The State of Tablets

Ben Bajarin / October 21st, 2013

On the eve of Apple’s event–where we expect new iPad’s to be unveiled–I thought I would provide a high level view of the current state of the tablet market. While it may not be terribly obvious to many, the holiday quarter for tablets will easily be the most competitive yet. Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX tablets have hit their stride and are viable choices. Samsung has been steadily gaining in market share with their onslaught of screen size choices and aggressive pricing. And even though many discount Microsoft’s Surface and the other similar 2-1 PC form factors from vendors like Dell, HP, Lenovo and others, they still represent a force in the market place that some consumers will need to evaluate. While we can debate the legitimacy of all these choices, the fact remains, there will be a plethora of choice in the tablet category this holiday season.

Defining a Tablet

This is easily the most controversial element of this discussion. When those of us who count and segment these categories discuss this point I often feel like it is the ultimate philosophical and post-modern question: what is a tablet?

Early on in the tablet lifecycle many were keen to keep a clean line between tablets and traditional PCs like desktops and notebooks. However, now more than three years later we know the line is blurred.

We have overwhelming data that now suggests that consumers themselves view tablets as PCs. For the mass market consumer there is no division. Many things they used to do on the traditional PC they owned or had access to they can now do on a more friendly form factor with a natural touch interface.

Tablets are the new PC and there is just no way around this. Notebooks and desktops will go through a role shift and have limited appeal and annual growth. When it comes to computing devices, which tablets are, they are the one growth spot. Although, the tablet may come in many different form factors and appeal to different segments accordingly, it is the device for which the PC industry needs to focus on.

Forecasting Growth

We have to take forecasts with a grain of salt in their accuracy. Things change and forecasts need to be considered more liquid than firm. But they do provide a framework to show what segments are growing and which are not. Therefore, looking at what seems realistic in current forecasts is helpful frame the discussion and the category. For my firms estimates I took a number of forecast data we had and used them to create what I feel fits in line with the regional trends we see. Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 8.42.17 AM

At one time trend data suggested more aggressive growth. It seems as though the trend data in key regions suggests more modest growth to be expected. Perhaps larger screen phones have played a role in slowing tablet growth. One can only speculate but as I point out we must consider forecasts to be fluid. Regardless of conservative or aggressive estimates tablets are a growth segment.

Few Vendors Finding Success

The other key observation when looking at tablet market share breakdown by vendor is that only a few are finding success. Apple, Samsung, and Amazon are the big brands that have the most market share with tablets. And interestingly all of them are coming from a mobile posture not a desktop or notebook posture. Here are the estimates I feel are most accurate of tablet sell through by vendor contrasted with PC sales.1

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 9.06.38 AM

As we can see, Apple is still the dominant tablet vendor by volume. Samsung is growing and Amazon is managing consistency.

Tablet OS Browser Share

Understanding how consumers use tablets is important. We know that iPad leads in browser usage share, which suggests at the very least that the iPad is an internet traffic machine. Browsing the web isn’t the only usage metric that matters but it is the best one we have. Web browsing share is a demonstration of overall device usage. If a tablet is just used for movies is it a tablet or a portable DVD player? If a tablet is just used for games is it a tablet or a portable gaming device? Tablets are best of breed mobile computers capable of web browsing, games, video, productivity and more. A true tablet platform should be about possibilities not limitations. Right now, in all the metrics we can count, it seems the iPad is the best example of a true tablet. 2

Here is a chart to grasp web browsing share of major platforms in several key regions.

Tablets-OS-share

As we track this information in real time it will be interesting to note any key changes. Right now the iPad dominates every category checked that matters from a market, business, and economics standpoint. The gap between an Android tablet–for someone who wants to use it as a tablet not something else–is minimal from a price standpoint for the value gained. If Apple closes that price gap with iPad pricing options then it is logical that Apple will gain ground in many of the key categories.

Microsoft and their ecosystem partners are the ones to watch to see if ground is gained in any significant areas for tablet intenders. The competition for first time tablet buyers will be fierce. Understanding what consumers want, expect, and desire to do with tablets will be the key in defining who wins and loses in this segment.

  1. This chart is using Apple’s quarterly timeline where Q1 is the holiday quarter and Q4 for most others. []
  2. By stats I mean commerce driven (iPad averages just over $130 per quarter by US consumers), app breadth and depth, developer monetization, etc. []

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio
  • shivraj

    Both Apple and Google are yet to bring truly killer productivity apps for business users. Google will be a big threat to Microsoft than Apple because of their Web apps and office.

    • FalKirk

      “Both Apple and Google are yet to bring truly killer productivity apps for business users”

      The facts say otherwise:

      Of 1,000 custom enterprise apps, 95% run on Apple’s iOS feedproxy.google.com/~r/fortuneappl…

      Good: Apple leads business adoption with 72% mobile devices, 90% of tablets, 95% of apps appleinsider.com/articles/13/10…

  • James King

    “Tablets are the new PC and there is just no way around this.”
    ” When it comes to computing devices, which tablets are…” – Ben Bajarin

    Tablet = computing device

    PC = computing device

    Tablet = PC?

    That’s a logical fallacy. Tablets and PCs are computing devices but that doesn’t make a tablet a PC.

    Let’s leave out the ARM vs. Intel, RISC vs x86, SoC vs integrated chipset arguments for a tablet not being a PC for a minute. It’s clear that tabets fulfill a subset of the PC’s functionality. It can be said then that tablets (and smartphones) have “granularized” computing more. We have computing devices in instances in which we previously didn’t have them. Each screen is suitable to its particular use case. But that also indicates an extension of computing rather than a displacement of one form factor by another. Tablets and smartphones are fulfilling NEW roles in the sense that they are bringing new tools to solve old problems into more situations. A PC will never be as versatile as a tablet while a tablet will likely never be as powerful and robust as a PC. In the end, they are two devices that have very different roles that happen to have some functionality overlap.

