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Feature Tablets

Andrian Georgiev, a reporter from the Bulgarian business newspaper “Capital weekly” wrote an article for which he asked me some questions. My answers are below. The article is available here (Bulgarian).
Q: How many tablets will be sold worldwide this year and in 2012?
A: We can only guess the answer. The total will be constrained by parts shortages for 2011, but my estimate [through the end of 2012] is over 100 million. Perhaps even 120 million is possible.

Q: Do you think Amazon is working on a tablet? Could it be a game-changer?
A: If Amazon (or Facebook or Baidu) were to build a tablet the greatest innovation will be in their business models. In other words how they make money. I suspect Amazon’s hardware will be free or nearly free but users will be incentivized to buy content or other goods from Amazon. Similarly for other businesses that will take a hardware product and make it an accessory to their core business. In that regard the “game will change” because hardware will conform to “the application” above it. In other words, that the device will be an accessory to the service, not the other way around.

Q: Why is it so hard for manufacturers to create a tablet that rivals iPad?
A: The iPad is a collection of components. Some are easy to duplicate or to source. This includes memory, microprocessors, communications components. Other components are harder to find and may be expensive once found. This includes the right kind of batteries and the screen. Yet other components are impossible to find or duplicate. That includes software.

Some additional thoughts:

The changing of the game may not happen for some time. “Feature tablets” (analogous to feature phones) will however be viable as niche businesses quite soon. I believe “conforming” operating systems will be more popular with tablet makers than with phone makers.

  • famousringo

    I would argue that feature tablets are already here, bearing names like Kindle and Nook.

    I'm not sure how bright the future of specialized, fixed-software "feature" mobile computers are, though. There is a lot of room for specialized appliances in the home, where every room has a unique purpose, but there is a lot less space in pockets, backpacks, and briefcases. Convergence is very desirable in mobile appliances, and the best way to make a device that serves all the information needs of a customer is to allow that customer to run a wide variety of software on it.

    • Hamranhansenhansen

      Kindle and Nook don't replace a PC. A Kindle+PC is more expensive than iPad 2, and for most users, the iPad does more. Eventually, I think Kindle+PC users replace both with an iPad, essentially merging their PC into their Kindle. Especially as we see more color and more interactivity and audio video and Web connections come into digital books.

      • Walt French

        A Nook is able to be a full-fledged browser, which is just about what the Playbook and Xoom feature set is.

        In my local B&N tests, it was far from the speediest device, running about one-third the SunSpider speed of the iPad, IIRC. Some of that is the iPad's software tuning for this specific purpose, however; the Nook will generally be constrained mostly by internet access speed.

        And at $249, it came close to being an impulse buy for me, a hard-core Apple user who just bought his wife an iPad.

  • davel

    Can you give some examples of what a feature tablet might look like ( functionality wise ) and examples of who it may be targeted at?

    I am sure you are thinking of Nook and the like that are expanding functionality to a more robust web browsing experience and color. The cost is a factor of course but will the lack of features ( hardware or software ) be enough to compel a large enough audience to make a dynamic market?

    I am thinking the tablet market is dominated by browsing and games similar to the consumer pc market. What market would feature tablets address?

    • Hamranhansenhansen

      Feature tablets: Galaxy Tab, PlayBook, XOOM, Nook, Kindle.

  • http://twitter.com/ericylai @ericylai

    I think the Tablet/FeatureTablet demarcation will be more around price/hardware/brand than around OS/apps, as Featurephones/Smartphones are divided. I think they'll start to take off in verticals, not just among cost-conscious consumers. Coby, best-known for inexpensive gadgets lining drug store shelves, has brought out a $140 Android tablet that has a surprising 3.5/5 stars on Amazon. One American HS recently deployed 400 of them.

    If/when do we think FeatureTablets will overtake the iPad in volume, esp. in the US? ;)

    • Hamranhansenhansen

      I would be interested to see what the TCO was on those Coby tablets (add in I-T and training and PC time that was needed for things they couldn't do) and how that compares to 400 iPads. Also would be interested to see how the lessons compared to iPad users.

