You Can Never Have Enough Tablets

on February 23, 2012

One of the things my firm focuses on is spotting trends within the technology industry. As a part of our constant search for trends we employ a concept we call “live the future now.” What this means, is that we as trend analysts, ourselves being early adopters, attempt to look for and implement things into our own work, play, family, life, etc, that we believe consumers may use technology for in the future. We also hunt out and study other people or groups of people, mostly early adopters, who are also using technology today the way we believe the masses will in the future.

So this column is going to be more about the future than the present.
Because I live and breathe this industry I also acquire quite a lot of technological gadgets as a part of this process. For the past six month’s I have been utilizing in different capacities no less than five and upwards of eight tablets at any given time all throughout my house. Not all my tablets are running the same core OS as some are iPads, some run Android and one runs Web OS. This helps me evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a range of tablet operating systems and device features. Regardless of the OS I basically keep a tablet in every room of my house, except the bathroom, at all times. In basically every room where we spend significant time you will find a tablet of some shape or form. Living with a tablet in every room of my house is a fascinating experience. It is also a very convenient experience.

In the future I believe having access to these “smart connected screens” in every room will be a staple of most consumers’ homes in the developed world. What this enables is a situation where consumers don’t need to carry their tablets with them from room to room. They simply move to each room and as necessary, at their convenience, pick up the closest tablet and begin using it.

In my own experience doing this, I found that quite often I simply wanted to look something up on the Internet. What I looked for was the most convenient screen to access the Internet with. My notebook is rarely near me on the couch or bed and my smart phone suffices but the screen is a little to small for the job most times. This is where tablets come in. They are more mobile than notebooks and sport bigger screens than smart phones. And when you have one in every room you don’t have to think about bringing your tablet with you or where you left it last. Having a tablet in every room ready to be picked up and utilized was not only extremely convenient it was also extremely useful.

Now in this reality we must recognize that we may potentially shift from tablets being mainly personal computing devices to perhaps more communal computing devices–at least in the home environment.

Shift from Personal to Communal Screens
With the role of the personal cloud, I can see a situation where you just pick up the most convenient tablet/screen to your proximity, in whatever room you happen to be, log in to your personal cloud, and instantly the tablet becomes “your tablet.” It would contain all your personal settings, preferences, access to media, etc.

In this environment what is personal is your cloud not the device itself. This is a different take on the concept of personal computing. This of course does not mean that we consumers will not own personal computing devices, like smart phones for example, but that there will also be screens we use in our daily lives that are not personal but more communal. The personal cloud we subscribe to is what turns any screen into our personal computing platform for the amount of time we choose to use that screen as such.

Google’s Chrome OS is very similar in concept to what I am outlaying. Any person who has a Google account and has invested in the Chrome OS, via a ChromeBook, could log into my or any ChromeBook and begin using the device as if it was their own. When this concept makes its way to tablets I believe it will enforce this idea of a screen agnostic tablet, in every room, future that I am outlining.

Now of course for this to happen the cost of tablets will have to come down. That is why I pointed out at the start of this column that I am talking more about the future than the present. However, what if someday we can sell a $99 or less tablet that runs a very light OS, with access to cloud services, and wi-fi? Another way this reality could happen is with a hardware-as-a-service model where as a part of a subscription, perhaps to your cable provider, the devices are provided for free.

The bottom line is that over the next five years the BOM cost of tablets will come down. If these devices rely more on the cloud than native software, some of the costs will move from the device to the service. Making the hardware more affordable as it relies more on a service to become “personal.”

It is with these types of “smart connected screens” that I believe we will see the explosion of devices into consumers homes. Prior to tablets we may have assumed that the dominant computing screen in consumers lives was going to be a notebook PC. In essence we would have said that there would be a notebook in every room, owned by every consumer. I think we are rapidly learning that, that future is going to be given to tablets.