    “We have overwhelming data that now suggests that consumers themselves view tablets as PCs. For the mass market consumer there is no division. Many things they used to do on the traditional PC they owned or had access to they can now do on a more friendly form factor with a natural touch interface.” – Ben Bajarin

    I don’t know if you are making a semantical point or if this is just plain inaccurate. I think if you put a PC and a tablet on a table, a consumer would not only be able to tell the difference, s/he would be able to articulate differences in the use cases for each.

    As for tablets being “more friendly,” you seem to be conflating UX vs form factor. From an ergonomic standpoint, laptops > tablets based on muscular energy expended. Even a light tablet engages more muscle energy to use than even a heavy laptop; one you hold in your hand away from your body, the other normally rests on a surface or an actual lap. Laptops also have the ergonomic advantages of larger screens and physical keyboards. The ergonomics of tablets exceed laptops when one is actually standing up, in motion, or space constrained. A doctor, who stands and is in motion frequently, benefits ergonomically from using a tablet. Likewise, a space-constrained area, such as public transportation, accentuates the ergonomic advantages of a tablet. But otherwise, especially when one is at home, a small laptop would seem to have a distinct ergonomic advantage over a laptop, at least if one does not move frequently from room to room.

    The reality is that tablets and PCs are complementary devices. If people are choosing one over the other or performing work on a tablet that is more suitable for a PC, the likely causes are economic or UX related. “A” computing device is better than “no” computing device for most people. And anyone who is using a tablet for create-intensive work is doing it in spite of the ergonomic deficiencies of tablets for such work; tablet screens tend to be much smaller and keyboards are an add-on. This strongly suggests dissatisfaction with the UX of PCs rather than a superiority of tablets as a form factor.

    Microsoft’s Surface 2 Pro tries to address those UX issues that make people choose a tablet over a PC. While it makes compromises, I think the value proposition is finally at least viable from a hardware perspective; it supposedly can now actually be used on a lap effectively plus it has an excellent screen w/ digitizer and its keyboard accessories are greatly improved. Windows 8(.1) seems to be the weak link though. Its UX, while improved, is still a long way from user friendly.

    • Space Gorilla

      I think the key point a lot of nerds/geeks simply do not grok is that the iPad is a better personal computer for most normal people.

      • James King

        You realize that PCs still outsell iPads, right?

        • Space Gorilla

          Of course.

        • famousringo

          You sure you want to use that argument? Look at the trends in the second chart before you answer.

          • James King

            That ascending bar is “tablets,” not specifically “iPads.” PCs still outsell iPads by a comfortable margin.

    • Defendor

      I voted this up for quality. But I disagree with final paragraphs. I doubt this is a UX as in software UI issue with desktop PC. The reason to choose tablets is a precisely the form factor one that you label as an ergonomic problem. Why sit a desk when you can lounge in a easy chair to read/browse web/email?

      But writing code, doing complex documentation will still be done at a desk with the better UI and better ergonomics for those tasks. The real issue is that most people don’t do those tasks. The are doing internet/media/entertainment stuff, and a easy chair is where they want to be.

      Surface Pro doesn’t really address that. It tries to be both, but its large size, awkward in portrait 16:9 ratio, make it less suitable for the easy chair. Meanwhile the minute screen is hardly suitable for complex activities on the desk.

      Physically, you can’t have device that is both comfortable for the easy chair, and productive for the desktop. Microsoft fails at both here.

      • James King

        Why use a tablet if you are going to be lounging in an easy chair? If I have a laptop, I don’t have to hold it up plus I can adjust the angle of the screen to my satisfaction. I think people who can afford both are choosing tablets for the more intuitive user experience. Otherwise, tablets are generally only better if you are leaving the house. The runs counter to the research that people use tablets primarily in their homes.

        As for Surface Pro, I can respect your opinion on that. I just bought my daughter a Wacom tablet for her laptop and I’m really tempted by the digitizer in the Surface 2 Pro. It’s just a matter of having a use case that may justify the purchase. That being stated, when I asked her if she wanted a Surface 2 Pro she answered with an emphatic “NO!”. She thinks Windows 8 is terrible and I share the sentiment.

        • Space Gorilla

          “Why use a tablet if you are going to be lounging in an easy chair?” Well, because it’s extremely comfortable, that’s the simple answer. I’m not sure it’s possible that you use a tablet very much, otherwise you’d have known the answer to your question.

          We’ve got six iPads in our house, all four kids use them as their primary personal computer. My wife and kids all use their iPads all over the house, on the couch, while walking around, on their beds, on desks, on the floor, in hammocks, and so on. They don’t have any ergonomic issues, the iPad is very natural and comfortable to use in many different positions.

          • James King

            Quotes:

            “The ergonomics of tablets exceed laptops when one is actually standing up, in motion, or space constrained.”

            “But otherwise, especially when one is at home, a small laptop would seem
            to have a distinct ergonomic advantage over a tablet, at least if one
            does not move frequently from room to room.”

            The ergonomics is simply a matter of science, it’s indisputable.

            However, I’d guess that 6 people in a home indicates a reasonably large home or constant movement of family members from room-to-room and outside for increased privacy. In other words, your family members are likely in motion quite often. For that situation, tablets make a great deal of sense.

          • Space Gorilla

            They typically move to a space, and then work there, without moving. I’m assuming you quoted yourself here “a small laptop would seem to have a distinct ergonomic advantage over a tablet”. It may seem that way to you, but I can assure you it is not true in practice.

