A lot of people argue right now about what the perfect tablet looks like. Should it have this feature or that feature? Does it need Android or Windows or iOS? Can anyone but Apple but profitable? There are a lot of little quirks in the tablet market right now that are drawing attention from analysts, but one of the biggest is probably display size.
Can a successful tablet hit the market with a display size of less than 10”? Steve Jobs doesn’t think so, and yet we have news that Apple may be preparing a new product that is essentially a larger iPod Touch, checking in at 5” instead of the 3.5” that it sits at now. And that brings up even more questions. Not only does display size matter, but how small is too small for a tablet to be a tablet anymore? When does it become a media player or gaming device?
The Profit Margin Issue
Right now, one of the major issues for most manufacturers is that Apple has a pretty big portion of the component market cornered. With all that cash sitting around, the company can afford to make moves like they did in January to shore up $3.9 billion in components. And Apple’s estimated share of the display component market is growing larger constantly as they prepare to expand their iPad offerings.
So, it drives up the costs for other companies to build their own 10” screens and when they launch, like the Xoom will next week, the cost is much higher than many would like (the Xoom will sell for $799 without subsidies). Other devices, however, have launched at smaller sizes and have kept cost down. The Galaxy Tab and Dell Streak 7 are both 7” tablets that sell for less than $500 with subsidies while sporting decent technical specs. And while sales are brisk, they are nowhere near in line with Apple’s.
Some say it is because of Apple’s dominating lead, but others point out that a tablet of only 7” starts to look an awful lot like an oversized media player. Typing on the screen and performing daily tasks gets a bit tougher, though not impossible at that size. I don’t think there is degradation in usability, but many people will look at a small device and compare it to the iPad their friend or neighbor has and wonder, why.
What’s the Perfect Size?
There is no perfect size for a tablet screen. Just like some users prefer a netbook screen of only 10” to a 26” monitor on their desk, others will prefer a 7” tablet they can place in their pocket to a 10” screen that requires a bag to carry.
What I’m really interested in right now is what consumers are willing to purchase. How will manufacturers balance price and function to effectively take a larger portion of the market away from Apple? In 2011 we will see a number of new 7 inch tablets along with many new 10 inch models. Assuredly, the 10” tablets will continue to sell better, especially because Apple will keep their iPad at 10” only.
However, with new options opening up in oversized media players and low cost devices, the market is still far from set, and through it all, display size will likely play a major role in consumer interest.