Monday, May 28, 2012

The Post PC World, the Tablet as a Mobile Device and the Third World

The tablet has been market as a mobile device. Something light and easy to carry around. But after having been in the market now for more than two years, studies show it is mainly used at home. A study commissioned by Viacom shows that 74% of tablet use it at home (Home Is Where the Tablet Is). A study conducted by Rosetta Consulting Practice made the same finding.
"Something particularly unexpected is that I think people would generally think of a tablet as a device used in home, whereas smartphones are out of home. Each of those contexts has an influence on the way we define the role of each device. This study represents one departure from that assumption and as tablets are increasingly making their way out of the home we could see some changes in how we would engage users in branded experiences on those devices."

The proposition that people who buy tablets do not think of them as mobile devices, is that while a 2011 study showed 37.5% of tablets sold had 3G radio's, 90% of tablet buyers on use only WiFi. In other words, there are plenty of 3G tablets in field, whose 3G radio's are rarely or never used.

Surprisingly, despite being used at home, it does not displace the personal computer.
By looking at different tablet owners that have owned the device over time and by asking what they did in the beginning versus what they do now, we learned people tend to do a lot more activities in the first one to six months, in what we call the “honeymoon phase.” Interestingly, a tablet was just one of multiple devices our respondents used and after the honeymoon phase and, after that honeymoon was over, they started to prefer their computers over tablets for certain tasks. Examples include video chat, interacting with social networks, managing finances and shopping for products.

Rosetta's study concludes that "(t)his data about device usage in different locations, combined with our device preference data, reinforced that tablets are not necessarily the primary devices for a lot of things; instead, it is an ad-on device so you can keep accessing info anywhere."

In studying tablet use, for the purpose of optimizing its ads, Google found that the tablet was a "third digital screen in consumer's lives that fill(s) the gap between desktops and smartphones." Google's study found that people use tablets for personal rather than work-related activities 91% of the time.

The tablet, which was proclaimed as a PC replacement is instead becoming an add-on to our PC and smartphone.  Gartner had predicted PC sales to be slower in Q1 of 2012 as compared to the proceeding year. Instead the traditional PC market grew in 2012.

Being a third device, Kogan, in designing a low cost tablet for the Australian market had this to day about tablet demand: "The main feedback we heard from our customers on tablets is that I want one, but I don't need one."

From a third world perspective, things could be very different. Six years ago, the One Laptop Per Child initiative, tried to create a US$100 laptop. The end result was a US$200 unit. The commercial offshoot of this effort was the Netbook, which has now seen low cost computers being offered for as low as a little bit over Php10,000 (still more that US$200), and that is only after the advent of tablets cut demand for Netbooks.

A few months after the launch by Apple of its iPad in March 2010, cheap "China" Android powered tablets costing as little as Php3,000 started to become widely available in the Philippines. These tablets had shoddy build quality and were of limited functionality, not even having access to the Google Android app store. 

A year and a half later, these China made tablets have evolved into credible devices with decent hardware and a price range ranging from Php5,000 to Php12,000. These tablets comes with capacitative screens, running Google's latest Android 4.0 operating system (something which even some expensive tablets cannot boast), with full access to the Google Play Android  app market, and are capable of displaying 1080p video and outputting the video to a LCD TV via a HDMI port. More importantly, computing has become cheaper than ever before.

In the third world, these low cost Android tablets, together with low cost Android and Linux smartphones,  could be a lot of peoples first personal computer. With the Internet now being the main repository of information, access to a personal computer these days is a necessity. More people being able to gain access to this bold new world, is a very good thing.

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