      I suspect no tablet is better than crap tablet. I suspect that 100 iPads being shared is better than 400 Coby tablets.

      • Walt French

        My wife's firm is running trial apps on a host of different tablets that also become quasi-personal property of the employee.

        A friend has bemoaned getting stuck with the Xoom. In a couple of weeks' use, she still has to refer constantly to the fat user manual. At her hourly rate, the Xoom has already lost the TCO race.

        But that's not to say the story wouldn't turn the other way around for a single-function tablet like a waiter's tablet, or a museum guide or a whole host of circumstances where you take a stock device, install a single custom app and turn on wifi. It'd take a lot more research into usability characteristics than I'll ever do, but assuming Google has banished the garbage-collection lags, etc., then a developer might legitimately assume she'd have the best opportunity targeting a $300 device instead of a $500 one.

  • Nangka

    Education
    Restaurants
    Sales
    Medical
    Logistics
    Finance
    Music
    Games
    Home
    Parenting

    Feature tablets would do well if they focus on functionality for any of the above market areas.

    Wait.. there's 1 feature tablet already capable of doing all, and more. The iPad.

    • davel

      You mention Art, Medical,Finance, Games which can all be handled by the iPad and are all high function devices. While it is true you can make special purpose items for this I am thinking Horace is proposing a cheaper less functional version of a iPad like tablet as the feature tablet.

      I had not thought of the restaurant version but that one item can be very useful.

      Education I also see as a full function tablet. As unless it is just a flat book reader if you want to take advantage of the medium you should allow interactive elements, sharing elements and multimedia which brings you back to an iPad like device.

      • Steko

        You can still imagine low end dedicated game tablets like the Coby thing mentioned below. K-mart's got to put something on the shelf.

        I can imagine low function devices in almost every industry, they wouldn't be things most people would want or need but they'd be cost effective. Look at the market for smart picture frames. Those are pretty primitive now and the potential consumer market is huge.

      • Nangka

        I posted the above reply a bit in jest.

        But my point is, with Apple's low entry price for the iPad, companies should realize that the iPad is practically a high-end feature tablet in potentially any industry out there. (although I don't think it was Apple's original intention for this. I think they just wanted to price out the competition for as long as possible.)

        So to make good money, it is not necessary to come out with a killer app. You only need to write the right app to make the iPad a killer feature tablet for all those companies out there. (Any other feature tablet would need apps anyway.)

        Any VCs out there reading this? ;)

  • r.d

    One issue with Amazon is that states are after it for sales tax.
    Their tablet wouldn't fair well in Public universities.

    The other question is will google let Amazon have honeycomb.
    I thought Sony wouldn't get but that turned out wrong. so lets see.

    • Walt French

      Amazon didn't show in my last survey of the Open Handset Alliance, so that neatly explains why they're using the older Android Open Source Project version 2.2. Ditto BlackBerry, and presumably, FaceBook.

      Android is OPEN only to members of OHA. I've never seen the contract terms discussed, but presume they include NDAs and all sorts of non-open features. OTOH, the Open Source Project is wide open, but is not Android. Google will not allow use of the name Android with old versions of the software. AOSP is a marketing gimmick for Google, a very successful one, I'd say. Now, with Amazon, Facebook, BlackBerry et al interested in totally forking people's perception of “Android,” I expect we'll see some changes.

  • http://ximagin.co/thecw The CW

    The development of a feature-rich, scalable operating system matched to a mature IDE, developer tools and a developer community is non trivial.

    This is what Apple brought to their first tablet. This is what other tablets will lack until someone builds one up from a feature tablet.

    • Hamranhansenhansen

      Yeah, there is Mac OS, Windows NT, and iOS and then you drop off a cliff into much less capable devices. Android, for example, runs baby Java apps that are already outmatched on smartphones and will not scale to a PC. Linux requires more CS/IT skill than most users have. The idea that anyone will compete with iPad over the next few years is just generic tech industry propaganda.

