Tablets are an interesting product and for many people, are more about being in the same room with a loved one but not having to ensure what’s on the television, as they do about being functional. They’re great for messing about with social media or online streaming media services. They don’t require cooling fans nor do they run uncomfortably hot either, but when it comes to gettings things done, they are not considered as effective as a laptop or Chromebook. I do wonder if the reason why the Apple iPad sold so well is because the screen on the iPhone was so small, it meant that trying to read an eBook or browsing the web was a difficult experience; the iPad rectified this with a much larger screen and was an easy sell to Apple customers suckered in on the belief that they had to stick with Apple to ensure compatibility. Now that Apple have invented the large screen smartphone, might we be seeing sales of the iPads cannibalized? We’ve seen tablet sales numbers dropping for all platforms; the iPad still dominates, but has still sold fewer.
Microsoft had had some success with its Surface line of tablets. The Microsoft Surface is a powerful, productivity-biased tablet designed to replace a traditional (read: lower powered) tablet and laptop. The market, then, has a need for a table that can do the laptop things but without the bulk and heat issues. And trying not to be cynical, perhaps Windows Phone devices have been rather lacklustre too.
And then there’s the Android tablet; Android is seen less as a tool for busy professionals and more for messing about with. The most successful Android tablet is the Amazon Kindle, which used a forked version of Android and is all about consuming content. Throw into the equation that there have been large screen Android smartphones available for a considerable time now, too and it’s easy to see why the Android tablet market is at best confused. Google’s approach to a tablet-oriented flavor of Android has also been confusing, with Android 3.0 Honeycomb being designed for tablets, but it was quickly reformed into Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. We’ve seen some of the dedicated tablet user interface cues removed from Android 5.0 Lollipop too – with Android 4.4 Kit Kat, there were two distinctive drop down menus on the device, one on the left for notifications and one on the right for power management and settings. These are now combined into one central notification shade; so what gives? Is Google starting to abandon the tablet market?
Google has the tools to help make the Android tablet a productivity powerhouse thank to Google Drive and Google Apps. The Google Play Store has over a million applications available and yes, not all are optimized for the tablet form factor, but they still run on the platform. Google Drive and Google Apps work great on Android tablets as well as smartphones and Chromebooks; is the missing factor that Google doesn’t have a desktop computer environment whereas Apple and Microsoft do? Or is it more that Google don’t make so much of a deal about being able to share information from smartphone to tablet to desktop, as Apple do?
I suspect that Google does not need the tablet as much as the smartphone and the Chromebook and so is less encouraged to develop the projects. Android tablets are often sold as a standalone product with little reference to the potential collaboration with the Android smartphone or ChromeOS notebook. If this were to change then I can see the device picking up, but perhaps consumers’ interests have moved on? Let us know your comments below.