Commentary

Appy Holidays! New Tablets Are Upon Us

Apple, Nokia and Microsoft are each poised to unveil tablets tomorrow that they hope will make it under the boughs of a lot of evergreens this holiday season. Amazon, Google and Samsung recently released their own versions of the devices, points out the New York Times’ Brian X. Chen, and Reticle Research analyst Ross Rubin tells him that “each manufacturer had developed slightly different approaches….” 

But overall, the result is that we are becoming a tablet nation — indeed, world — with the trend toward smaller and cheaper and Android. “Apple continues to be the standard to beat,” but both Rubin and a new Gartner study predict that Android devices will be taking an increasing share of the pie in coming years.

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“‘Getting on an airplane, it’s amazing the number of iPads that you now see that used to be either notebooks or portable DVD players,’ along with smaller tablets and e-book readers that are replacing books and magazines,” Rubin tells Chen.

“The tablet category is continuing to eat the PC’s lunch, albeit it’s a large lunch so the feast is taking a while,” writes TechCrunch’s Natasha Lomas in reporting that Gartner expects tablet shipments to grow 42.7% this year to 184 million units worldwide with PCs expected to slip 11.2%. 

“A recent consumer study that Gartner conducted in Brazil, China, France, Germany, Italy, the U.K., the U.S. and Japan confirmed Gartner's long-standing assumption that smaller is better when it comes to consumer tablets,” according to a Gartner release about its new report, “Forecast: Devices by Operating System and User Type, Worldwide, 2010-2017, 3Q13 Update.” 

In the short term, and “continuing on the trend we saw last year, we expect this holiday season to be all about smaller tablets as even the long-term holiday favorite — the smartphone — loses its appeal,” says Gartner research VP Carolina Milanesi.

The report also indicates that the “ultramobile category — aka lightweight laptops and portables running a full desktop OS such as Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet” that target users who need their devices for both work and play — “is offsetting the traditional PC decline somewhat.”

After the runaway success of its smaller-screen (7.9 inch) iPad Mini during the last year — a form factor sainted founder Steve Jobs once predicted would be “DOA, dead on arrival” — “Apple is now readying a revamped iPad Mini with a high-resolution “retina” display,” Daisuke Wakabayashi, Ian Sherr and others disclose in the Wall Street Journal. “It’s also working on a thinner, lighter version of its standard 9.7-inch iPad, using a thin film instead of the glass found in existing models, based on information from the company’s parts suppliers.”

It should not surprise you to learn that Apple has not commented on the report in advance of the media event tomorrow.

Microsoft will also formally introduce new tablets — the Surface 2 and the Surface Pro — tomorrow. Advance reviews seem to mix strong appreciation for the technology with a sense of apprehension over its prospects to find a customer base. The hed on Lance Ulanoff’s  review on Mashable calls it “the tablet world’s powerful, odd duckling.” He concludes: “If you love Microsoft, Windows and, especially all things Windows 8, this is your ultimate do-everything tablet.” Otherwise, in short, it’s not. 

“While the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 may excel in productivity, they don’t have the style and fun of their competitors,” according to an AP review in the Washington Post.

Nokia, meanwhile, is set to launch a phablet that Engadget calls “an oversized Windows phone” based on a product page it spied for the “fabled Lumia 1520” on a Chinese online store. It is also “rumored to be working on a 10.1-inch full HD tablet called Lumia 2520, expected to run the Windows RT OS,”   Victoria Woollaston reports in the Daily Mail.

If the tablet/phablet market all seems like one big, confusing, mishmash of features, benefits and prices, well … it is. But The Guardian’s Samuel Gibbs has concisely sorted out which device is best suited to which function a consumer prefers — as well as what level he or she is at. Amazon's Kindle Fire, with real-person video support, is perfect for beginners, for example, while the Nexus 10 is built by Google and, therefore, “well integrated with Android” and best for techies. The iPad Mini is the clear choice for the app-obsessed. 

And they are all good options for the advertising industry and the media it supports.

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