I believe 2014 could be a big year for bigger tablets. The bulk of the tablets sold over the past few years have been tablets in the 7-8″ range. By our estimates the install base of tablets 9″ or larger is only 33%. Which highlights the point that most tablet sales over the past few years have been in smaller tablets.
Now, if you read what I wrote a few weeks ago you know that we believe we are on the cusp of a new buying cycle for more computing capable devices. While we can argue that even some smaller tablets are computing capable, we can’t argue that the more productive someone wants to be the more they may value a larger screen.
We believe we are on the cusp of a market buying cycle for larger screen computing devices. Some of these may be notebooks, some may be desktops, but we think the larger screen tablet has a real opportunity to take a percentage of sales in this upcoming refresh cycle.
Bigger Tablets Trending
It seems like most of the larger PC OEMS and tablet OEMs sense this opportunity as well. Samsung introduced their Tab Pro 12.2 at CES this year. I got to spend some time with this product and can attest to it being more impressive than I originally thought.
I was somewhat skeptical of the 12″ tablet form factor but after seeing the Tab Pro 12.2 I can see this being an attractive form factor for many large screen tablet intenders. One of the things that impressed me the most with Samsung’s new offering was the virtual keyboard. I am a heavy iPad Air user and I can type faster than most people on the virtual keyboard with ease. Samsung’s keyboard was even a bit larger than the iPad’s allowing me to incorporate my pinky into they typing process, which is a finger I don’t use on the iPad.
Ultimately Samsung’s, and all the other Android OEMs, challenge with larger tablets will be with the apps. The iPad is the uncontested leader in tablet optimized apps and I don’t see any evidence that is changing anytime soon. For larger Android tablets to have a strong case as more productivity devices the way the iPad Air is the tablet optimized Android app ecosystem will need to grow dramatically.
Emerging Market Growth
Interestingly the potential for larger screen tablets to grow as a percent of overall tablet sales in not limited to developed markets like North America and Europe. I met with several of the main SoC companies providing chips for tablet OEMs in China and India who told me they are seeing demand for larger tablets as well. While the US and Europe had a higher install base of tablet 9″ and larger, emerging markets had a very low install base of this form factor.
Several of the devices going into emerging markets are also slated to be a duel-boot Android and Windows tablet. Micromax, a popular brand in India, was showing off their LapTab dual-boot Windows 8 and Android tablet device. They were telling me the demand for this product in India was quite high. I remain quite skeptical of the dual-boot Android and Windows tablets in developed market but I can see them doing moderately well in emerging markets.
Consumers in many of these markets have never owned a PC. And while they are increasingly purchasing small tablets for primarily entertainment use cases, at some point in time they may graduate to more computing capable tablets. The likely-hood is that many of these will be larger screen devices.
All these points add to narrative that leads me to believe that 2014 could see strong growth of larger tablets. The reality is that bigger screen computing devices remain relevant for hundreds of millions of consumers. In emerging markets we are seeing new computer users coming online with tablets first.
Larger screen tablets will play a critical role in the future of computing and we think 2014 is the year we start to see progress in that direction.
Below is my firm’s slide showing forecasts for larger tablets.