In the last decade, a new sub-category of gadget has emerged that created a niche of its own – Tablets. In past twelve months, several technology companies have introduced different tablets, all at various price points to please the technology savvy consumers. Fresh breed of tablets managed to create a fresh need but most of the time ends up confusing the user. Most of the users are usually confused whether to go for a tablet or laptop.
“There are three elements affecting tablet adoption in India. Ease of use is a plus. Using a tablet is less intimidating than using a PC in many cases. The touch interface and simple icons make tablets more accessible,” explained Praveen Vishakantaiah, president, Intel India.
Each tablet maker aims to offer a compelling, intuitive and unique user experience involving operating system to compliment the hardware, most of the times. The tablet OS developers and hardware makers aim to provide a user friendly and engaging user interface that differentiates the tablet from a full-fledged tablet and a high end smartphone.
Apple iOS based iPad, multiple Google Android Honeycomb as well as Gingerbread based tablets and RIM’s QNX-BlackBerry OS based Playbook have been released in India. Top laptop makers and smartphone makers have either already introduced or have a tablet in pipeline for launch.
However, the advent of tablets has not affected the laptops or netbooks business so severely in India, Alex Huang, country head — systems business group, ASUS India pointed out. He said, “Tablets have totally different human interaction with touch panels and getting used to the touch interface takes bit of time. There is an overlapping portion of audience exists that jumps between tablet and netbooks. But this percentage is not huge.”
Further explaining, Huang said, “Laptops or netbooks are the devices that offer ease and ample functionality to create the content as well as consume it. One can create, edit, organise and consume content on the laptops and netbooks as per one’s ease and comfort.”
Portable nature of laptops and netbooks allow opening big documents, editing an image with several options, actual multi-task involving computing, communicate using several tools and store significantly large amount of data.
“The market for notebooks and tablets are completely different. Tablets are meant for basic consumption like surfing, social networking and checking mails whereas notebooks are meant for more enhanced computing,” opines Sachin Thapar, head, IT and mobile division, Sony India.
Frank Shaw, corporate vice president, corporate communications, Microsoft believes that the tablets and eReaders are the complimentary devices which are highly optimised to do a great job on a subset of things that can be easily done by a PC. The modern day laptops are getting better — faster, slimmer and robust at computing tasks uniquely well.
Lines appear to blur when dual-core processor powered tablets come with keyboard dock to sit alongside the netbooks running dual-core processors. But certain key differentiators will always keep both product categories separate and better in their own ways. When it comes to weight, tablets certainly win hands down over netbooks.
“If I just want to consume information the tablet does everything I need it to do. The role of content consumption works in favor of tablets. As we’ve seen with phones in India, that is often good enough,” states Vishakantaiah on Intel India.
Indeed, tablets are meant specifically for multimedia consumption that happens mostly through Internet browsing, reading digital books, listening to music/audio, watching movies as well as video online, and of course, playing casual games for fun. In short, tablets are meant mostly for content enjoyment. To be noted that every other feature like support for document or image editing to be quickly passed on to others is certainly a plus but does not become the core function.
Sharing similar views, Shaw explains that these new “non-PC” objects (which we call tablets) do a great job at enabling people to communicate and consume in innovative and interesting ways. That’s not surprising, because they were expressly designed for that purpose. However, the most ardent admirers will agree that these devices are not as good as a PC when it comes to creation and collaboration.
India is a price sensitive market. Majority of the feature rich and premium tablets available in India today cost as much as a good configuration loaded tablet. Also the hybrid laptops that offer touchscreen interface support on it continue to be priced heavy on pockets.
Vishakantaiah acknowledges stating, “The element of cost is a key factor. If the cost doesn’t come down, the tablets would remain more of a luxury item. If tablets remain in the Rs 25,000 to Rs 38,000 price range, it will limit adoption.”
“At present, the netbooks and laptops have the cost advantage since they are more matured products with full set of functions meant for normal computing. For India, the netbooks laptops continue to be consumer friendly when it comes to affordability against the performance promised.”
Tablets and laptops will continue to exist as separate products with a thin but clear line differentiating each of them. For a consumer, the decision rests on deciding the purpose which will help in making up their mind to purchase laptop or a tablet. We expect to see hybrid tablets and laptops to emerge as convergence devices but the cost of the same would really high, at least in the initial two to three years. Rise of tablets as emerging category is certainly pacing upwards but it will not step on laptop’s shoulder to push it down anytime soon.