While there were few surprises when the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 swung past the FCC, we didn’t expect additional tablets all that quickly. However, we’re already looking at one today: a Samsung SM-T310 (the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 is the SM-T210) has just reache…
As tablet ownership and usage continues its upward trajectory, little surprise that more people are expected to be paying for more stuff on tablets in the coming years. But analyst Juniper Research has put out a new mobile content revenue forecast predicting that purchases on tablets will be the primary engine for growth — ergo: beating out smartphones — in the mobile content market over the next three years.
The analyst expects annual revenue generated from content delivered to mobile handsets and tablets to rise by nearly $25 billion over the period — climbing from more than $40 billion this year to $65 billion by 2016. Music and video now account for nearly half of all mobile content revenues, according to Juniper.
The analyst says growth in the mobile content market will “primarily” be fuelled by an upsurge in tablet users buying games, videos and ebooks on their slates. But it also flags up “increased opportunity” for content monetisation via direct carrier billing on smartphones as another factor helping to drive the market. “While the availability of direct carrier billing is patchy, the various benefits which the mechanism offers — higher conversion rates, opportunities to monetise unbanked customers — suggest that deployments will rise significantly in the medium term,” notes report author Dr Windsor Holden in a statement.
Returning to tablets, the report found that ebooks are currently the largest revenue stream on slates, thanks to e-reader applications from the likes of Amazon, Kobo and Nook, but goes on to add that tablets are experiencing a sharp increase in both paid and free video applications. The analyst also expects consumer gaming spend to migrate to tablets from dedicated portable gaming devices such as the Nintendo 3DS and the Sony PS Vita — something Juniper has delved into before in a separate report.
The mobile content report also notes that the convergence of gaming and social networking has been “one of the major drivers” behind the post-download monetisation opportunity — i.e. via in-app purchases.
One of the most impressive things we happened upon at CES this year was the Tactus keyboard, a special fluid-filled layer that could be baked into a tablet or smartphone to provide users with a physical keyboard that could recede back into the screen when it wasn’t needed.
Since then the company has been flying under the radar, but it turns out Tactus has been hard at work on a prototype device with help from a prominent player in the touch interaction space. Tactus confirmed to TechCrunch that it has partnered with touch panel experts at Synaptics to create a reference device — a 7-inch Android-powered tablet — that it will begin shopping around to OEMs and carriers at the end of June.
As you might expect, the company was hesitant to name names, but newly-installed sales and marketing VP RK Parthasarathy noted that “multiple tier 1 OEMs” are already waiting for a chance to fiddle with the 7-inch reference design kit, and that the first Tactus devices were still slated to be shown off some time this year… just not around these parts. Instead, Parthasarathy expects the first official Tactus-enabled tablet to make an appearance at a trade show in Asia in Q4 (the tight-lipped VP wouldn’t confirm which) before popping up at CES in early 2013.
Fortunately, it seems as though those Tactus-enabled tablets may able to compete on price just as devices like the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire do right now. Despite the seeming complexity of adding a fluid-filled outer layer to a tablet’s screen, it’s apparently a walk in the park compared to the alternative. According to Parthasarathy, the process of handling and cutting down glass for the traditional cover lenses that sit over tablet displays is cumbersome and pricey enough that implementing a Tactus layer is a viable financial alternative. The fact that the keyboard can be made to work with whatever OS sits below it is an intriguing proposition to boot — there’s nothing stopping Microsoft or Apple from running with these things short of a mismatch in vision.
The move works rather nicely for Synaptics too — the company’s touch layers have become ubiquitous in laptops and smartphones, but short of an appearance in Samsung’s 10-inch Galaxy Tab 2.0 Synaptics hasn’t had much success in cracking the tablet market.
“The tablet market has been evolving, and Synaptics has been criticized for being late to the game,” said Synaptics technology strategist Dr. Andrew Hsu. Granted, the tablet market is still relatively small compared to the handset business — while Synaptics’ presence in tablets has been modest, it hopes that partnering with Tactus can help them pick up steam in an already-crowded market.
It’s an incredibly neat concept and seems to work well enough in practice, but are people really clamoring for a return to more tactile way to interact with their devices? After all, big names in the mobile space like Samsung have been tinkering with ways to users to manipulate their gadgets without the need to lay a finger on them. In short, are touchier keyboards really the way forward? At least one person would probably agree, but as far as Tactus is concerned there’s nothing to stop an OEM from baking a whole host of interaction methods into a single device.
