What makes a tablet? Gartner: the apps

What makes a tablet? Gartner: the apps

Summary: Analyst firm Gartner says an app ecosystem is required to call a device a tablet.


Looking at the tablet segment usually results in seeing two players; iOS and Android. Pretty much all tablets sold currently fall under these two platforms, although with so many making Android tablets you could make an argument that says they shouldn't all be lumped together for analytical purposes. You could also make a case for not including Amazon's Kindle Fire under the Android banner as it is nothing like other Android tablets, with its own separate ecosystem.

Colleague Mary Jo Foley took a look at the latest tablet predictions from Gartner and wonders why tablets running Microsoft's Windows 7 didn't even make the list of tablets sold. The response from the analyst firm is a bit puzzling to me:

“We differentiate media tablets from tablets PC and windows 7 would fall under tablet PCs. We feel that media tablets are a different kind of tablet where not just form factor but the richness of the ecosystem of apps is part of the value proposition to users. Windows 7 was not an OS optimized for tablets.”

Tablet PCs haven't sold in what anyone would consider big numbers in the decade they have been on the market, but the fact companies still make them indicates they are selling some of them. Gartner seems to believe that doesn't matter because there are no apps for them and that Windows 7 is not "optimized for tablets".

That's a very distinct perception, especially considering that Gartner's numbers see Windows 8 tablets hitting the ground running when released later this year. They have "Microsoft tablets", presumably of the Windows 8 variety, selling almost five million units this year. That's a pretty healthy forecast considering Windows 8 won't likely be released until the last quarter of this year.

Windows 8 tablets will include both the Intel and the ARM versions, and apparently Gartner dumps both versions together in its numbers. They will technically run different versions of Windows 8, one relying totally on an app ecosystem as they defined it but the other not. It's going to get confusing trying to figure out what makes a tablet a tablet.

A tablet is pretty simple to me: a computer of any platform that has the ability to be operated as a slate by touch. That would include all Windows 7 Tablet PCs with a possible slate configuration and touch screen. The apps are totally separate from defining the genre in my book.


Topics: Apps, CXO, Hardware, IT Priorities, Laptops, Mobility, Tablets

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  • nobody cares about gartner.

    People at Gartner are i****s, If Windows don't have an ecosystem, then nobody else have one.

    I doubt that anybody has actually counted the number of apps in the windows platform, corporate or consumer versions. It would definitely be in tens of millions.

    There is lot of vested interest about propping up tablet and mobile numbers and some tech sites and agencies and surveys are purely doing propaganda stuff.

    Just an example, I recently read a Nokia Lumia 900 review in Verge authored by Joshua T. He was trying too hard to throw mud at WP7 platform to prop up other platforms. Most of the tech article these days are pure propaganda, and its hard to believe the actual stuff.
    • Gartner gives "Guidance Advice" to followers, not leaders

      What Gartner predicts is for followers and users, not leaders and creators. Yes, lot of big corporations follow their advice, especially in IT. Check out their "Hype Curve" and "Hype Cycle" to see where things are at and when it is the right time to adopt a technology in a corporation. They bring a level of "respect and sanity" to the very high level "decision making process". Not that they are always right (as there are many instances where they are wrong, their prediction about Vista adoption in the enterprise is one such example), but they generally analyze trends, sales, money spent, units sold, blogs, forums, user comments and political/economic scenarios. Their analysis is more or less a "safe bet" for companies to follow most of the time. It is like your stock broker giving you advice. BTW, Windows Tablets does not have an eco system yet. Have to agree on that one.
  • I guess if you are an anylyst....

    you cannot function unless you can categorize EVERYTHING. As for the users, most of the sane ones (fanbois excluded?) could not care less where Gartner wants to stick a device, if that device meets those users' needs.

    Soon we will have a continuum of devices from small smartphones to large "tablets" with and without keyboards and touchscreens. It is going to drive Gartner absolutely crazy.
    • A really big Windows 8 tablet

      Here's a really big, awesome Windows 8 tablet.

      P. Douglas
  • Gartner's lies are better than your lies

    People who dismiss Gartner don't understand how the world works. If I'm the head of the Department of Flying Leaps and I want to make sure I get my share of those 5 million Windows tablets to be sold in the 4th quarter, then I'm going to have to go before the Executive Committee and explain why I want to spend a million dollars to design and test a tablet optimized for Windows 8, plus another six hundred million dollars ("Did you say [i]six hundred million dollars?!?!?![/i]") to buy parts to build 2 million units for sale in the fourth quarter.

    The first questions I'm going to get are, "What makes you think you can sell 2 million of these things? What happened to all the guys who built a million units of Android tablets on spec? Didn't they end up eating them?"

    If you've never actually been in front of an Executive Committee, then don't tell me you'll just say, "But this is [i]Windows[/i]. Millions of people are waiting for Windows tablets!" Johnny Vegas or Loverock Davidson might tell us that on ZDNet, but no one who wants to keep his job is that flippant when six hundred million dollars are on the table.

    That's where Gartner comes in. The Committee knows as well as you do that Gartner numbers are 'precision guesswork,' but at least it's not you pulling the numbers out of your rear. The numbers might be fantasies, but they';re expensive fantasies, so maybe with some luck you'll get to spend your million to design the thing, plus get a hundred million to buy parts to make enough units to find out whether there's a market for these things or not.