  • HTG

    I can see why a 'feature-pad' might be a good idea – however, this is going nowhere until the likes of Amazon et al solve for this problem… http://speirs.org/blog/2011/5/4/on-ebook-pricing….

    Horace, I would appreciate your thoughts on what Fraser Speirs is saying here in relation to your comments above…

  • John

    I’m skeptical that there will be such a variety of tablets longer term. Short term maybe. Technology is allowing for a greater variety of hardware. I just wonder that enough people have enough free time to invest in so many different kinds of hardware. For the bulk of the market I suspect people will cluster around something like the iPad leaving the scraps to the rest of the players. If I need an iPad (or similar) for a few desirable features then it is easier to add an app for something than to buy another gadget.

    • Steko

      Long term it's even more likely because third world price demands will require low end equipment while the latest and greatest high end tablets will be ever pressing forward with new expensive features (3D, 4G, advanced haptics, AI, etc.)

  • Hap

    "Yet other components are impossible to find or duplicate. That includes software."

    Indeed. And I'd point to the "human software" embodied in Apple's designers and engineers. Despite the wide-spread availability of powerful technology, the capacity for engendering delight in the end user appears to be the rarest of "components."

  • http://www.noisetech-software.com/Perspectives.html Steven Noyes

    Horace,

    I take strong exception to the following:

    "I suspect Amazon’s hardware will be free or nearly free but users will be incentivized to buy content or other goods from Amazon."

    This is the same thought process people put forth on the Nexus 1 when it was first announced and no price was given. For example, this was the common thought process:
    http://www.androidguys.com/2009/12/19/how-google-

    And when it came out, the Nexus 1 was the same price as other similar phones. If you look at the following article:
    http://www.asymco.com/2011/04/29/when-exceptional

    (Yes, I know I am using your own work against your above statement) You can see the profit center for the iTMS (including books, music and apps) is actually a very small amount. The content is there to drive sales and profits of hardware. There is not enough revenue in those to pay for a tablet that is worth having. In other words, given the Apps Amazon is pursuing to be in its Appstore, you will not be running those apps on cut rate tablets. You will need a good tablet with up-to-date processors, memory and a great screen.

    An amazon tablet will not be able to be free or even close to free. Simply look at the Kindle. While it is a nice device for what it does, it is very slow and all the costs are cut to the bone. Amazon will provide a seamless integration to the "Amazon" experience to provide content in much the same was Apple does with the iTMS. The price of the tablet, however, will still have to be about the same if not higher.

    • r00tabega

      Couldn't have said it better. There is no way in hell the "feature tablet" will be free, unless it is seriously lacking in features or performance compared to the state of the art (iPad for now).

      • Steko

        You're misunderstanding the premise. A "feature tablet" by definition is lacking compared to iPad. Feature phones are the crap phones that form the bottom of the phone market in contrast to smart phones.

        What I think Horace left out is that e-readers are essentially a type of feature tablets conforming to an application already.

      • http://www.noisetech-software.com/Perspectives.html Steven Noyes

        But Amazon will not do a "feature" Android tablet. They already have a feature tablet in the existing Kindle line.

        Any Android tablet Amazon does will go mono-a-mono with the iPad 2. Dual core. High-end graphics. Really nice screen.

      • kmg

        And software that, compared to the iPad's, is not up to par by a long shot (right now). This will be what makes it a "feature table", as opposed to the full "tablet" (that category being defined by the iPad and only the iPad right now) – not the hardware.

        (On a side note: Being an old hand, I find it fascinating that hardware has obviously become commoditized to such a degree that even the smallest and most underfunded team of guys can spec themselves something that looks like a tablet, and have it manufactured in a run of some ten or hundred thousand units. Amazing. But anyway, we're not there yet with software.)