          • James King

            There’s no seeming about it, it’s science. But let me examine your use case:

            Do the people in your household like to work in the same space? “Move to a space” clearly indicates movement, which makes a tablet ergonomically advantageous. Even if they stay in the same spot for awhile once they get there, I can reasonable assume that they generally choose to use their tablets in different areas of the home frequently, right? Moving even a light laptop from place to place would be a problem due to its greater size and the awkwardness of its form factor in that situation. I can carry a laptop from room to room but I can’t use it comfortably in transit like a tablet. Once you or one of your family members decides to sit down and stay stationary, your computing experience becomes sub-optimal from an ergonomic standpoint. That’s just science.

            That isn’t to say that there are other factors that make using tablets more acceptable for you and your family. As I’ve stated, my guess is that there is a lot of motion in your home. You are willing to trade the ergonomic benefits of a laptop for the freedom of moving your computing experience quickly and comfortably into any room while still using your device. I guess my point is that you are confusing some other convenience with ergonomics or your family operates in a way that is conducive to the ergonomics of tablets.

            My point re: ergonomics aren’t opinions, they are conclusions supported by science.

          • Space Gorilla

            On the science, sources please. Perhaps you’re referring to the Harvard study which was quite limited in scope? We all have keyboard cases (ZAGG), and we do not use the iPads in transit. We move to a location, and then use the iPad. The key advantage is the touchscreen. Using a trackpad to move a pointer around the screen is a terrible experience. Being able to hold the iPad in either orientation, or prop it up in the keyboard case in either orientation (and at different angles), or lay it on a lap or a table or the floor, all of this is superior to any laptop I’ve used. It is easier to use and more comfortable. Plus you can more easily shift positions often. This is why I am convinced Apple will release a hybrid iPad Air type device, it’s a great overall experience, easy, mobile, comfortable. Ah, but science!

          • James King

            “Perhaps you’re referring to the Harvard study which was quite limited in scope?” – Space Gorilla

            You ask for proof and discredit proof in the same sentence? This is a “moving the goalpost” logical fallacy. And you aren’t going to be able to create an opinion-based argument that will overcome basic physiology.

            Can you dispute that it takes more physical energy to hold a tablet vs. resting a laptop on a surface or a lap? Because physics can’t.

            Can you dispute that your neck is in a more strained position when looking straight down at a tablet in the sitting position vs. looking at a laptop screen from the same position? Because kinesiology can’t.

            “We all have keyboard cases (ZAGG), and we do not use the iPads in transit. We move to a location, and then use the iPad. The key advantage is the touchscreen. Using a trackpad to move a pointer around the screen is a terrible experience.” – Space Gorilla

            Yeah, I know. I actually argued FOR the very point you are making on Techpinions with someone who disputed my claim that using a touchscreen is faster than using a trackpad though it is less ERGONOMIC. The improvements in speed and precision when using a touchscreen supercede the expenditure of energy. Ironic that you should bring that up, I could have used your support in that exchange.

            As for the keyboards, this is an interesting point as well because I stated on Twitter that, once you add a keyboard to a tablet, you’ve essentially converted it into a hybrid PC. You see, keyboards are also more ergonomic than touchscreens for input, not navigation. I’ve had quite a few exchanges recently with people who think virtual keyboards are just as ergonomic as tactile ones; I’ve argued the contrary. People like you support my position that true tactile keyboards are an ergonomic advantage that will never completely be supplanted by touch-screen keyboards. Once again, I could have used your support.

            “This is why I am convinced Apple will release a hybrid iPad Air type device, it’s a great overall experience, easy, mobile, comfortable. Ah, but science!” – Space Gorilla

            Yeah, I believe the exact same thing, even tweeted about it. But precisely because it IS science. You’ve actually made some points that I hope others have noted.

          • Space Gorilla

            Where you’re off the mark is your assumption that you have to hold a tablet instead of resting it in a sitting position, and your assumption of neck position when using a tablet in various positions. The Harvard study missed these subtle points as well. As I said, it’s obvious you don’t use an iPad much, otherwise you would know what I’m talking about. You would know that you don’t necessarily hold a tablet vs resting it on a surface or a lap, and you would know that you don’t necessarily look straight down at a tablet in a sitting position. Add in a good keyboard case and the equations change even more.

            I can tell you from a couple years of practical experience, an iPad in a ZAGG keyboard case (or any good keyboard case) is far more comfortable in a wider range of scenarios and positions than my MacBook Pro ever was. The ease with which you can shift your position in small ways as you’re sitting/laying/whatever is also beneficial for any kind of muscle strain.

            A hybrid device is a no-brainer. And I want a 13 inch touchscreen as well with my iPad Air. The only issue that will need solving is how you flip the keyboard away in order to use the iPad Air like a normal iPad, because in many positions that’s the most comfortable way to use the device.

          • James King

            “Where you’re off the mark is your assumption that you have to hold a tablet instead of resting it in a sitting position, and your assumption of neck position when using a tablet in various positions. The Harvard study missed these subtle points as well.” – Space Gorilla

            Nah, they didn’t miss it, it wasn’t a relevant point. The ergonomics of resting a tablet on your legs vs. a laptop on your lap is still sub-optimal. Check the photos posted by Defendor… you are still expending greater energy propping up a tablet in that fashion than resting a laptop in your lap. On top of that, that is not a position in which you would be when at work, in a coffee shop, etc.

            “As I said, it’s obvious you don’t use an iPad much, otherwise you would know what I’m talking about.”

            I used to own several iPads. I don’t anymore. I do too much typing and I like not having to hold one up. I prefer dedicated ereaders for books and my phone for true mobility.

            “I can tell you from a couple years of practical experience, an iPad in a ZAGG keyboard case (or any good keyboard case) is far more comfortable in a wider range of scenarios and positions than my MacBook Pro ever was. The ease with which you can shift your position in small ways as you’re sitting/laying/whatever is also beneficial for any kind of muscle strain.” – Space Gorilla

            I don’t doubt that an iPad may work better for you but this is anecdotal.

