There is a Difference Between 7 Inches and 10 Inches
Today’s big tablet news is the rollout of the Apple iPad Mini and all its related stuff. As always, we’ll be looking through the smoke and mirrors to help our clients understand just if, how, and where such a beast meshes (and does not mesh) with established enterprise usage, tasks, operations, budgets, providers, security, and more. In other words, we will help our clients understand the realities and the most-likely effects on who they are, what they do, and how they do it.
Based on the vast majority of business, trade, and analyst reports we read, a tablet is a tablet is a tablet.
Unless, of course, you actually buy, use, sell or develop for, tablets.
Anyone with experience in tablet usage reality knows that what works with and on one screen does not necessarily fit, work, or succeed on a larger or smaller screen size. This is basic Touch UI 101 stuff. A lot of things do work well, or even acceptably, on different sizes and shapes of screens. But not every screen, and not every form factor, can or should be seen as a 1-to-1 substitute or cost-effective replacement for any other. Not every tablet is a suitable replacement for any other tablet, regardless of size.
Yet, we continue to read and hear about how Apple is rolling out a 7-inch iPad to protect its tablet marketplace; how the Kindle Fire is threatening (or not) Apple’s tablet dominance, how smartphones are threatening to replace tablets, vice-versa, and so on.
It ain’t necessarily so. Just as there are opportunities for various size and formats of smartphones, there are tasks, places, environments and applications better suited for 7-inch or 10-inch (or other form-factor/size) tablets. And with the introduction and disruption of MSFT entering with a slightly different size and form-factor tablet series, there’s even more difference/distinction/delineation possible and likely.
Throwing all these into the same “Tablet” bucket ignores important context that directly shapes how the tablet is used and for what, by whom, where, and when.
What defines reality for any type of communications and computing device is combinations of operating system ecosystems and usage environments. Developers are best off focusing on suitability of their software to both these factors; IT buyers are best off setting these as core parameters for evaluation and purchase (and successful, low-cost IT orgs do just that).
Most tablet makers will offer broad lines of hardware; the most successful ones will guide their developer ecosystems into the most suitable use cases and markets. And we will start to see much more and more experience-based differentiation between smaller tablets and larger tablets. By YE 2014, we will see rapid and huge growth in industry- and task-specific tablets and apps as makers and sellers work to differentiate themselves.
The markets will have learned by then not every tablet is the same; not every touch-screen device is a substitute for another. Some stuff works well, or OK, in lots of environments. As with very other IT hardware ever developed, there will be improvements that help to blur the lines between tablets (and OSes).
But 7 inches will always be smaller than 10 inches. Each lends itself to different experiences, techniques, and outcomes. It’s time the market (and marketing) gurus learned this lesson.