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December 26th 2013 9:13 pm

"The iPad is just a big iPod touch"

That’s the line that went around a few years ago when the first iPad was announced. As time has gone by and I’ve given the matter more thought, I realize those people were right.

As phones get larger and larger ( 3.5" iPhone -> 5.7" Galaxy Note 3) and tablets get smaller and smaller (10" iPad -> 7" Nexus 7), it becomes more evident to me that they’re essentially the same product category.

Think about it - for every iPad app, you could have a smaller version on the iPhone that does the same thing. For some apps, like drawing apps, the smaller version wouldn’t make quite as much sense given the fact that the iPhone has much less surface area to interact with. However, the larger display is still just something that makes certain tasks easier (as demonstrated by the larger number of people who prefer to watch movies and read books on tablets over phones). Some people use the iPad as a productivity device in place of a laptop, but arguably, they could do the same with an iPhone, it’s just harder to see, and people feel less efficient.

I don’t think there are three tiers of devices (phone, tablet, computer). I think there are only two, and that’s dictated not by form factor, but the OS the devices run. Traditional desktop class computers that run “proper” desktop OSes feature a much greater level of complexity that originates from the level of computing power they are allotted. Modern portable devices have more computing power than ever, but their functionality still originates from and has developed from the original product in its category. In this case, we could argue that is the first generation iPhone.

The iPad runs iOS and Android tablets still run Android. Those were OSes designed for phones and that’s just how they are. No matter how many tweaks and adaptations are made to improve usability at a larger screen size, the fundamental way the OSes work is the same and their functionality all comes from the original paradigm of a touchscreen phone OS.

A 7” netbook is still the same device as a 17” Alienware laptop, or even a desktop computer. You just buy the size that you can afford with the degree of portability and computing power you require.

I think that still applies in the space of smartphones and tablets, and eventually we’ll come upon a converged device for the average person. There will still be specialty devices for people with certain needs (the 11” MacBook Air for those who travel often and the 17” Alienware laptop for gamers), but the average laptop purchase is the 13.3” or 15.6” laptop that’s a balance of portability and power/usability.

Likewise, sub 4” phones are becoming much scarcer than they were a year or two ago, and 5”+ phones are becoming the norm. On the tablet side of things, the concept started with a 10” iPad, but 7-8” tablets like the Nexus 7 and iPad mini are becoming more popular than ever.

It’s only a matter of time before a single ~6” device becomes the norm and that the majority of people purchase.

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"On the tablet side of things, the concept started with a 10” iPad, but 7-8” tablets like the Nexus 7 and iPad mini are becoming more popular than ever.

It’s only a matter of time before a single ~6” device becomes the norm and that the majority of people purchase."

This makes me think of back in 2010 when I was back working at RIM. The 1st gen iPad had just released at 10 inches large. The Dell Streak (or Dell Mini 5 if you prefer) was the "small" tablet at 5 inches

The BlackBerry Playbook was designed a happy medium of 7 inches that was supposed to combine the productivity of a large screen device with the portability of a small screen device.

Steve Jobs then famously said regarding 7 inch tablets "This size is useless unless you include sandpaper so users can sand their fingers down to a quarter of their size."

The rest is history of course, but I as well as others have loved the 7 inch size of tablets. Apple even has released the iPad mini at this size, and didn't include sandpaper.

I think you have a point Jason that things may converge even more. Looking at the successes of the galaxy note series and the xperia ultra shows a trend that these devices can succeed.
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I would not go as far as to say its just a big iPod Touch, but I'd say its usability is definitely overrated. I have an iPad 2, currently running iOS 7. I bought a Dell Venue 8 Pro a couple of weeks ago and the iPad has been relegated to Kids use.

Now, I don't play that many games so I'm probably not the target market here but...The Venue 8 Pro is so much easier to handle, Windows 8.1 is a damn fine operating system, I have every app I need on it, and on top of it, the thing came with Office 2013 Home and Student Edition installed. Not a trial version, a full version.

I can see people who play games on their tablets liking their iPads, for my money though the Dell Venue 8 Pro beats it hands down (and its a lot less money).

Also, to figure out if it was just "geeky me" I bought one for my wife for Christmas. She has not even looked at the iPad in the last few days and she also loves the new Dell.

BTW, this is after both of us had swore off Dell because of a previous bad experience with a laptop.... (its kind of ironic to us that we like a Dell gadget this much)
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Speed of data entry seems like more of a limiting factor than screen size, portability, or even the OS.

Until there is a reliable, cheap, and private method of data entry that can compete with a keyboard @ 60+WPM, I think there will be multiple OSes and device sizes.

Hopefully there will also be small phones, as I can't imagine fitting some of the newer phones in my pants pocket.
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