Tablets investigate

Do Android tablet makers need to try harder in a post-PC world?

Why the trend for people swapping their PCs for tablets might not do much to help Android tablet makers if they don't up their game.

Android tablet manufacturers need a change of strategy if they are going to capitalise on the trend of people swapping their PCs for tablets.

Increasing numbers of consumers are buying tablets instead of PCs, with Apple iPads and Android slates accounting for about one fifth of PC sales during the fourth quarter of 2011 according to figures compiled by Enders Analysis.

But the dawn of the post-PC world isn’t going to make life easier for Android makers struggling to catch up with the iPad, according to Benedict Evans, mobile platform specialist with Enders Analysis. He argues that both high end and low end Android slates could struggle to provide attractive alternatives to the PC - or the iPad.

For high end Android tablets the shadow of Apple's iPad will loom large, according to Evans. ”The $500 Android tablet has a problem...you are the same price [as the iPad] and you don’t have the content proposition and you don’t have the good user interface, so you don’t sell,” he told TechRepublic UK at the recent Intellect Annual Regent Conference in London.

As for the budget range of Android tablets, Evans said that in general they lack the features or performance that consumers expect of a PC-replacement device.

Not only will their limited capabilities deter buyers, but the low price of budget tablets will be less of a draw if consumers are looking for a computing device to replace their PC, rather than a secondary device to complement their PC.

”If you are choosing between a $500 PC and a $500 tablet then the fact that you can get something else for $100 becomes less appealing,” he said.

Evans predicts that budget Android tablets could sell “a few tens of millions” in emerging markets this year but that “the more attractive market this year will be to replace the PC with a great premium experience”, and that Android tablets may struggle gain a foothold, while Apple’s likely release of an iPad 3 in March will increase the pressure again.

So here’s a couple of suggestions from me as to what needs to happen if the next generation of Android tablets really want to compete.

1. Google should use its acquisition of Motorola Mobility to build a high end Android tablet optimised to deliver the best possible experience to the user. Tying the Android OS and tablet hardware together, as well as providing a clear spec for apps and the OS to be developed against, could produce a tablet that is every bit as intuitive to use as the iPad.

Utilising its new in-house hardware manufacturing capabilities would also allow Google to get premium and competitive Android tablets, with the latest version of the OS, out in double quick time.

2. There are thousands of businesses that could use tablets that don’t need the capabilities of a fully-fledged iPad.

For instance a restaurant chain that wants to provide an interactive menu to its customers or a hotel looking for a new way for guests to interact with the concierge.

In both examples the tablet only needs to carry out a limited number of tasks – a use-case that is well-suited to a low-cost, stripped back tablet device, something Android can deliver easily.

About

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

11 comments
adornoe
adornoe

And thus, we definitely must be in a "post PC" world, and anybody that thinks differently is clueless. So, let's see... None of the people that I know, either friends and family and people at work, have forsaken their PCs, and even if they have gotten any kind of tablet, their PCs are still getting heavy usage. But, none of that matters, because, according to the Gods at ZDNet, PCs are so, last century. Tablets and smartphone are where it's all at. Don't let anyone tell you differently, because, those super savvy people at ZDNet know better than the rest of the world.

AudeKhatru
AudeKhatru

How about you actually answer the question when we reach it. Everywhere but this article, what I read is that people still aren't replacing PCs with tablets. A few are buying tablets instead of upgrading their PCs, but they still have an use the PC. First, we haven't entered the post-PC world, and second, I don't think it is going to be what everyone seems to expect. It will involve the cloud, but I don't think that most of us are going to be willing to access the cloud exclusively on a 9.7-10.1 inch screen. We will keep our PCs for the large monitors. When someone can combine the tablet, with its simplicity and portability with a large screen that we use at home, then we might see the post-PC world.

ManoaHI
ManoaHI

I take "Post PC" to mean "after" you know like PS (post script). Like Post PC doesn't mean that the PC is dead, just as a PS doesn't invalidate the letter, note, blog that it is attached to at the end "after" the main text. So, after you buy the PC, time to buy a tablet. Also, Steve Jobs sort of used it in a different way, he doesn't want to invalidate the Mac. In the announcement of iOS 5 was that you don't need a PC to get the iOS devices working (except those who upgraded from iOS 4, you need the PC to get iOS 5 unless you want to wipe and start fresh). This is the slot that tablets will proliferate, but not replace PCs, except those whose primary use is e-mail and a little bit of Web surfing. For the occasional letter or spreadsheet, the iWork is good enough. On the Android side, there are a few "office mini" apps around. Caveat, I have a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and iPad 2. I use the iPad 2 more often and like it a bit more (but that is personal preference). The main thing is that we use Notes for our e-mail and other things, and in addition to mail, the Notes calendar works better with iOS/OS X iCal, so both work and personal events are in one place. Not so in Android, I can't get my work and personal events in one calendar app. There is one thing that irritates me about the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (I state 10.1 because I don't know if it is true for the smaller Galaxy Tabs), if you don't use Samsung's adapter or use a high current adapter (most PCs can't do it either on their USB ports) you can't use and charge at the same time. When I first got it, I plugged it into my PC's USB port and it discharged at the same rate as if it were not connected. The same port can charge my iPad and iPhone while being used (obviously not at the same time).

