Take another look though, ignore some of the news articles riding on the back of the headline PR and you’ll see something interesting. Firstly there’s no obvious consideration of PC evolution into the tablet market. Secondly, there’s a huge opportunity opening up in the 8-13 inch segment. As tablet users start to prefer those smaller, cheaper tablet devices, more value and capability is needed in the larger screen segment.
One could argue that the 8-10 inch tablet segment was always wrong. Given the battery, CPU, heat requirements and a rather skewed market tendency towards large because Apple said so, it’s no wonder that big was perceived to be better but now that you can pick up a fast 7-inch Android tablet for $200 all the others seem expensive, bulky and, to be honest, stupid in comparison.
There’s a space in the market developing here for PCs to drop into very smoothly. It’s a space that demands a higher price and more value. It’s a space that many thought would be served by productive apps on tablets with Bluetooth keyboards but for the average user that just hasn’t happened. The hybrid, transformer, dockable-style PC is perfect for this segment.
Price issues, battery life issues, sizing issues and operating system issues have been all-but solved. In the next generation of Connected-Standby-capable BayTrail or Haswell tablets you’ll be looking at a dynamic range that surpasses everything in the market. A removable tablet that offers a touch user interface and a long battery life that can dock and offer desktop-level performance is exactly the type of device that fits into the 8-13 inch segment. There’s little space for a device that costs twice as much as a 7 inch tablet but doesn’t offer anything new. The 9-10 inch Android and IOS tablets are vulnerable.
Take the technology one step further and you’ll see and even bigger opportunity.
Ever used a 13 inch tablet that weighs under 1lb? Try it. Grab an average sized magazine. In that space you can fit a 13 inch screen. Add the motherboard, battery and connectors and you get 1.2lbs. Remove the motherboard and add a low-latency wireless display module a-la WiGig and you get a super-light screen. The motherboard, storage, battery, Wi-Fi, heat and bulk are all retained in a base-unit. This design is the natural successor to the ‘CPU-behind-screen’ designs we have today and PCs are the perfect platform for this. Why? They exclusively offer the dynamic range of processing and operating system that would be attractive to a user and with 7 inch tablets costing very little, there’s scope for that screen and base-unit to come within a users 2-year budget.
Android and IOS fit a huge market of consumers. They allow those users to do 80-90% of what they need on a PC but it still leaves 10-20% of tasks that can’t be done efficiently. Attempts to solve that problem have largely failed because users want cheap and small and the economics don’t align for manufacturers or developers. It leaves that space for an advanced HDR computing device.
The next gen large-screen tablet could be based on Android or IOS as it evolves but it is more likely to be based on a PC mainboard and Windows 8 because that’s the platform that’s ready for a new set of user requirements.
IDC predicts that 43% of tablets will be in this large-tablet range in 2017, down from 73% in 2011 but with the rising market, that means, according to IDC, that there’s a potential 172 million tablet PC opportunity there in 2017. If Microsoft and Intel work towards that goal with the manufacturers there’s potential for the Portable PC market to grow considerably. Price is critical in order to grab the opportunity quickly, a stylish showcase product is needed too but my prediction is that we’ll see some pretty exciting developments during Computex next week that will give weight to the scenario I’ve outlined here.