    • Joe_Winfield_IL

      I think you are all missing the point he is making. Amazon has radically different objectives than Apple. Forget Ebooks vs. iOS app revenue. Music and video sales are a must, but not a real profit driver. Amazon doesn't care about hardware gross margin.

      Amazon is a retailer, period.

      Think about the power of apps like RedLaser and ShopSavvy. Smartphone users can instantly scan and comparison shop while walking through brick and mortar retailers. These apps point the user to potential savings, and they are great tools. I've personally saved $400-500 with RedLaser over the past year on a few big purchases. However, this savings is a bit of a headache; the discounters are not integrated with the app. Now combine this same power with Amazon's best-in-class retail experience. If an in-store scan immediately pointed shoppers to the Amazon store (including affiliate stores) for a given product, the decision to buy would be very easy. Amazon likely has over 100 million credit cards and shipping addresses already on file, with one-click purchases and free (with subscription) shipping in wide adoption.

      If Amazon can successfully deploy a low cost tablet, it will probably be small enough to fit into a purse to go along on all shopping excursions. The world's retailers essentially become a massive showroom for Amazon. Many purchases are best done in person. People want to know how clothing feels, or how it hangs on their body. Electronics are often a touch and feel type of purchase. But with an Amazon tablet, it is easy to go to Best Buy and pick out the ideal GPS or LED TV, then save 15% plus tax (free shipping) and have it delivered to your door in 48 hours. This could be done without so much as a credit card swipe or a discussion with a pushy salesman. In theory, anything but urgent purchases and perishables could be consumed this way.

      For Amazon, the sky is the limit. They have so much to gain by doing things right that it is hard to imagine the company staying on the sidelines for long. If their tablet becomes a shopping companion, the ebook business becomes secondary – a cash generator but not a core business.

  • Jaquin

    In what areas would a feature tablet skimp? "hardware that is hard to find or expensive when found" or Apps/ Software??
    The Nook, which seems a good fit for the label of "feature tablet", has a well thought out raison for its vertical integration with ebook reading. How many companies will be able to remain as focused, to iterate, in a market that prizes home runs above RBI's.
    Where are the cost savings that allow the manufacturer to deliver without breaking the bank.
    Will Amazon feature a Coby product when they are slated to be competitors for that space??

    • Walt French

      Feature tablets will skimp on software, just as the Xoom, Playbook, Nook, Samsung's tablet, etc do.

      Software is modestly inexpensive for volumes of 100 million devices, but 100X as expensive for a device that only sells 1 million.

      So feature tablets will have some not-too-decrepit version of Android or a similar shared-cost OS, plus a very few custom-written apps in which the user will spend all her time. Those apps won't be free, but they will support other business models, which the tablet will lock in.

      We are moving in a New Era where apps leverage the powers accessible today through browsers; Apple is inadvertently at the lead of that revolution. Multiple apps require the network effect of a broad user base and good app monetization. But just as your everyday blender is approaching the compute power of the Apollo missions, there are many other opportunities for vertical platforms, where the iOS infrastructure is if not exactly overkill, at least much more than the minimum-cost solution.

  • Hamranhansenhansen

    No, I think feature tablets are for budget conscious consumers only. A business will pay less by buying iPads, because you get much more use out of them and they last longer and do so much more and generally require no training and almost no I-T.

    Restaurant menus should be HTML5 Web apps the customer can access anywhere from their own phone or tablet, including in the restaurant.

    • Steko

      The way tablets function in restaurants is not for the customer's use but the servers. I could easily see it going there where you use a tablet at the table to order yourself but right now they are using budget (sub 100) tabet-esque devices.

      And there's absolutely no way an ipad would be more cost effective for most service applications.

      • chandra

        I disagree. Many service operators offer iPads for their service purposes but also to provide added value to their customers while they are there. Hotels, restaurants and more.
        I use a particular hotel partly because they provide a free iPad during my stay. Easy access to Hotel services and free Wi-Fi gives me everything else i might want in terms of computing or entertainment. The latter is far better than the canned tv channels on offer.
        Cheap service providers maybe.