Gisabun
Gisabun

First what defines a PC? A desktop. Yes. A lapto. Yes. A tablet? Debatable. As others have said, a tablet can't do everything a desktop or laptop can do. TRy programming on a tablet, complicateed [or not] Excel spreadsheet, burn a DVD or Blu-ray, watch a DVD or Blu-ray, play PC games, demonstrate something to more than 5 people and they all can see, architectural drawings, 3D movies, video editing, ....

grayknight
grayknight

Really, Post-PC doesn't exist. What we have are mobile-PCs starting to appear everywhere. Right now, they aren't as powerful as a desktop or even a laptop, but they are cheap enough and more portable. Most people buying tablets are doing so in addition to their current desktop/laptop or current lack of a PC. There was no replacement of their PC, it is still there. No one I know has thrown out their PC and replaced it with a tablet. Tablets are like books, watches, calculators, PDAs, etc. right now, but they will become full PCs and are more likely to replace Laptops. Laptops did not replace desktops, they are just a bigger market than desktops. Phones are a bigger market than tablets will be. And all of these are PCs that are faster, hold more data, and are more connected than my first PC, a 286 Commodore. How this shakes out will be interesting, but we'll still have desktops, laptops, phones, calculators, watches, and books with these new tablets, touch screens, slates, kinect, touch walls, etc.

1ndy
1ndy

Palmetto_CharlieSpencer is spot on with his post. You shouldn't compare a PC with a tablet. Where I work, engineers use 3D modeling software and prediction software that would never work on a tablet. What I see is engineers working with both devices. They use the tablets for keeping organized, meetings, and presentations. There is room for both devices in someone's arsenal of tools. There is another segment in our society that would use a tablet as a replacement of a PC. These people really don't need/want a PC, they just want to browse the internet, go to one of those social sites, maybe for note-taking at school, and I hear teachers love them for presentations. Tablets will be become more popular and more useful, but they won't be replacing PCs for a long time.

dogknees
dogknees

There are a lot of people that prefer the openness of the PC platform and while they might use a mobile device, do not want to lose that openness.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

The assumption that tablets can act as replacements for PCs. They're two different devices that serve two different purposes. Yes, there are many people who have PCs but whose computing requirements can be met by a tablet. Those people didn't need a computer in the first place, but that was all that was available until now. But a tablet can't replace a computer for those people who actually need the capabilities of a full system. Statements like "...they lack the features or performance that consumers expect of a PC-replacement device" imply these devices should have these features, and that consumers should expect them to be able to replace PCs. The media and 'experts' should stop comparing apples and oranges.

bboyd
bboyd

European Technology because the writer is from Europe? Editors please sort this better. If i read a topic in this blog section it should be focused on European Technology emphasis not just a writer from the UK talking about mobile devices replacing PC's.

xamountofwords
xamountofwords

Except that tablets are capable of it. The technology just isn't there yet, but traditional computers didn't start out nearly as powerful as they are either. It took time to get the kind of computing power in desktops and laptops we have now--ten years ago, 1 terabyte of storage was out of the question. Storage is ONE of the bigger problems. Why? Because the minimal storage of most tablets means extremely light apps to accommodate, and applications are the primary driving force of various types of "work" on a computer. Therefore, normal amounts of internal storage (160GB minimum, 320GB standard, 500GB, etcetera) would allow for richer (larger) apps, and therefore more "work" could be done. Really, the processors are already there, dual-cores are enough for most types of work and there are even quad-core tablets. And while the majority of tablets are 10.1" or less, there are larger ones. But the manufacturers found that 10.1" or less was most popular, so we haven't really seen any new larger (12", 15", etcetera) models. However, given time, we might. So it's really a question of time. In time, tablets will be fully capable of replacing PCs, and that is where the misconception lies.

adornoe
adornoe

In fact, tablets of today are more like the PCs of the past, with lower specs, and tiny screens, and flat non-ergonomic keyboards (sort of like the Atari keyboards of 3 decades ago), and smaller main memory, and smaller storage, and smaller apps, and being used like the toy computers of the past. But, they do possess many times more power than the PCs of a decade ago, but, they're still very far behind the laptops and desktops of today. To catch up, they'll need larger screens, real keyboards, more main memory, more storage, more powerful processors, and more capable applications. But when that happens, we'll be right back, looking at a laptop or a desktop.