            “A hybrid device is a no-brainer. And I want a 13 inch touchscreen as well with my iPad Air. The only issue that will need solving is how you flip the keyboard away in order to use the iPad Air like a normal iPad, because in many positions that’s the most comfortable way to use the device.” – Space Gorilla

            PC hybrids already do this.

          • Space Gorilla

            PC hybrids run iOS?

          • James King

            LOL, nope 🙂

          • James King

            I lose posts in Disqus if I edit too much so…

            The irony of our exchange is that you have validated my points. You and your family essentially use your iPads as laptops, primarily because the UX is better than using a Windows based PC. My point exactly.

          • Space Gorilla

            No, we don’t use the iPads as laptops, we use them as very flexible, mobile personal computers. They are much more iPad than laptop, and that’s what is great about them. But the keyboard case extends the ease of use. The combination of hardware keyboard and touchscreen is so great, so comfortable, so flexible. Trackpads are awful. I think we are largely in agreement, but my experience with the ergonomics of the iPad don’t match up with whatever science you’re basing your opinion on, mainly because I think the science is missing a lot of the details of practical use.

          • James King

            I don’t think it would be productive to further argue the point because, in the end, you are going to perceive it how you perceive it. Based on our exchange, I’m bowing out with the distinct impression that the improvement you perceive is based on UX, not form factor. Every aspect of the way you use your iPad is consistent with ergonomic research. You just may not perceive it that way.

          • Space Gorilla

            Well, lab work doesn’t always match up with practical use. I would need to see your specific evidence. You keep saying it’s indisputable, but you’re not actually giving sources. I’m open to looking at any data, but unless I missed it, you didn’t provide any.

            The improvement I perceive re: the iPad is quite obviously both UX and form factor.

          • James King

            Good general article on the topic. Several ergonomists are credited and have further research:

            http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9241435/Surprise_Mobile_devices_don_t_help_office_ergonomics_?taxonomyId=227&pageNumber=1

          • jfutral

            “Well, lab work doesn’t always match up with practical use.”

            Yeah, it’s kind of like when audio speaker spec sheets talk about their frequency response and output level in an anechoic chamber. Then you get them home to find out, surprise, you don’t live in an anechoic chamber.

            Joe

          • jfutral

            “The ergonomics is simply a matter of science, it’s indisputable.”

            The only problem I have with your science is your over extending the relevance and application. First, let’s grant your example of a laptop on the lap as being more ergonomic than an iPad. But that’s it. Assuming your lap can stand the heat, no other sitting or lounging position allows for the laptop’s arguable superior ergonomics. If I start to slump while seated, which I do when I am in my den, the laptop’s superiority starts to degrade. If I’m laying face down on my couch with my chin resting on a pillow, my iPad is a far superior ergonomic experience.

            And this is the whole point. For casual, non-structured usage of typical casual info-tainment content and communication, the iPad beats a laptop and hybrid hands down. In the end your points of the limited ergonomic superiority of the laptop over the tablet pretty much mean zilch to the average user. Otherwise, “Ergonomically superior over a tablet/iPad” would top the list of features. Although I am sure you could find someone’s marketing that says that. When you do, tell me how their sales are, too.

            That’s pretty much all I have to say about that.
            Joe

          • James King

            “First, let’s grant your example of a laptop on the lap as being more
            ergonomic than an iPad. But that’s it. Assuming your lap can stand the
            heat, no other sitting or lounging position allows for the laptop’s
            arguable superior ergonomics.” – jfutral

            Incorrect and I’m going to use your own examples to show that.

            “If I start to slump while seated, which I
            do when I am in my den, the laptop’s superiority starts to degrade.” – jfutral

            Even if we start with equal neck compression, you don’t have to support the weight of a laptop. You’re correct, it’s a degradation. But the laptop is still superior.

            “If
            I’m laying face down on my couch with my chin resting on a pillow, my
            iPad is a far superior ergonomic experience.”

            I can do the exact same thing with a laptop and I don’t actually have to support a tablets weight. Even taking greater neck compression into account, supporting the weight of a tablet makes it pretty much a net-even.

            “And this is the whole point. For casual, non-structured usage of typical
            casual info-tainment content and communication, the iPad beats a laptop
            and hybrid hands down.” – jfutral

            This is a VISCERAL response but not one based on ergonomics. iPads are familiar, they look and feel like books and notepads for the most part and people like that. But, when it comes to pure efficiency related to physical use, you simply can’t credibly state that they are more ergonomic. Comparing use cases, in most you will be supporting the weight of the tablet vs. not supporting the weight of the laptop. As I’ve stated before, this is simple physics. People do not realize how many adjustments they make when they actually read. They do not make they same adjustments when they use computers. To the contrary, many of the issues related to PC use comes from people remaining locked in a static position for too long (repetitive stress notwithstanding).

            I never challenged the visceral experience of the table and have actually championed its superior user experience. I haven’t made any negative claims related to their place or future in the market. I’ve stated clearly in my response to Ben that I agree that tablets are the growth sector in tech for the foreseeable future. But not because they are “better” devices. Cheaper? Yes. Easier to use from a software perspective? Without a doubt. But superior from a form factor perspective? Not INHERENTLY. Then use case becomes relevant. When you examine how tablets and laptops are used and the ergonomics of both, it’s apparent that laptops have significant ergonomic advantages in most use cases. This strongly suggests that te advantages of tablets rests largely in their user experience and economics. That isn’t to state that many people don’t prefer the tablet form factor but, once again, that is largely a visceral response and has little to do with actual ergonomics.

