One way the tablet market is looking more and more like the laptop market
My big takeaway from the report today that Amazon will be releasing a bunch of different tablets in varying sizes, combined with the growing consensus that Apple is building a 7.85-inch iPad, is that when it comes to screen sizes the tablet market is starting to look more and more like the laptop market.
Laptops range from 7-inch netbooks all the way up to 18-inch gaming machines, and while I don't think we'll see quite that spread with tablet screens, there's no reason to believe there will only be two successful screen sizes for tablets (i.e. 10-inch and 7-inch). I'm not saying that every manufacturer will deliver tablets in every size (except, perhaps, for Samsung, which can't seem to help itself), but that as the market for tablets matures eventually we'll see lots of different options available from lots of different companies.
As the owner of a 13-inch Windows 7 tablet and a Galaxy Nexus phone so big that it might as well be a tablet, I agree. And I'm not even counting the Nexus 7 that I ordered or the Kindle Touch that is essentially a 6-inch e-ink tablet. When will the madness end?! What is a tablet, exactly? Why do we need to label everything and play into the marketing? I just think of them as devices that succeed on their own merits, regardless of what product category a corporate executive decides to throw it in to.
The value proposition hasn't been clearly illustrated. The size really doesn't matter. I bought a Nexus 7 and they're popular right now. And people are drawn to a reasonably priced tablet. They feel like they MIGHT need one. But the reason why the Tab 10.1 and the Tab (7") haven't been selling isn't because of their size. Most of the regular folks who rely on us to answer questions about this stuff just can't see what they'd do with it.
This is where Amazon was smart - compete on price, clearly illustrate the value (e.g. look at the ad - the lady is reading a book....now she's playing a game, next she's...etc.), and refine the UI so it's a much more guided experience and not a 'design your own desktop' affair.
I don't think the value proposition has been made yet. And it has nothing to do with device sizes. Companies can offer 10 tablets between 5" and 18" and that isn't going to change the situation.
The answer is in the data. The iPad feels almost useless to me with no data. Put it on a network and I'm thinking about abandoning my laptop. I think for the average consumer, if they could get a REASONABLE data plan (10-15 a month), this whole market would open up. (But considering the two horrible deals that were offered by the two big U.S. carriers, we're nowhere near where we need to be to make this a reality.)
I'm trying to convey the full implications of this to the web UI designers in my office at the moment - it's not just iPad and iPhone in retina and non-retina, then laptops and desktops. Pretty soon we'll be in a situation where you need to consider every screen size from 3 inches to 65 inches. Pixel pitch will continue to range from 30ppi to 400ppi, and viewing distances will range from 100mm to 4m. Sure, you'll need to pick a handful of the most popular configurations that visit your site to really optimise for, but you need to be aware that manufacturers are building every conceivable variation and any one could could end up being a hit next month.
I guess what I'm saying (below) is that if these OEMs are planning on making all these different sized and form-factored tablets without solving the reasonably priced data problem or putting a ton of creative 'Kindle Fire-like' thought into the development process, they'll have a bunch of different sized tablets that aren't going to move.
Seriously. I'd be a prime candidate for Verizon's new shared data plans, but I have no intention to ever give up my grandfathered unlimited data plan so I'm going to buy unsubsidized phones from this point forward and stick with wifi-only plans. The cellular industry is holding back technology as a whole (what's new?).