“What we’re seeing is a natural evolution,” Parthasarathy pointed out. “We don’t believe there is a single interaction mechanism that belongs on every device. Users will have a multitude of interface options, but serious content creation requires a physical interface.” We’ll soon see if the Tactus vision ultimately pans out — with any luck, that initial batch of Tactus tablets will go on sale a few months after appearing at CES.
The mobile PC market isn’t doing great, but that’s only if you look at it independently of tablet device sales. NPD DisplaySearch now says that over the next five years, however, the mobile PC market will more than double, growing from 367.6 million units in 2012 to 762.7 million by 2017.
The growth is being driven by a sea change in PC computing, as tablet PCs continually replace your standard notebook form factors, and touch gets built in to more and more laptop devices. Almost every manufacturer now has at least one touch-capable model, which is actually required for Windows 8 certification, and which helps explain ambitious devices like the Asus Aspire R7.
In the near-term, NPD DisplaySearch expects tablet shipments to rise 67 percent year-over-year in 2013, reaching 256.5 million on their own. Notebook shipments are expected to slow in general, down to 183.3 million in 2017, from 203.3 million in 2013. NPD predicts growth for certain categories, including touch-enabled devices, and even projects that devices like the MacBook Air and Ultrabooks will adopt touch in the coming years.
NPD doesn’t see Windows 8 actually driving touch adoption, despite the requirement by Microsoft for certification. That’s probably because of reportedly lackluster sales performance by Microsoft’s latest OS so far, but still the category will grow as OEMs look to invest more in hybrid devices, sliders and tablet-style form factors that could potentially resonate better with where consumers seem to be spending their computing dollars these days.
Despite the generally rosy outlook NPD DisplaySearch paints, the fact remains that now, Apple is the company that stands to gain the most from an upsurge in tablet popularity. It sold around 19.5 million iPads during Q2 2013, representing 65 percent year over year growth, and so far no one has been able to come close to that. Others are slowly making inroads, however, including Asus, which reported its Q1 2013 earnings today, including 3 million tablet sales that offset notebook and PC component losses to the tune of $202 million in profit.
Another sign of the swift rise of tablets today: last month tablet usage of the BBC’s on-demand online TV service iPlayer edged past mobile for the first time, with 41 million programme requests by tablet vs. 40 million on mobile, according to BBC stats for the month. There were 200,000 more requests on tablets than mobiles. Overall, across all device types, the service saw 272 million full length programme requests in March in the U.K.
As a percentage of the overall requests by device type, tablets and mobiles took a 15% of the March pie. Judging by the below graph, the two devices have clearly been eating into the share of the main iPlayer access device: the traditional computer. The stats show mobiles and tablets have driven down the usage on computers from 59% in March 2012 to 47% in March 2013. Over the same period, tablets have grown their share from 6% to 15%, and mobiles from 9% to 15%.
This finding aligns with wider industry analysis that PC shipments are declining as people buy and use alternative smart connected devices, such as tablets and smartphones. Gartner predicts almost 200 million tablets will ship globally this year, powered by YoY growth of nearly 70% (IDC pegs the rate at 78.4%). While PC shipments are predicted to decline 7.3% this year. In another related data point to the BBC’s figures, last month, Adobe’s latest Digital Index recorded the proportion of web traffic coming from tablets also pushed past smartphones for the first time.
The BBC’s on-demand TV service, which lets viewers catch up on scheduled programmes after they have been broadcast, is exactly the sort of app you’d expect to thrive on the tablet form factor — which is both portable and has a screen that is large enough to view high production value video content without compromising the overall viewing experience. And the BBC’s iPlayer data bears this out: with considerably higher tablet usage for TV programmes vs radio content.
Looking specifically at TV content, the BBC said tablets took a 19% share of iPlayer programme requests in March compared to 17% for mobile. But its radio only data shows tablets dropping right down to 4% while mobile took 10%. Computers swelled their share to 68% of the radio data — suggesting people who are using their computer to multitask use iPlayer to stream radio in the background while they browse the web or work.
The BBC’s iPlayer data also flags up another interesting difference between how people consumer TV and radio content online — with the majority (88% in March) of TV requests being on-demand (i.e. catch up) requests, rather than live TV viewing. But for radio the proportion is almost reversed, with 83% of the radio requests being for live listening.