            What makes tablets so compelling are their advanced MOBILITY. For the most part, the are easy to use and carry on the go. In that use case, tablets are far superior to laptops. But most tablet usage occurs in the home. Considering the superior ergonomics of a laptop IN THOSE CIRCUMSTANCES, why is that the case? The evidence strongly suggests a superiority in UX (visceral included) and the price advantage is well documented. The superiority in the ergonomics of laptops for use cases in the home is the one factor that can be objectively proven through physics and kinesiology.

            People are trying to refute the one aspect of my initial post that is irrefutable. This isn’t an opinion, but a conclusion proven through physics and kinesiology. As the great saying goes:

            We are all allowed to have our own opinions, but we aren’t all allowed to have our own facts.

        • Defendor

          “Why use a tablet if you are going to be lounging in an easy chair?”

          I understand now. You are still in the group of people who just don’t get tablets.

          This may be why you are grasping at straws to come up with alternative reasons for tablet success.

          Think about reading a novel with a laptop balanced on your lap with a landscape screen. Ergonomically that is more of a mess.

          A small lightweight, portrait mode tablet, duplicates the book experience. I am looking specificially at 8″ tablets for this experience.

          Even the bigger ipad are well suite to sitting in the lazyboy with your feet up, or kids sitting with their feet up on adult furniture. A laptop isn’t better ergonomically, it is worse. A laptop is better if you are doing a lot of typing because it has a keyboard, but if you are consuming and interacting, and sitting in a relaxed manner, a tablet is better.

          http://www.technobuffalo.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/lap.jpg

          http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-pDqhLaA5Xj8/UYvDx3H8EHI/AAAAAAAAYL4/iMOL_XrVaX0/s640/IMG_9811.JPG

          • James King

            I’ll just repost my quote from another response:

            “(Y)ou aren’t going to be able to create an opinion-based argument that will overcome basic physiology.

            Can you dispute that it takes more physical energy to hold a tablet vs. resting a laptop on a surface or a lap? Because physics can’t.

            Can you dispute that your neck is in a more strained position when looking straight down at a tablet in the sitting position vs. looking at a laptop screen from the same position? Because kinesiology can’t.” – Me

            I’m not arguing an either/or scenario, I thought I made it clear that I view tablets and PCs as complementary devices. In fact, I DID. Form my original post:

            “The reality is that tablets and PCs are complementary devices. If people are choosing one over the other or performing work on a tablet that is more suitable for a PC, the likely causes are economic or UX related.” – Me

            Please try not to put words into my hands that I didn’t type.

            “Think about reading a novel with a laptop balanced on your lap with a landscape screen. Ergonomically that is more of a mess.” – Defendor

            I’m reading your post right now with a laptop comfortably propped in my lap.

            “A laptop isn’t better ergonomically, it is worse.” – Defendor

            Science doesn’t agree with you.

          • Space Gorilla

            Hmm, I’ll make this point again, when you say “Can you dispute that your neck is in a more strained position when looking straight down at a tablet in the sitting position vs. looking at a laptop screen from the same position?” you’re making assumptions here that simply aren’t true when it comes to real world use. Surely you see that.

          • James King

            In order for you not to have the neck strain, you have to hold the tablet up creating arm strain.

            This is a matter of physics and mathematics. Nothing you say can change the fundamental reality that supporting an iPad requires more physical energy than resting a laptop on your lap. Or that viewing a tablet on a flat service creates more neck compression than viewing a laptop on a similar surface. Or that propping up a laptop on your legs expends more energy than resting a laptop on your lap.

            What are you debating exactly? That math and physics don’t apply to the iPad? It truly IS a *magical* device then. Are you stating that ergonomics are wrong or do not apply in this instance? Well, I doubt I’ll be able to convince you otherwise. I can’t make you face facts, I can only present them.

          • Space Gorilla

            “In order for you not to have the neck strain, you have to hold the tablet up creating arm strain.” Not true, there are many ways to position the tablet that do not involve neck strain or arm strain. My wife crosses her legs, other times she uses a throw pillow, other times she uses her keyboard case, other times she puts one leg up and rests an arm against leg while holding the iPad, and so on and so forth.

            I’ll give you that hold an iPad takes more energy than having a laptop sitting on your lap, but you’re missing all the different ways you can support an iPad in a real world setting. Who but a lab researcher would sit in a chair and hold the iPad straight out in front of them while tapping on the screen with the other hand?

            You’re stuck on very specific positions which cause muscle strain, and I’m not debating that those specific positions will cause problems. But my family uses iPads fairly heavily, and we experience none of this muscle strain. How is that possible? If the iPad presents serious ergonomic problems which cause a range of muscle strain issues, then we must experience those strain issues, yes or no?

            For the record, I’ve never seen any of my kids lay their iPad flat on a table and hunch over it, *because that’s very uncomfortable*, so they *don’t do it*. Oy.

            You may also be missing how heavy use changes how you use a thing, when compared with casual use.

          • James King

            “My wife crosses her legs, other times she uses a throw pillow, other
            times she uses her keyboard case, other times she puts one leg up and
            rests an arm against leg while holding the iPad, and so on and so forth.” – Space Gorilla

            Let’s put this on the table so that we will have a baseline: it is absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to hold an iPad in one or two hands in a fashion that is ergonomically superior to resting a laptop on a lap or flat surface. Full stop.

            Now if we examine your examples… is it POSSIBLE to rest a tablet in such a fashion as to not expend significant energy? Yes, of course. But this is a semantical point. You can only MATCH the ergonomics of a laptop in this fashion but not exceed it. And anyone with a laptop has the added ergonomic advantage of a tactile keyboard. Once you add a keyboard to the equation, a tablet has nearly the exact ergonomics of a laptop.