    BTW, this is why Gartner is probably wrong about 5 million unit sales in Q4. After either (a) getting burned on Android tablets, or (b) watching others getting burned on Android tablets, the hardware OEMs are going to be skittish about making big build commitments on Windows tablets until they see some sales numbers. There won't be 5 million units built -- by all the OEMs put together -- in time to make that forecast in Q4. If things look good they'll be ready to ramp up for 1Q13, but I don't see anybody betting the farm on this after what happened to RIM and Moto and HP.
    Robert Hahn

      Woo hoo!! I don't have to comment and people are talking about me. I love being popular.
      Loverock Davidson-
    • Really

      So when Jobs went before the "Executive Committee" and told them he wanted to develop the iPod, then the iPhone and finally the iPad, they looked through all of Gartner's reports, could not find those product categories and therefore told Jobs to take a hike?

      How about the Samsung Galaxy Note? Do you think the Samsung "Executive Committee" found that category in a Gartner report and said "Gee, I think we will make a few million of those"?

      Gartner is for followers, not leaders. Maybe you need to revisit your "world"
      • I don't disagree.

        Good comment re: Jobs as well.

        And the trouble with "someone to follow" is this:

        In real life, anyone can fail. If you go by the advice of someone in an authority position, then the authority position should pony up some of the responsibility in the process.

        Except they don't.

        Because they took people and led 'em for a drive.

        Off the cliff, it seems.

        It's hard to be a "free society" when everybody invariably follows someone who talks the prettiest, claims to be the most respected, but then does nothing to back up their claims with - especially if they are wrong.

        What does that say about the quality and veracity of what these authority figures purportedly represent?

        The word "hollow", "hypocritical", and other choice words spring to mind.

        But we're hardly a "free country" if everybody feels more comfortable following everyone else, regardless of reason. And free will on its own tends to be costly, which helps people seek out "authority types" to begin with... psychology is useful; both the authority-wannabes and the authority-needy both use it. Just in different ways.
  • I agree with you. Tablet is a form factor, has been since Moses :-)

    If someone has a W7 tablet that they're happy using count it. Maybe they only run in house corporate apps on it that work great with touch on W7. Media schmedia. It can be a tablet without ever playing a video or song. I would however not count convertible ultrabooks as tablets and that will lower W8 "tablet" share since lots of people will buy great convertibles and see no reason to buy a tablet or buy one less tablet for the family instead. Also I think they're wacked in the head if they think W8 will capture that kind of share in 2012 and then somehow still be under 12% in 2016. The two seem highly implausible to both come true. It would take a giant swing away from tablets and toward ultrabooks for that to happen. All that said I know lots of people not buying tablets waiting for W8 ones. Personally I will probably wait until 2013 for a good post ivy bridge x64 one so I'll be in the post 2012 share growth.
    Johnny Vegas
  • Maybe

    Maybe it's possible but I really see a whole lot of people skipping Windows 7 regardless of if they can get office on the Windows 8 Tablet.

    As for Kindle, you can get pretty much everything that the Fire offers on a regular tablet... Basically, you get the Amazon App Store, Amazon Kindle Reader, Amazon MP3, and Amazon Prime Movies through the browser (yes it works very well)... In short, the Kindle ecosystem is available to all Android Tablets but the Google Play store isn't available to the Fire without rooting.
  • You're right, Win7 tablets are tablets

    ... But it doesn't matter. They sold (and sell) so few of them that it's just noise. It may well be that Gartner categorizes them differently because that's what Microsoft wants them to do; if you see the sales numbers next to what the iPad has done, they look pitiful. Microsoft would rather they be bundled in with PCs, hard to separate from Windows' success elsewhere.

    I agree with Microsoft's position too; tablets are PCs. The iPad is a PC as far as I'm concerned, I certainly use it like one. But Microsoft doesn't want that either; bundle the iPad into the PC market and look at the trend and it starts to look pretty scary if you're Microsoft.

    They have to remain separate at least until Microsoft has something that is not outright embarrassing. The question is, will Win8 tablets actually sell?

    I'll be shocked if they do. Win8 ARM has nothing at all going for it; won't run legacy apps, won't have much in the way of Metro apps, needs more hardware than either Android or especially iOS. I think Win8 tablets live or die by x86, and if that is the case theit will die on the basis of price. Windows x86 tablets are going to need four times the hardware in several dimensions compared to iOS (we know already that it's not a lot smaller than Win7, to put it generously). That means base prices closer to $800 than $500. There will be markets, I'm sure, but more like what Windows has traditionally managed, not iPad size markets or Windows laptop size markets.
  • Apps? Get real.

    If Android had more apps than iOS and if Win had 400k do you think it would make much if any difference?
  • Low spec...

    One of the problems with Windows 7 tablets is a lot of manufacturers went for the "iPad" price point and despeced their tablets, dropping proper CULV processors for the Atom platform, meaning they are underpowered.

    Trying to find a "proper" Windows 7 tablet, as opposed to a touch Netbook, is very hard work.

    We had a usecase for a tablet, the iPad and the Android fleet discounted themselves as they cannot run the full Java stack, but the Windows suppliers didn't do themselves any favours either, their tablets were clunky, slow, poorly designed and constructed and switching between landscape and portrait modes was painful, video playback was poor and the battery life abysmal.