      • Steko

        There's a significant difference between giving an ipad to a customer as a perk and using a tablet in a service job to fulfill a very few directed purposes.

  • Hamranhansenhansen

    I know we have Kindle and Nook, but I am skeptical of the feature tablet idea. I think Kindle and Nook are dinosaurs.

    iPad is a PC. It's as cheap as a tablet PC can be right now. You get 10 hours per day on batteries and really cheap software, so you can easily get double the lifetime use of a $399 notebook PC. And consumers hate PC's and love iPads. And next year, iPad 3 could be $499 and iPad 2 could be $399 or even $349.

    There are $100-$200 notebook PC's and nobody buys them. They cost 1/3rd or 1 half of a regular notebook PC but they only do 1/10th of the things, and people don't know how to use them because they run Linux. So why are consumers going to buy $200 tablet PC's?

    I think Kindle and Nook are accessories to a notebook PC. People rarely have just a Kindle or just a Nook … they also have a notebook. But when it comes time to replace their notebook, they likely get an iPad to replace the notebook and Kindle or Nook.

    And I also think iPads are still very much a kind of iPod. Consumers passed on $75 music players and bought $150 iPods because they got 10 times the use out of them because of their superior interface and iTunes.

    And as always: the apps. I think many iPads will be sold when a consumer sees an app running on n iPad that they have to have. Could be iMovie or GarageBand, could be Infinity Blade or another game, could be Netflix or Hulu Plus or iTunes.

    A big thing with iPhone was you merged your iPod and phone. With iPad, you merge your PC and Kindle. Has to be a full iPod for that to work; has to be a full PC.

    • Walt French

      I wouldn't disagree with any of your supporting facts. But as creative as you are, I think you'd have no problem making the case for verticals, for grannies, for Facebook tablets or phones, or any number of feature-phone-type devices.

      Why not, fr'instance, make your clock radio out of a cheapo tablet that lets you surf or watch Netflix in bed but when it goes in the stand, reverts immediately to Clock + picture-frame mode? That needs a real OS but only a few targeted apps, and some customization, in order to have a potential market in the multiple millions. Could you do it with an iPad? Absolutely, but some of those custom features are tricky and it still costs you for features such as high-speed graphics and 10-hour batteries that are silly in that usage model.

  • Steko

    "You can see the profit center for the iTMS (including books, music and apps) is actually a very small amount."

    That's because Apple's main business is selling their own hardware. Amazon's main business is selling stuff other people made. And because they offer so many goods they could easily discount hardware with a contract.

    Pay $20 a month, get 20 Amazon bucks every month for 2 years. Toss in some banner advertising and we're up to $200 in subsidy meaning we can offer an ipad 2 parity device for $99… or a free entry level tab that handles web, non-hd video, angry birds and video calls.

    • http://www.noisetech-software.com/Perspectives.html Steven Noyes

      That is what the current Kindle is for. It is sold without a subscription. It is sold without a contract. Amazon still makes a profit (though small) on each Kindle. It is sold at a great low price but the Tablet is a feature tablet.

      A general purpose tablet will have different points of content access such as NetFlix and Spotify and Pandora when compared to the current Kindle. This will limit Amazon's ability to bring in revenue from content sales when compared to the existing Kindle model. I see Amazon willing to take a smaller GM but they will still want to profit a bit from hardware sales.

      • Steko

        Right I'm not saying they will sell a contract, they can certainly go for higher profits and a lower installed base and based on kindle so far that's where they are for right now.

        What I'm saying is: what Horace is proposing is possible, here's how they would do it if they wanted to go dirt cheap on hardware.

  • MarS

    "Why is it so hard for manufacturers to create a tablet that rivals iPad?"

