Friday, November 12, 2010

How Big Do People Really Want their Tablet Devices?

With so many new tablets being announced seemingly every week, it got me thinking – what are the newcomers doing to stand out from the industry leaders (i.e. the iPad)? There are a lot of engineering decisions that help the competitors in my books – open OS platforms are instantly more flexible while expansion slots for memory cards are a big plus in my book.

But, one of the many variations I’m seeing that a lot of companies are betting on is the screen size – there are quite a few devices on the market that are offering a 7 inch display rather than a 10 inch – effectively cutting down on the screen real estate available for computing.

While, this might seem like a cost cutting measure, one look at sleek new devices like the Galaxy Tab or the Viewsonic Viewpad shows you that they might have something else to offer entirely. Specifically, a smaller tablet is more mobile, and that is the point, after all.

What Apple did with the iPad is blow their iPhone display and OS up to the point that it could be used interchangeably for media consumption and some basic typing. Let’s face it – no one is going to type a novel on an iPad. But, at the same time, the device is a little bulky. It’s too heavy to carry in one hand and takes up a decent amount of space in a bag – even if it is far less than that of a laptop.

So, a 7 inch device does make sense if you want something that could theoretically fit into a large jacket pocket or go into the front flap of a backpack or messenger bag. Smaller devices can also be held easily in one hand, something that the 10 inch devices don’t allow.

Does the Size Matter?

In the age of hyper analysis of every new tablet announced, I’m wondering what role the size will play in the expanding market. Obviously the iPad is number one and will stay there for some time to come, but do people really want a 10 inch tablet, or is it that the most desirable device on the market (due to marketing and the ever-present Apple “hipness” factor) just happens to be 10 inches?

It really depends on who you’re talking to. To start with, cost plays a role. Smaller tablets can be sold for lower prices without necessarily sacrificing horsepower (something that severely short changes users – see my post on the $200 Gentouch tablet). Another thing that might come into play here is what the tablet will be used for. If someone merely wants a device for watching movies, playing games and checking email, do they need a 7 inch display? For me, the larger display devices are perfect for enterprise applications through Windows 7 but are not necessary for simple entertainment consumption.

As people start to ask whether Apple will introduce a smaller screen version of their uber-selling iPad and others wonder if companies are spreading themselves too thin with multiple sizes of their own first-time entries, it bears considering what role the size of these devises will ultimately play in the market. 

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