Books written by Ray Sullivan

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Tablet Sales Rise Again

No matter where you look today, somebody is using a tablet.  Some are using them to read books, some to surf the web, many to play games.  Now and again you might find somebody trying to do some work.

The work capability is the elephant in the boardroom problem - outside of Microsoft tablets, you can't do real work on a tablet.  You can draft a blog, perhaps, but it's not an easy write.  Not if you're used to typing on a keyboard and formatting your text.  Writing a report or a novel - well I do both on a regular basis, but I'd rather not attempt it on my Nexus 7, thank you very much.  I've looked at the word processors available on the Play store and I'm totally underwhelmed at the free options and quite cautious about the paid for variants.   I may be judging software I haven't tried, but I don't have money to throw around on unproven products and I've yet to find a product listing that convinces me.

And what is it about printing?  Apple try to pretend you can print from the iPad and  we did manage to print something once using the AirPrint software, but we've really struggled since.  Checking out the Nexus 7 on-line manual, searching for 'print' returned zero results.  I don't doubt someone will have developed an App for it, like the multiple Apps we bought for the iPad that didn't work.

But, despite the lack of business tools for any of the tablets (apart from the Microsoft products) tablet sales are booming.  The increase in sales over the last quarter compared to the same quarter last year is more than 140% and we bought more tablets in the last quarter than we did in the first half of 2012.  It seems a love affair destined to run and run.  At least that's what I think.

Mind you, the boss of Blackberry, Thorsten Heins, thinks tablets are a flash in the pan and gives them five years.  He may be right, but he hasn't proposed what will fill the space they occupy - I doubt it will be Blackberrys.  He does point out that tablets are not good business options - it's all work, work, work with Blackberry I guess - but he neatly sidestepped the Microsoft option, much as I did at the top of this posting.

Microsoft have seen some growth in the tablet market - nowhere near as much as they hoped, I'd wager.  Compared to Apple, which saw record sales in the last quarter with over 19 million tablets, Microsoft were sub 1 million.  The total sales over the quarter were over 49 million tablets, so Apple are seeing their total market share shrink while their total sales increase.  That must make interesting conversations over the water cooler at Apple - are we doing well or are we doing badly?  It's a bit like my conundrum at work.  Last year the boss said I had a thin chance of a pay rise, now he tells me I've a fat chance and I don't know if things are getting better or worse.

Microsoft, I suspect, are going to push aggressively on price and features - you know, Office software and the ability to print plus the chance to join Microsoft networks effortlessly - well for models above the Surface range anyway - they're not Exchange compatible.  But now that Apple have shown that tablet computing is a viable way forward, it only takes a handful of people using tablets to write a few reports that  don't look like they've been drafted on Facebook and Microsoft might be looking at more than the odd million sales a quarter.  Maybe they'll stop showing adverts showing college kids discovering the mystery of magnets and actually show real people, with real jobs, using their tablets to do the kind of stuff that iPads can't.

And Thorsten Heins - I can't help wondering if that's his porn star name or his real one - will have to get used to the idea that people will have business tablets that will let them access their business emails on the move in a package that is small enough to be portable yet big enough to do meaningful work on.  It will unchain the office PC in a way that laptops don't, and that should be a frighting prospect for Blackberry, because once you've done that, what have they got to offer other than as an over-specified mobile phone?

I guess that's another interesting conversation over the water cooler.


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