mouse is painfully slow. Touch is direct.
(b) Heavy laptops are passe...
(c) Carrying your life around has never been easier. All your data, at your finger tips and at all the time.
(d) Innovative apps like Augmented reality throws open a world hitherto unknown.
(e) If I can see my best friends or lovers face all the time , this is the gadget.
(f) The most important reason is that the Technological ecosystem (High speed Internet access, Applications, powerful hardware etc) has matured to enable the success of Tablets. At the present rate, humans are all set to become "Borgs",a life form that was invented for the Tv Series Star Trek. Borgs were a part of a collective and acted in a collective and cohesive manner to achieve the goals of the collective (good or bad).
Well...my take is that the Tablet PC's shall evolve in more exotic forms (foldable like a piece of paper, virtual, completely hands free or a part of our eye wear...!!!). The main problem of battery life shall continue to be a challenge as increasing computing power shall drain the batteries faster. However..the Tablet Craze shall only grow..!!!!
A list of all Tablets available in the Market
- The Tech Gizmo Store - Tablets
View and review the amazing range of tablets available in the market today..