Time for tablet makers to go all-in with smaller tablets

Time for tablet makers to go all-in with smaller tablets

Summary: The Kindle Fire and the Nexus 7 prove there is a decent market for smaller tablets. The same cannot be said for larger tablets without an Apple logo.

TOPICS: Tablets, Amazon, Apple, Google
Nexus 200 bucks

OEMs have been struggling to compete with the Apple iPad since it was first released two generations ago. By any standard it is safe to say that the iPad owns the large (~10-inch) tablet market globally. There have been dozens of competing tablets appear but none have garnered sufficient sales (or avoided litigation) to be a threat to the iPad.

The small (7-inch) tablet market is another beast entirely with several worthwhile competitors released that are grabbing decent sales. The Nexus 7 from Google is the latest in a group that includes the successful Kindle Fire from Amazon.

What the Kindle Fire and the Nexus 7 indicate is there are enough buyers out there interested in a small tablet if it is cheap enough. There have been quite a few cheap large tablets that have never made a dent in the market like the two smaller tablets.

See related:

There are three criteria that set the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 apart from other cheap tablets: 1) name brand recognition; 2) price; 3) 7-inch form factor. When all three criteria are met buyers have shown they are willing to open the wallet.

Tablet makers should adjust their business plans in the tablet space and go all-in with the smaller tablet. It will be tough to be profitable while meeting the criteria defined, but that's the game. If profits can't be made playing the game as defined than get out and go home.

These criteria are the main reason I'm not sure making a small iPad is worthwhile for Apple. While it has a better shot making a profit at the critical $200 price point, that would not leave the typical Apple profit margin behind. That's not the way Apple does business, good supply chain or not.

Sometimes a business has to focus on the only way to make a go of it in a particular sector, and that's the way it is in the tablet business. Companies can continue releasing large tablets but they'll keep doing as well as they have done so far. Or they can move to the only non-iPad tablet market that has been proven by sales and jump on the small tablet train.

Topics: Tablets, Amazon, Apple, Google

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  • The market is decent, but not big enough yet

    Amazon's Kindle Fire, which was considered first big-time competitor to iPad, only grabbed 4% of market lately. Google's Nexus 7 might take few percentages, too. But it will not make huge change -- yet.
    • I think the Nexus will do better

      It's a better tablet that will be appealing to more technical such as you find around here. Might not happen right away but do expect it to take a larger share of the market.
    • The market is decent, but not big enough yet

      Apple at one point only had a 5% share of the computer market and they were in the tank as far as their stock was concerned. Then Steve Jobs stepped in. If either company wants to get a greater share, they need a Steve Jobs. I think people buy the products based on how human and available a representative of the company, is
  • I prefer 10 inch

    I prefer the 10 inch tablet, and have no interest in the 7 inch tablets. As much as I love my Galaxy Tab 10.1, it's not always as responsive as it should be, nor as smooth; until that happens, I don't see Android gaining much. However, I'm going to a Windows RT tablet as soon as they are for sale - hopefully, my favorite apps (like Zinio) won't be too far behind.
    • You can try JB CM10 custom rom now

      It's on XDA now. It literally breathe new life of last year's Galaxy Tab 10.1 and I dare to say that it's every bit as smooth as iPad (if not more).

      Yes, you'll loss the cameras since Samsung hasn't release camera driver source yet.
      But it definitely worth it.

      I wonder why James Kendrick hasn't on it yet. He tried the Custom ICS on GTab 10.1 afterall.
    • Prefer 7"

      Have you tried both? After using 7" for a while, I much prefer the mobility and handling while reading. A 10" is just too big to lug around and hold after using 7. Have both iPad and Nexus7. The Nexus is definitely the IT tab right now. iPad 10 feels like a giant Fisher Price toy.
      Jorge Mendez
      • Yep. The 7" tablet is great for reading

        books. Which is what Amazon understands. Which is why the Kindle did fairly well.
        • That's a funny argument

          People still use their 3.5" screen to play plenty of games, do photo editing, web-browsing, etc.

          I guess it's only worth noting a smaller screen size when it's helping your bias opinion.
  • I much prefer larger tablets

    As an early adopter of tablets, I now want a larger screen and even larger than 10.1; something around 12 to 14 would be about right. This is especially true for reading content as magazines and newspapers which are cramped on the ten inch.
    Greg Ottersbach
    • I second this.

      My iPad is too small, not too big. With these aging eyes, I can't imagine surfing on a 7" tablet with half the real estate of a 10" - it'd be like reading through a keyhole.

