By Harry McCracken | Wednesday, March 30, 2011 at 9:21 am
I’m not sure whether tablets are going to become the dominant form of computing device over the next few years, or just a very successful one that peacefully coexists alongside phones, traditional PCs, TV, and other gizmos. But I can’t see a scenario in which the iPad and its rivals (once good ones arrive in force) are simply irrelevant.
Others, however, aren’t so sure that these newfangled gadgets are here for the long haul. In “Why Tablets Are Just a Fad” (a story that’s been widely, um, commented on), PCWorld’s Katherine Noyes says she doesn’t like ‘em–especially the iPad–and believes that everyone else will come around to her way of thinking:
It’s no secret that I am not an Apple fan, as its devices are so closed and restrictive. For that reason, I’d be far more inclined to look at Android tablets such as the Motorola Xoom–which, I should add, could certainly be useful in niche applications such as health care and inventory control.
For my purposes, though, I just can’t be bothered. I see no reason to own a tablet, and fully expect them to fade out of the mainstream over the next few years.
Meanwhile, Microsoft research and strategy head Craig Mundie has what seems to be a more nuanced–but still skeptical–take on tablets:
Speaking at a lunch held in Sydney by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA), Mundie, who reports directly to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, said he did not know whether tablets like the iPad would “remain with us or not”.
Mundie said he believed the smartphone “as it emerges more will become your most personal computer”, while laptops would occupy a space he dubbed the “portable desk”.
“I think there’s an important distinction – and frankly one we didn’t jump on at Microsoft fast enough – between mobile and portable,” he said.
“Mobile is something that you want to use while you’re moving, and portable is something that you move and then use.
“These are going to bump into one another a little bit and so today you can see tablets and pads and other things that are starting to live in the space in between. Personally I don’t know whether that space will be a persistent one or not.”
As quoted, Mundie’s remarks are a tad murky: I’m not sure whether he’s drawing a distinction between tablets and pads; whether the reference to “in between” means in between tablets and pads or in between phones and PCs; or exactly which types of products fall into the space whose persistence he’s unsure about. To me, the most interesting thing about his sound bites is that he says that the smartphone “will become your most personal computer”–we’re entering new territory when a Microsoft bigwig suggests that something other than a traditional PC is the most important PC.
Then there’s Dell marketing honcho Andy Lark, who has a different perspective: He likes tablets but thinks that business users will reject the iPad as too pricey and limited:
“We’ve taken a very considered approach to tablets, given that the vast majority of our business isn’t in the consumer space,” he said. “[A company] like Samsung has to aggressively go after their business, but we’ve got a far more diversified footprint than some of these players.”
The cost of Apple products was another deterrent to iPad deployments, with Lark claiming that a the economics on a fully kitted iPad did not add up.
“An iPad with a keyboard, a mouse and a case [means] you’ll be at $1500 or $1600; that’s double of what you’re paying,” he claimed. “That’s not feasible.”
I’m not a big fan of the acronym FUD, but in this case, it’s exactly what Lark is spreading. Even if a company bought a 64GB iPad with 3G, a leather case, and a keyboard, it would add up to $967, not $1500 or $1600. And as for an iPad mouse…well, I’m not sure what Lark is talking about. It’s kind of like he’s only read stories about Apple’s tablet published before the iPad existed.
Oh, and Dell’s approach to tablets for the enterprise is so “considered” that when you go to Dell.com, click on “For Large Enterprise,” and then select “Laptops & Tablets,” you go to a page with laptops. But no tablets.
So what’s your take?