Does The Future of Tablets Lie in Low Cost?

Google recently hinted that it may be developing a low cost tablet, pointing out that it has been impressed by the success enjoyed by devices competing for sales in the budget Android tablet market.

Google CEO, Larry Page, recently commented that the tech giant is “very excited about tablets” and that his company “believe there’s going to be a lot of success at the lower end of the market as well with lower price products”.

The Google boss also hinted at a future move towards tablet development for Google giant, saying: “It’s definitely an area we think is important and we’re quite focused on.”

Tablets have seen huge growth in recent years, with over 220 models now on the market. Apple’s iPad has been the runaway success in the sector, with estimated sales of 40 million in 2011 alone, whilst Android-based tablets, including the Amazon Kindle Fire, totalled 17 million sales in the same year.

It is widely expected that the iPad will continue its dominance of the sector in the coming years, with finance specialist Forbes suggesting that the Cupertino-based    company will shift 100 million units in 2013.

However, technology specialists ABI Research recently published findings which suggest that competitively priced tablets will control the market by 2016, with sub-£250 units occupying over 60% of the market. Growth markets such as India and China are expected to be the leaders in expanding the sector, with continued strong sales also predicted in the US and Europe.

The low-cost tablet is not a new strategy by any means, with devices such as the BlackBerry PlayBook, Archos 101HTC Flyer and Samsung Galaxy Tab all offering an affordable entry into post-pc computing. Additionally, the eagerly anticipated Microsoft Windows 8 platform (Microsoft’s first OS to focus primarily on tablet functionality) is likely to play a part in bringing a host of new units to market, including devices from Lenovo and Nokia.

Some manufacturers are even attempting to bridge the gap between tablet and mobile, with Samsung and LG both offering convincing hybrids in the Galaxy Note and Optimus Vu respectively. Although neither provides full tablet functionality, they do serve to highlight the public desire for mobile screen-based computing solutions.

Despite the numerous options currently available for the consumer, we predict that it will take a key name such as Google to really open up the budget tablet market in the UK. Whilst it’s  true that the all-conquering iPad remains the tablet holy grail, it’s simply out of reach for the majority due to Apple’s premium pricing policy. The much delayed UK release of the Amazon Kindle Fire has meant that there has not yet been a mass market affordable option available and budget-conscious consumers have continued to seek out low-cost laptops and netbooks, rather than take the plunge into tablets.

That said, it stands to reason that if a manufacturer is able to launch a truly affordable tablet that captures the public’s imagination in the same way that the iPad did, then the move to a post-PC landscape will gather pace at an even greater rate than we have seen to date.

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