            No matter how you cut it, you can’t escape physics. A tablet has superior ergonomics to a laptop when a person is either IN MOTION, STANDING or in a SPACE CONSTRAINED environment. Otherwise, a tablet MAY have ergonomics EQUAL to a laptop in ONE ASPECT but not another, so the laptop, in situations where a person is stationary and not actually standing up, is an inherently superior device ergonomically.

            You can make an acceptable argument that tablets are superior to laptop PCs but ergonomics isn’t really one of them. You trade efficiency for better mobility. Let me reiterate… that is a trade-off. The minute you stop and sit or lay down, a laptop becomes the superior ergonomic solution if you are comparing mobile devices. There is simply no way around that. At least not if you accept the correctness of physics and kinesiology.

          • Space Gorilla

            You just don’t get it. You say you owned a bunch of iPads, but you obviously didn’t use them much. If you did you’d realize how silly your baseline example is. You should come over to my house and watch us all sit on our couches using our iPads, in impossible ways, WITH ALL CAPS 🙂

            As jfutral touched on, if you’re more comfortable with a faster horse, then get a faster horse.

          • James King

            I notice you continue to set up straw men. As I stated, it is impossible to hold an iPad in one or two hands in such a fashion that it is ERGONOMICALLY (yes, ALL CAPS!) superior to resting a laptop on your lap. That’s a fact confirmed by physics.

            But why let reality get in the way. The iPad is indeed “magical,” right?

          • Space Gorilla

            There’s no need to discuss this further, we’re going around in circles. You insist X is impossible, and yet my entire family does X daily with no trouble whatsoever. I’m sure that in the way you imagine me holding my iPad it is indeed impossible for that to be ergonomically superior to the way you imagine me resting a laptop on my lap. But what you are unwilling to consider is that I’m not doing it in the way you imagine.

          • James King

            You either hold your tablet:

            in one hand;

            in two hands;

            you prop it on a body part;

            you prop it with a Smart Cover, stand, object or keyboard cover.

            If there are any other ways, please enlighten me.

            Of the four ways presented, the first three are ergonomically inferior based on physics and kinesiology and/or energy expenditure. The last option is, at most, equivalent ergonomically to a laptop, therefore, not superior.

            If there is a way to hold an iPad other than these four ways, by all means educate me.

            But I’d be happy to end this discussion. By all means, let’s move on.

          • Space Gorilla

            I think it’s obvious that there are far more than four ways to hold an iPad. You’re also unwilling to consider that the ergonomic impact isn’t significant enough to matter. Is a trade-off really a trade-off when the technical limitation isn’t noticeable? I’d say no.

          • James King

            What other ways are there? This should be simple enough, it doesn’t even require hard proof. Please provide.

            Whether the ergonomic impact is significant is a matter of personal preference. Te fact that there IS an ergonomic impact is beyond dispute. Yet, here you are disputing it.

            I presented a point as fact. It is a fact. If you want to challenge the fact WITH facts, by all means go ahead. Otherwise, your points are moot.

          • Space Gorilla

            “What other ways are there? This should be simple enough, it doesn’t even require hard proof. Please provide.”

            Rounding back to my original point waaaaaay back, you obviously don’t use an iPad much at all, otherwise you wouldn’t need to ask this question. But… straw man! Maybe now is the time to let you know that Philosophy was one of my major areas of study in university. It’s cute when people talk about logical fallacies.

            It’s obvious that the significance of any ergonomic impact is not personal preference. It is measurable. But whatever, I am also out. You. Are. The. Winner!

          • James King

            I’m glad I never invested in a philosophy major.

            I’m glad you conceded, even if it was disingenuous. This was tedious and you were wrong by default.

          • Space Gorilla

            Obviously.

          • Defendor

            Science isn’t disagreeing with me.

            Your personal opinion that you are dressing up as science, is what is disagreeing with me.

            You read a tablet like you read a book and that is a heck of a lot more comfortable than reading on a laptop.

            You really just don’t get it.

          • James King

            Guys like you view these forums as a contest. If you want to “win,” at least provide a compelling counter-position instead of creating straw men.

            In the end, we’re all entitled to our opinions. You want to consider my facts to be “opinions” because you can’t challenge facts. I get it.

            You are welcome to research anything I’ve conveyed. If you find any inconsistencies, feel free to post them. I can admit if I’m wrong, the same can’t be stated for you.

          • Defendor

            “Guys like you view these forums as a contest”

            You need to hold a mirror up to yourself on that comment. You have posted ~20 times on this topic, taking on all comers, to “prove” you are “right”.

            When in reality all that you have revealed is that you just don’t get it.

            You are laboring under the ludicrous notion that tablets are succeeding despite having a horrible form factor. The reality is they are succeeding because the form factor is superior for casual usage.

            The tablet form factor isn’t better because any one locked in position is better than using a laptop on a desktop position.

            The tablet form factor is superior because of the ease and freedom to adapt to a multitude of relaxing postures. You read a tablet just like you do a book, you do it in an easy chair, you do it lying down on the couch, you do it at a breakfast table.

            The ultimate strain prevention is what we all do when reading novels, we instinctively move to more comfortable positions and the book/tablet moves with us. By comparison, the laptop is limiting confining in letting you adopt comfortable positions.

            Tell me how many novels have your read on PC Desktop, Laptop, tablet/ereader? For me the answer is:

            Desktop: 0
            Laptop: 0
            Tablet/ereader: >20

            This has nothing to do with UI, and everything to do with form factor that is far superior for reading.

          • Space Gorilla

            “The ultimate strain prevention is what we all do when reading novels, we instinctively move to more comfortable positions and the book/tablet moves with us.”

            Well said. I was making this same point but didn’t say it as well.

          • James King

            Yeah, check my response.

          • Space Gorilla

            Why?