    In my observation, when leaving SW-part aside, one of the biggest problem to create a rival to the iPad is the total volume of components you can negotiate for.
    Beside of the already higher volume Apple can expect in general for their tablet compared to others (thanks to excellent marketing and demand-creation), they are sharing a very large amount of components on iPhone and iPad, with a almost guaranteed sales-volume for iPhone to begin with.

    Thanks to that, they can massively drive down the component costs, much more than others can do at the moment.
    i.e. no vendor is currently selling several millions of mobile phones based on nVidia Tegra2 CPU, so no vendor is able to "cross-subsidize" the component-price for a Tegra2-based Tablet the way Apple can do with their Samsung-CPU…

    This situation may change completely next year, at least for Android.
    After Honeycomb and Gingerbread are merged into one OS, the synergy effect for a vendor could be much higher than it is now, allowing the _real_ creation of a single product with multiple form-factors
    (i.e. a Qualcomm-based tablet using largely the same components as the Qualcomm-based mainstream mobile phone)

    MarS

    • davel

      Samsung has volume prices as they make most of the components themselves.

      I think this is why Apple is looking to source their components from other companies.

    • Walt French

      @MarS, Apple is in the “disruptive technology” business. They sneak up on atherosclerotic business like tablets or PDA-phones, and takes them over before the incumbents realize what hit them. No incumbent has prospered and soon we could see all of them kaput; Google has proven to be a very nimble, very capable competitor, thanks to encouragement from Verizon and their smart relations with the OEM alliance.

      Once Apple re-defines the market to their strengths, it's harder for competitors to match the same skillsets. Fr'instance: in a recent test case, I could not find any way for any other tablet to satisfy this simple need: if I am flying SFO-JFK (5 hours above 10,000 feet), how can I get 2 movies or missed TV episodes to watch en route? The only answer I found on various Android forums was to either (a) buy/borrow the DVD, rip it using DivX and transfer it to the Xoom, or (b) grab a dubious-quality copy off a torrent stream. Either way, you have to hope it is watchable when you are at 37,000 feet. These are NOT solutions for any except the propeller heads.

      Sooner or later, somebody, maybe Amazon or Netflix, will figure out how to meet that need without the piracy risks that Hollywood agonizes over. By then, who knows what Apple will be selling?

    • Steko

      In addition to components as noted by MarS there are many other challenges:

      (1) over a year behind on software. Most reviewers rate Honeycomb as still in beta. Playbook OS even further behind. The app situation is the same.

      (2) commoditized hardware and, for Android, software. Why invest big money in R&D when if you get a hit 10 other vendors copy exactly what you do, add a +1 feature and undercut you.

      (3) cut off from the ecosystem. For Android tablet makers there's no point in taking a super low margin or loss on hardware like console makers do and Apple could. You need to profit from the start.

      (4) weak distribution network. iPads sell from Apple direct, Apple retail, Wal-mart, Amazon, Best Buy, Target, carriers, Apple resellers and more. The 20th Android tablet of the year when the first 19 weren't hits have zero leverage with any of these stores. They demand higher margins and other concessions.

      All of these combine to create devices of soso quality at less competitive prices which is what we've seen from everyone so far.

      People get excited about Amazon because they have an installed and happy user base of millions let's them partially ignore (2), they come close to solving (3) and (4), and they appear to be working on mitigating (1) (or waiting for google to do so). Because they can leverage lower prices into a large installed base they could also take advantage of lower component costs too.

  • Paulo Silva

    Horace,

    To make an anology between feature phones and "feature tablets" doesn't sound good, I guess. The term tablet means a form factor not a feature device in particular. Conversely, a feature phone means just a phone, i.e., not a smartphone. So, can one imply that a "feature tablet" is a "dumb" one?

    Even in a context of niche businesses, I don't see any reason for specialized tablets just because they won't bring any aggregate value to users nor even for developers. I really don't think we are going to see a differentiation in the tablet market as we see in the phone market (between feature and smart phones).

    How cheap can "feature tablets" can be faced to "smart" tablets like the iPad and others?