The BBC licence fee may explain a portion of this behaviour, since iPlayer users are required to be licence-fee paying to view live TV (but do not need to for radio). But it also suggests continued decline in live TV viewing among the iPlayer demographic (which skews younger than traditional TV viewers, with 76% of iPlayer users aged under 55 as of Q4 2012). The proportion of live TV viewing on iPlayer did increase in August (to 32%), possibly owing to the Olympics.
During its Q3 2013 earnings call today, Microsoft’s outgoing CFO Peter Klein noted that the company plans to bring Windows 8 to smaller devices. Until now, Windows 8 was mostly geared toward desktops and larger tablets, including Microsoft’s own Surface and RT machines.
With the forthcoming Windows 8 Blue, rumor had it that Microsoft would enable its OEMs to run Windows 8 on smaller devices, too. Klein confirmed this on today’s call, though he mostly talked about OEMs and did not mention whether Microsoft also plans to launch a smaller Surface tablet, though that’s probably a fair bet, too. Currently, there are no sub-10-inch Windows 8 tablets on the market, but according to Klein, we will hear more about these in the coming months.
During the Q&A phase, Klein also noted that Microsoft is working on “expanding and improving the experience, not just for Surface, but for Windows 8 devices at multiple price points, including lower price points going forward.” Earlier this week, Intel’s outgoing CEO Paul Otellini also noted that his company wants to ensure that OEMs can build Windows 8 machines for under $200 soon.
In addition, Klein also acknowledged that the transition to Windows 8 isn’t easy, but the company remains “excited about the opportunities ahead of [it].” According to Klein, Windows 8 has prepared Microsoft well for the transition from desktops to touch devices. “We still have a lot of work ahead of us, but we feel comfortable about where we are going.”
He also expects to see more – and more attractive – Windows 8 touch-enabled devices to come on the market in the near future, too, and he thinks these will become more attractive.
Gartner has published its latest report with smart devices projections for smartphones, tablets, ultramobiles and PCs from 2012 to 2017, and it’s as clear picture as you can get of how mobile rules today and will continue to dominate the device landscape tomorrow. Echoing results from IDC’s global device forecast last month, Gartner’s numbers make more grim reading for Microsoft — the company with the most to lose as the old empire of the PC continues its slow decline, trumped by the price, simplicity and convenience of Android and iOS-powered mobile computing devices.
Gartner is projecting a 7.3% decline in the traditional desktop and laptop computer category this year, although ultramobile devices (portables running a full desktop OS such as Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet, pictured above) are expected to offset the decline slightly — so the collective drop for these two categories is projected to be 3.5%.
But the real engine of growth is of course tablets, with worldwide shipments forecast to total 197 million units in 2013: a 69.8% increase on 2012 shipments of 116 million units. By 2017, Gartner expects tablets to be outshipping desktop computers and ultramobiles combined, although it does not make a specific prediction for the tipping point year for tablets. (IDC said last month that it expects tablet shipments to outstrip PCs this year, and portable PCs next year.)
Over its forecast period Gartner also projects steady growth for smartphones. Overall, the total smart devices market is projected to grow 9% this year, to reach 2.4 billion units.
“You need to own consumers in terms of mobile and tablet in order to remain relevant in this market,” said Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi. Gone are the days when Windows is the “default” option for the majority of consumers, thanks to alternatives being too technical (Linux) or too expensive (Macs), she said. “Consumers have options and consumers are choosing and Microsoft can not take that for granted that they’ll be the one to be chosen.”
On the breakdown of OSes, Microsoft’s loss and Google’s and Apple’s gain is clear: Android consolidates its dominance this year, pulling further away from Windows, while iOS/MacOS narrows the gap with its old computing foe. By 2017 Gartner projects a huge lead for Android, with approaching 1.5 billion device shipments (powered by Android’s dominance in the smartphone space). And while Windows (in both its desktop and phone flavours) is still forecast to be ranked second, iOS/MacOS is not far behind, with 570.9 million vs 504.1 million respectively.
“If you look at the OS numbers and you look at Microsoft vs Apple vs Android, you see from a sales perspective, Microsoft is still pretty much relying on their PC core… [and not] expanding their numbers. They’re defending by shifting some of the losses that are coming from the PC onto the tablet and ultramobile but they’re not conquering,” Milanesi told TechCrunch. ”With mobility and with the shift from PCs to tablets and smartphones there are going to be implications that go beyond just the hardware side that will really impact OS and applications like Office for example.”
“The role that Apple is going to play in the computing device — when you’re thinking about computing devices all the way from the smartphone to the PC — is going to be much bigger,” she added.
