Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Year of the Tablet Consumer

Since CES I’ve felt like we’re building to something – a showdown of sorts slated for this spring. With dozens of new devices coming out in the next few weeks and even a handful of new operating systems set to land, the tablet market is about to change in ways we’ve never seen before. So, what does it mean for consumers? Let’s take a closer look at the state of the tablet market.

Sales and New Products

In 2010, there were 17 million tablet sales, most of which were Apple iPads. In 2011 that number is expected to climb north of 40 million and include a lot more Android and Windows devices. How much more of the share will be for other manufacturers remains to be seen, but one thing we can be sure about is that the ecosystem model developed by Apple isn’t going anywhere.

People want a device that provides a complete system. They want App stores and operating systems they come to know and trust throughout the day. They want a device that is operational but also a part of their identity – and while PCs and phones have done this, tablets stand to be even more of a cultural touchstone because of their mobility and the fact that they will be shared and used frequently in the presence of others.

Developments Coming Soon

As of two days ago, the signs still point to a release of the Motorola Xoom tablet on February 24th. The Best Buy ad leaking the launch date also pegs the price point at $799 and shows a variety of data plans for those wanting high speed access.

When the Xoom launches it will signal the opening salvo in a yearlong back and forth between Apple and everyone else. While Apple clearly dominated in 2010 it was mostly because they blindsided the market. Other developers were not ready for the raw demand for tablets while Apple played the cards and guessed right. They subsequently cleaned up because of it.

In 2011, things won’t be so simple. New devices will likely come out with better technical specs and stronger performance numbers than the iPad, even after the iPad 2 launches. Apple will surely upgrade their device in April with a dual core processor, much more powerful screen and at least one camera, but will it be 4G? Will it support SD slots? Will it have HDMI out? These and a dozen other questions will fill the articles of tech writers everywhere and will likely impact how consumers respond to the flood of new devices.

And then there are the other guys. We cannot forget about RIM and their Playbook release set for some time in spring or summer. MeeGo may see its first major release in 2011 as the open source OS continues to gain steam. HP continues to promise a slew of new options in WebOS for tablets and Windows 7, despite a lack of new innovations at CES will continue to appear on new devices, including a number of convertible tablet/netbooks.

If 2010 was the year of the tablet, 2011 is the year of the consumer – users will have more options and greater opportunities to make choices that reflect their needs and desires in a device. Now, we just need to sit back and wait to see what the consumers decide. 

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