          • James King

            “You are laboring under the ludicrous notion that tablets are succeeding
            despite having a horrible form factor. The reality is they are
            succeeding because the form factor is superior for casual usage.” – Defendor

            Straw man. And the form factor is superior for MOBILE usage as ergonomics substantiate.

            I’m “taking on all comers” because there should be NO COMERS. This is a matter of physics. You can like tablets more but you can’t make the credible claim that they are more ergonomic for casual use. That was the point of my post. It is erroneous to believe that tablets have superior ergonomics for casual use. For most laptop use cases, you don’t support ANY of the weight of the device, PERIOD. Why is this such a difficult concept to grasp?

            “The tablet form factor is superior because of the ease and freedom to adapt to a multitude of relaxing postures. You read a tablet just like you do a book, you do it in an easy chair, you do it lying down on the couch, you do it at a breakfast table.” – Defendor

            You can do all of these things with a laptop without having to actually TOUCH it. How is holding a device vs. resting a device ON A SURFACE more ergonomic? This is basic physics.

            “The ultimate strain prevention is what we all do when reading novels, we instinctively move to more comfortable positions and the book/tablet moves with us. By comparison, the laptop is limiting confining in letting you adopt comfortable positions.” – Defendor

            Why do you think you “shift” constantly when you read a book? You are proving my point. As for a laptop being “limiting,” I don’t even have to touch it. By default, there is less need to shift.

            “This has nothing to do with UI, and everything to do with form factor that is far superior for reading.” – Defendor

            Dude, if I told you the sky was blue, you’d argue about it. Sorry but facts are facts. The problem nowadays seems to be that people don’t understand the difference between opinions and beliefs. You can BELIEVE that the tablet is more ergonomic than a laptop til your heart’s content. But it won’t change the FACTS that, for most situations, it isn’t. You haven’t challenged me on the physics points or the kinesiology ones.

            I end up getting into these drawn out exchanges because people challenge facts with beliefs. It’s a preposterous exercise in ego. When someone states something accurate, I agree. When the don’t I challenge with facts or qualitative information that may provide greater context. But I don’t bite my lip and hold my breath because I have a problem with what I’m reading.

            If you want to challenge the PHYSICS or KINESIOLOGY of what I am stating, by all means do so. Otherwise, you are challenges facts with an opinion.

            EDIT: BTW I don’t read books on a laptop because of the screen brightness and UX. I would if those issues were resolved.

          • Defendor

            So you don’t get,and your mind is so closed and rigid that you will never get it.

            I am out. Go congratulate yourself on “winning”.

          • James King

            I will. When people make me argue points that are clearly supported by basic physics and a little common sense, I savor the “W.” It’s a victory of rationality over ego.

      • kongqueror

        Do you know you can dock a Surface Pro for HD multi-display + full keyboard/mouse setup for the serious work on a proper desk and chair? Why force yourself to do coding/spreadsheets/CAD/photo/video editing on such a small screen? This is why Windows 8/8.1 really works for me because after my serious work, I can just undock my Windows 8 tablet and lounge on my sofa and browse and do my social media stuff.

    • DarwinPhish

      The problem is that the term ‘PC’ has many meanings: sometimes is means a traditional desktop or laptop computer, sometimes specifically a Windows based computer and sometimes just a personal computing device. I think Ben is using the last of these definitions and his point is that more and more consumers are looking at tablets, PCs and desktops as one group. I don’t entirely agree with this, but then, I haven’t seen the “overwhelming data”.

    • benbajarin

      I appreciate the comment and of course I have this discussion often. I do not discount the role of the PC or the notebook or desktop form factor. My point, and the one that our research validates, is that for a majority of mass market consumers, the notebook or desktop over-serve their everyday needs.

      My fundamental observation from our ethnographic research on tablets vs. PCs is that consumers are self aware of this now in most cases and understand that the tablet is “just right” to use their words.

      When we ask consumers if they believe tablets are computers they say yes. They think about this form factor and the desire to purchase it very similarly to how they think about buying PCs. They choose based on what they feel will work for them. ANd for a growing majority that is a tablet not a notebook.

      This does not mean they don’t still want access to a workstation class device, just that they don’t need that device to be their primary compute device. That can be filled by a tablet. That realization backs up the trends in the market and the market forces driving the change.

      • James King

        I decided to address your point re: tablets being PCs because I think it’s easy to misunderstand. I agree that tablets are the main growth area of personal computing however, I think the correlation of the decline of PCs to tablet growth is tricky.

        If you read my exchange with Space Gorilla, you’ll see to what I am referring. Mr. Gorilla has an entire family that uses iPads pretty much as laptops. This suggests not just a preference for iOS but also a fundamental dissatisfaction with the PC UX. Since there are hybrids that are ergonomically more advantageous than an iPad/keyboard combo, what is it about the Apple product that he and his family prefer?

        Based on the exchange, I’m positing that Space Gorilla and his family have chosen the UX of the iPad, not the form factor. This is an ADDRESSABLE area for Microsoft and PC OEMs; how much of the decline in PCs is related to the paradigm shift to tablets vs. a fixable problem in UX?

        I still think the PC can reverse its negative growth trend, though I don’t think it will ever again be the primary growth driver in the tech industry. I’d like to continue to see innovation in the PC space, in fact, moreso. I’d prefer that the category not be consigned to the “ghetto” of technology because tablets are the new, hot item. Innovation in the space is already hard to come by, it’ll be even harder swimming upstream against a questionable narrative.

        This thread also illuminates a point I’ve made before about the inability to provide a truly premium device experience using a commodity OS. The PC space needs a new, very high quality general purpose OS if OEMs hope to reverse the decline. It’s that or cede the PC space entirely to Microsoft and let it provide all PC hardware and software.