The low price of tablets is a key factor driving their adoption, says Milanesi, but it’s not just price that’s powering the category. Smartphones are acting as halo devices to drive tablet adoption, thanks to users’ existing investments in apps and familiarity with the lighter weight OSes. Touch interfaces and cloud computing are also playing a role, along with the integration of Wi-Fi. While consumers in emerging markets are coming to computing from the phone, not the desktop PC — making tablets a “more natural upgrade path”, rather than the PC, she said.
“Another misconception is you need a PC in order to be productive and that productivity is measured as far as you need a PC to do Excel work. Well there are an awful lot of people out there who are very productive without ever touching Excel,” added Milanesi. ”The change that touch and tablets are bringing are here. They’re not going to go away. So you better enable that transition so that people can take full advantage of it vs continue to fight it.”
Windows Phone not BlackBerry in 3rd
Gartner’s current forecast for 2017 pegs Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS in third place in the smartphone OS rankings behind Android and iOS — with RIM/BlackBerry languishing far behind. BlackBerry shipments will continue to decline throughout the forecast period, according to Gartner, despite its OS reboot with the QNX-based BlackBerry 10 and the launch of the first BB10 device, the Z10. “RIM is even more limited than Microsoft,” said Milanesi. “They have a limited reach as far as where that OS goes as far as devices… We see consumers are more and more looking for an OS that goes across the board.
“Gone are the days that you have one product can make a company. One product can break a company but one product is no longer enough to make a company. The ecosystem the brand has is becoming much more important from a consumer choice perspective.”
From that perspective, Microsoft is in a stronger position than BlackBerry, having pushed Windows 8 into the touchscreen era with its Windows Phone-style tile-based UI, while BlackBerry’s own tablet effort has had to take a back seat while it rebooted its mobile platform.
“Windows Phone is going to be the third largest OS on the phone side after Android and iOS, not too distant from iOS,” Milanesi predicted, although she also noted that the gap between second and third place is a small one so Microsoft’s mobile OS could push iOS into third place.
She also noted that Gartner’s device projection does not take into account a lower end iPhone, should Apple choose to launch such a product — which could shift the goal-posts again and generate more mass market momentum for the iPhone.
Should Facebook or Amazon make a phone?
Asked whether in the current smart mobile devices market it makes sense for Facebook or Amazon to launch their own smartphone, Milanesi gave a qualified “no”.
In the case of Facebook (which is thought to be holding an Android-focused phone-related event today), she said it makes sense for the company to “enable Facebook in the best possible way” on smartphones — ergo it may therefore make sense for it to build a deep software integration that lives on a phone to deliver the desired experience. But she added: “I don’t think from a brand perspective that people will want to get a Facebook phone because of the Facebook brand. But people will want to have a deeper integration of Facebook on their phone.
“Facebook want users and they want engagement — and that’s not just coming from a dedicated phone, that come from a much better application and integration of their application in the hardware.”
For Amazon, which has been rumoured to be looking at building a phone, she said the case is slightly different since the focus for the ecommerce giant is not about driving engagement and gathering user data so much as ”selling — selling content, selling merchandise, getting consumers onto their website”.
“I think you do that much more on a tablet than you do on a phone,” she added. “The only way I see a phone making sense is if Amazon continues to fork from Android… where it would make sense to have a phone and a tablet [to sell consumers a connected device ecosystem] — for the same applications and so forth.”
Building a phone is also less straightforward than building a tablet, noted Milanesi, since carriers enter the mix and complicate the value chain.
It’s hard to believe that the iPad and the hundreds of tablets that arrived in its wake have been around for only three years. On April 3, 2010, Apple released the original iPad to the public, kicking off a whirlwind of innovation in a space that was previously known only for niche, experimental, and downright odd products. One could still argue that the iPad—and other tablets like it—are meant for a niche audience, but it’s clear that tablets as we know them today have struck a chord with the masses. Apple alone has sold 100 million iPads as of October 2012.
It feels like modern tablets have been around a lot longer, but three years is still nothing to sneeze at. Reflecting upon the last three years of tablet mania, the Ars staff and contributors began to share stories about how our iPads or other tablets have changed how we interact with our devices and the Internet. Most of us were heavy tablet skeptics when the iPad was first announced, and some of us still are. So in honor of the three-year anniversary of the iPad, we decided to share some of our experiences with you on how our lives have changed—or how they haven’t, depending the case.
Tablets have earned a place in our lives
Nate Anderson, Deputy Editor: