Tablet Prices Continue to Dive as ‘Phablets’ Emerge

Stephen Yagielowicz

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that tablets are taking over. Sure, it may take a few more years for the fait accompli, but the handwriting is on the wall, driven by three huge factors that you may not have considered: the world is moving to a lighter, smaller and greener consumer marketplace where sustainability is taken precedence over size — everything is shrinking so that more people may have access to products produced from finite resources — considering the growing financial power of the multi-billion member global marketplace, this plays an increasingly large role in the equation.

An underlying an insidious security concern is also fueling the move away from fixed computers with hard drives providing local storage, to exclusively cloudbased (and thus far more readily discoverable by security agencies) storage systems. This isn’t a matter of conspiracy theories, but of the realities of policing a digital world rife with “terrorists.”

As tablet prices continue to tumble and their capabilities increase, they will become the dominant force in personal computing and communications.

Finally, as the apparent winners of the convenient form factor and low cost awards, tablets, rather than laptops, are being placed in the hands of school children, who’ll likely continue embracing this handy platform as they move through the consumer marketplace.

In short, tablets are here to stay for the foreseeable future — with no clear alternative.

Of course, we all heard that so-called netbooks, the streamlined versions of a laptop, would be the size, space and weight-saving saviors of computing on the go, and how they will take over the world — but that vision is now all but passed — with the cessation of netbook production by holdout manufacturers Acer and Asus at the end of 2012.

“The idea of a small, cheap laptop that ran all the same software your larger notebook or desktop could run was appealing at a time when the global economy began a huge downturn,” Kevin Tofel wrote on GigaOM. “The timing of netbooks was simply right.”

At the time of the netbook’s meteoric ascension, economics was everything — but the panic is over and more pragmatic concerns have time to settle in.

“For a computing market that appeared to have unstoppable growth early on, the rise and fall of netbooks happened quickly,” Tofel added. “It should remind us that disruptive new technologies can quickly erode a product’s market share and even the viability of a product class itself.”

It’s not that Acer and Asus are going out of business, it’s just that they need their assembly lines to make more tablets — such as the sub-$150 Acer Iconia B1 powered by Android Jelly Bean and boasting a seven-inch screen. The device is reportedly intended to be used by children (who will doubtless enjoy its bright blue trimming), as well as new tablet users in emerging markets and families seeking an additional device. The product will roll out first in South America, illustrating the global reach of the tablet marketplace.

Obtaining current technology at a low price point involves compromises, however, and the Iconia B1 is no exception; with its 1,024x600 pixel display and eight gigabyte memory capacity. Compare those specs with the 2,048x1536 pixel Retina display and 128 gigabyte memory capacity of today’s top of the line iPad.

For $199, the Asus Nexus 7 takes things up a notch over the Iconia B1 with its seveninch, 1280x800 pixel display and 32GB maximum, also powered by Android Jelly Bean. Amazon’s Kindle Fire and the Barnes & Noble Nook are also making huge inroads with consumers due to their price to performance ratio, and no longer the mere realm of online book reading.

The tablet idea is even extending in two directions at once; with Lenovo announcing a whopping 17 pound, 27 inch “table” computer and a Turkish firm developing a 65 inch Android Honeycomb powered wall mounted display boasting full pinch, zoom and other capabilities that are akin to a giant tablet. Both large systems are intended to replace the traditional desktop computer with a more modern touch-screen interface. At the other end of the size scale, iPad mini competes with other smaller tablets; while the next generation “phablet” combines phone and tablet in a decidedly awkward — but useful — approach, exemplified by the Samsung Galaxy Note II.

According to Barclays, phablet adoption will quadruple in three years to account for more than $135 billion in sales — while ABI Research predicts annual sales phablet sales will exceed 208 million units worldwide by 2015.

“We definitely see the phablet growing significantly over the coming years,” ABI Research senior analyst Joshua Flood stated. “More and more consumers wish to engage in activities other than calling or texting on the smartphones. A big driver for phablets is watching videos, Internet browsing and video calling on their mobile device.”

It sounds like a perfect opportunity for adult video and cam marketers, but there’s a limit to everything.

“Companies can continue to push the boundaries. But at some point with today’s display technology, there’s going to be a point of diminishing return in terms of the size of the device and there continues to be a challenge to manage ergonomics,” Ross Rubin of Reticle Research explains. “That’s not to say we won’t see more phones in the upper five- or six-inch range, but clearly at some point, you’re no longer designing for one-handed operation.”

But design is a many faceted topic impacting not only display but content production and delivery; driving a growing need for the responsive web design techniques needed to accommodate the widening array of screen sizes and shapes to come — and their mouse-free means of navigation.

As tablet prices continue to tumble and their capabilities increase, they will become the dominant force in personal computing and communications, forming a platform that adult entertainment marketers cannot afford to ignore.