It’s hard to spend a day without writing or reading something about a new tablet. Whether it is real like JooJoo or a rumor like Apple’s (and Dell, and Asus and…) one thing is certain: there’s a growing tablet obsession among manufacturers.
Many companies are still kicking themselves for having missed the first “Touch” wave, and now that Apple is said to be building a tablet there’s no way around it– they “need” to have a tablet offering too. In addition to not being Apple, there’s a greater issue at stake: in most cases, companies don’t even know why they are building one.
To be successful, a new product category has to have a purpose and solve a problem that people are willing to pay for. It needs to make your life better in one way or another. Take Apple for example. The company has set the standard for touch phones (the current “boom”), so let’s take a look: in the first iPhone generation, Apple has addressed known flaws of mobile usage by making all the basic functions sexy: great design, nice display, good interface, great email and web browsing. By bringing real added-value, they have created demand and you know the rest of the story. How does that translate into a tablet? Well, there are a number of options: A tablet *could* be cool for browsing the web, it *could* be interesting to read full-color magazines, and it *could* be a great media remote for the home. It *could* be all that, but none of this added-value comes from the tablet itself. Instead, it comes from the user interface design, the distribution model and the content deals. In short, it comes from a new usage model.
So this year, despite a rush to the land of the tablet, we’re likely to see a bunch of tablets with no other value-proposition than “I look like the new cool thing”. Just as we saw in the past couple of years when the string of bad touch phones flooded the market (although they are getting good now). These tablets will have big icons, a few widgets and will superficially look like what an ideal tablet should be (what should it be, btw?), but chances are that very few of them will actually bring real added value that will be worth $500 or more of your hard earned cash. Oh yeah, and the (decent) $200 tablet? That’s just not happening, fantasy can only get you so far.
If Apple’s tablet rumor is true, I’m very curious to see what added-value they will bring. It’s not hard to foresee that the design, content, and user-interface should be ok, but I really wonder how successful the product will be – even in ideal conditions, because unlike the iPhone, an Apple tablet doesn’t solve critical issues in an existing category that virtually everyone is familiar with. Instead, it will likely create a new category where customers need to be educated.
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