        • Space Gorilla

          You’re still missing the point that the advantage of the iPad is both iOS and the form factor of the device, the flexibility of the form, that it can be held in so many different ways and positions, very comfortably and that it can be coupled and uncoupled so easily with a hardware keyboard case. But ergonomics! Whatever, in practical use it’s obvious that whatever ergonomic downside might exist, it’s not large enough for us to notice, and none of us has any muscle strain issues related to the iPad, after years of fairly heavy use. Using the iPad in a variety of different situations and positions *is comfortable*. That’s the end of it. You know where I do experience strain? Using my iMac with a mouse too much. Or using my MacBook with the trackpad too much. But the iPad? Not at all.

          • James King

            Great general article on the topic. Several ergonomists are credited and have further research:

            http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9241435/Surprise_Mobile_devices_don_t_help_office_ergonomics_?taxonomyId=227&pageNumber=1

          • Space Gorilla

            Hmm, that article basically says laptops are non-ergonomic by nature and refers to a single position re: the iPad which causes iPad Neck. So I should have iPad Neck I guess, it’s science after all. But I don’t. How strange.

          • James King

            That was a jumping off point. You’ve already discounted the Havard paper based on a dubious bias. If you won’t accept any evidence presented then you are engaging in a “burden of proof” logical fallacy.

          • Space Gorilla

            Not exactly, but you’re getting there. Close enough. As I already said, the iPad is a better personal computer for most normal people. This is going to become incredibly obvious over the next five years.

          • James King

            You can do everything on a hybrid PC that you can with an iPad and then some. It is a superior ergonomic solution. The reason why that is unappealing is because of the UX of the PC, not the form factor. The iPad brings absolutely nothing from a form factor standpoint that isn’t matched by a laptop under most circumstances or hybrid under all circumstances. We are back to my original point.

          • Space Gorilla

            Some people see it and some people don’t. You’ll see it soon enough, it will be impossible not to in five years, maybe less.

          • jfutral

            Really. All I want is a faster horse. They are far more usable and ergonomic than this new-fangled “auto-mobile” thing. I mean, who can really sit there and ride with their arms extended all the time?

            Joe

          • Space Gorilla

            Yes! PC nerds should just get a faster horse. I’ll drive my iPad around town.

          • James King

            See what? I never challenged your point. My point is that the superiority of the iPad is not in its form factor but in its user experience. You’ve done nothing but support that premise. A tablet possesses a subset of the PC’s functionality. I never disputed that most people would not think that was “good enough.” Feel free to check. So also feel free to keep knocking down your straw man.

  • jfutral

    “the ultimate philosophical and post-modern question: what is a tablet?”

    Actually, the post-modern existential question would be, as illustrated by your article, “Is there a tablet?”
    😉

    Joe

  • Mauryan

    Even a smart phone is a computer. But it is not PC. It has taken away many functionalities that one used to rely on the PCs – calendars, social media etc. Tablets have chipped away certain more functionalities from the PCs – browsing, watching videos (now that streaming has become the norm). PCs now have certain functionalities that cannot be taken away from them – Advanced graphics, editing, design, data analysis, coding etc can only be done on the PCs. A tablet or a smartphone are not meant for such input intense operations. So PCs will go into a niche and the newer devices will carve their own niche. The consumers know these differences. Tablets and smartphones are devices that have to have a high degree of simplicity and user experience. There is no room for error. The whole computer market is branching off like the automobile market. There you have cars, trucks, cranes and pick ups. Even amongst cars there are many varieties – sedan, luxury car, SUV, hatchback, mini, compact and so on, each one meeting a specific need. Cars are automobiles are for sure. But cars are no pick up trucks. Tablets are like cars. PCs are like huge trucks and laptops are like pick up trucks. Smart phones are like motorbikes. They all are automobiles in a way, but they serve vastly different functionalities. It is going to be this way from here on. There is no need to create a car that looks like a truck with a crane hook attached in the rear. No one will buy it other than a few mechanics.

  • obarthelemy

    “A true tablet platform should be about possibilities not limitations.” This. But then you seem to be equating the fact that Android are used less for browsing, with Androids not having the possibility to browse ? I don’t understand the logic leap from not doing it to not being able to do it ?

    Especially since Android can actually browser better than iOS, with a choice of browser, rendering engines, Flash support in many cases…

    • steve_wildstrom

      Are we really still talking about Flash? Adobe itself has given up on making Flash work on mobile devices and has ceased development. Of all the controversial choices Apple made in designing iOS, leaving out Flash is the one that has been most completely vindicated.

      • obarthelemy

        Quite a few sites still use (especially the very casual games/edu stuff my parents and my nephews like) it. It’s less of an issue than 2-3 years ago, but I still get complaints about such-and-such site “not working”.

        • steve_wildstrom

          The fact is that Flash works very badly on phones and tablets even when it is supported. Adobe never succeeded in either reducing the resource demands of the code enough or in making a UI designed for a mouse would properly with touch.

          Yes, there are still Web sites that demand flash, but they are denying themselves what is rapidly becoming the largest part of the audience by not updating.

  • Amit

    Few questions
    1. How exactly people come up with browser share for Android tablets ? The user agent string for 99% of the tablets (including Samsung ) is exactly same so from point of view of statistics collection you can not make much distinction between Android phones and tablets.
    In fact on Samsung devices browser is not stock android browser but still they choose to retain same user agent string.

    2. There is a device category of hugely successful devices such as Note, Grand and Mega ( 6.8 inch screen) which do exactly what a tablet does and much more how do you categorize them.

    3. In my opinion majority of Android devices including cheap Chinese made tablets ( ofcourse Apple is also made in China designed in California) are internet devices. Unlike US and Europe there is no carrier subsidy and no way to find statistics for there device.

    4. Can you have another graph where you leave aside US market and check what happens in rest of the world ?

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