    Why would I, as a developer, make a niche app for a niche device? Wouldn't be better to make a niche app for more general tablets devices like iPads and Android's ones?

    Maybe I'm wrong, but honestly I can't foresee any real (or big enough) market for feature tablets, just because we have better, non expensive and more powerfull tablets already available.

    • http://mexepos.tumblr.com/ Marcos El Malo

      Why would you, as a developer, make a niche app for a niche device? Because someone will pay you to do so, like they now pay millions of other developers to write "niche" business apps. We're talking about specialized apps that likely will never appear in anyone's app store, or if they do, it will be almost as a foolish afterthought. I say foolish because to the vendors (the ones paying for the development) of the systems that use these apps on dedicated tablets, these apps will be the IP that can differentiate their product from their competitors. Why make that available to your competitors?

      It doesn't matter how cheap "better, non expensive and more powerful tablets" get. There is always going to be a market for even cheaper less powerful tablets that fulfill a need. Some businesses will want to spend only enough to satisfy minimum requirements. Spending on superfluous features is wasted money.

  • http://rashomon-speedcafe.blogspot.com/ rashomon

    One point: Why wouldn't feature tablets (particularly in small vertical applications, as compared to huge opportunities, such as a proprietary device for Amazon, Walmart, etc.) be subsumed by low-end derivatives of the iPad, assuming Apple eventually broadens the range. I continue to think there's a logical path into a slightly larger iPod Touch (perhaps with a 5-inch screen) as well as less expensive iPad 2 derivatives. Apple has been very very aware of price sensitivity in the iPod market, hence the "degrades" of camera, screen, etc. relative to the iPhone on the iPod touch. Couldn't they do something similar in the next year to give them devices at price points between say $150, 250, 350, 500, up to about $1000, with a iPod Touch, iPod Touch+, inexpensive iPad 2 derivative, iPad 3 with 3d retina display, etc. The economies of scale on the lower cost units would make them very attractive business devices for feature-type uses.

  • Walt French

    Hmmm… does UPS use a “niche tablet” for its deliveries? I'd be amazed to see an iPad in that function, but it exemplifies what @Marcos is describing… even if the ruggedized, crappy-looking, non-capacitive-screen UPS device is more expensive than an iPad.

  • Walt French

    Apple builds consumer systems. Their business-oriented systems, e.g., their XSAN and rack-mount OSX machines, show that they are wasting their time on other markets.

    I see them effective on helping businesses, and bespoke software developers, write/support/manage custom iPhone and iPad environments AT businesses. But you're essentially suggesting they target limited-function devices such as BlackBerrys, devices that did their jobs tremendously well and cheaply, and which Apple is pounding into oblivion.

  • John

    That question has been discussed quite a bit (see: http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rl

    If this were a purely consumer market, I'd wager on the iPad becoming the next iPod, a virtual monopoly.

    However, unlike with iPods, businesses will be buying tablets in huge numbers, and large corporations do not apply the same criteria that the general consumer does when it comes to purchases.

  • N8nNC

    I think "feature tablet" misses some significant history. Mobile phones were an upgrade to land-line handsets with a long-standing (60 years?) pervasive precedent. Mobile phones got labelled "dumb-phones" when "feature phones" came along as an upgrade. "Smart phones" upgraded feature phones. Feature tablets will only happen if they are seen as an upgrade in some way. That way could be lower price, but it seems too easy for Apple to just lower the price – trading lower margins for large volume sales, probably an palatable exchange. Competitors run into a perception wall: the price needs to be significantly lower to be a value, but make the device look "cheap" if the performance suffers. And if others can find a way to make an acceptable tablet at a lower cost, Apple should be able to match (and exceed). Another way could be simplicity, but iPad is (I believe) about as simple to use as one can get (my analogy here is the electric starter for cars; more expensive, but vastly easier to use). I see iPad competitors being in a squeeze that can't be eluded.