      True, lighter would be better - but I'd really prefer a screen about the size of an 8.5 x 11" sheet of paper.
      • I prefer 10" tablet as well

        Sure it's slightly heavier but I have absolutely no problem hold my iPad, it's not like it weighs much. If I am going to use a tablet why not have the screen real estate. One of the biggest arguments for the 7" tablets is portability. For me a 7" tablet is no more portable than a 10" tablet. Sure, a 7" tablet might fit in a coat pocket while a 10" won't but the fact that I wear a coat or jacket no more than 10 days out of the year makes that completely irrelevant to me.
  • 7" provide too much overlap and not enough added value.

    The biggest reason why I would never get a 7" tablet is overlap. For myself and others who already have a smartphone, we already have the functionality of a small tablet. And the newest smartphones have very large screens, some approaching 5". A 7" tablet only gives you a small improvement of additional screen size with the same basic functionality. A full size tablet however allows you to do things that you simply can't do well on your smartphone. That is real added value.

    On the other hand, if you don't have a smartphone at all and plan on never getting one then a 7" tablet may be an economical entry into the tablet market.
  • There is money for Google and Asus to make with the 7" form factor

    As many have realized, you can toss around a $200 device rather than the relatively cumbersome 10" form factor of the larger tablets. People reading of smart phone screens are going to find the 7" form factor welcome as the compromises they need to make in portability is relatively small compared to larger devices.

    But, Asus and Nvidia will learn to bring costs down as they work to optimize the manufacturing process to reduce the cost of making a tablet. These take a lot of time and savings are not realized until they have an incentive to make a lot more money when they see how successful the product is instead of waiting for Google to pad their incomes.

    I just wish somebody would take a switch to Google to teach them a lesson in "Customer Support 101". They are throwing away a great chance at carving out a place as a major player in a dynamic market.
    • Wishful thinking

      I would like my car to consume as little as 0.1 liters petrol every 100 km, but that's so far unrealistic. Not that it is technically not possible, it's just that such a car is more expensive than the savings it brings -- by a wide margin.

      There is no way for those "me too" tablets to become any cheaper to manufacture. They are made in relatively small quantities and each of them is way, way different than others. Even car manufacturers understand this and today most cars share a lot of components (starting with the light bulbs). In contrast, all tablets are unique "just because you can". The joys of cheap manufacturing....

      Tablets might become one day commodity items, like today a sheet of paper is, but.. until that day comes, whoever has the courage, like Apple to limit the number of models, sizes etc will rule.
  • It might be worth it for apple just to cut off

    the oxygen to google/Samsung on the android tablet front. They would still have zero impact on fire/nook though. Regardless it's pretty dumb to buy a nexus 7 or an iPad now with W8 tablets coming so soon and being such a much better experience.
    Johnny Vegas
    • Please excuse me whilst I throw up

      Johnny Vegas wrote:
      "it's pretty dumb to buy a nexus 7 or an iPad now with W8 tablets coming so soon

      Is October, 2012 soon? I can just imagine how Windows RT users will take to the Office 2013 preview that will ship with the tablet. Here's an Ars review of Microsoft's Office 13's touch support:


      The verdict: it's not nearly ready for prime time on tablets.

      Back on topic. Are you suggesting that Microsoft will enter the 7-inch tablet market with Windows RT?
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Chained In Experience

        Must say, what puts me off a Nexus 7 is pretty much the same as one reason why I never bought an iPad.

        1. With Google/Android I just feel that as I use different elements of their stuff, I'm just a punter, rather than a customer. You go their way, or you get out. The whole feeling is of becoming more and more subsidiary to the 'Google Experiencec".

        2. My current 'computing device' is an old iBook laptop. When I bought a second hand iPhone and synched it to the laptop, I began to feel that "being locked in the Apple tentacle.." thing. Just like Android/Google.

        3. With the iPad, I just viewed it as a consumer device. Not something I would wish to do real work on, and in addition, I just thought that it was too big and clunky to lug around.
        • Most say?

          That's pretty funny. Based on sales most say ring up that iPad or Android device please.
    • Windows RT tablets are mythelogical

      That is to say that they only exist as a concept. No one (not even Microsoft) has committed to a ship date or a price. Word on the street is that Windows RT is no where near stable enough to ship on a actual tablet. Let's try to stick to discussing things that are actually being manufactured.
    • Better Experience?

      In case you couldn't figure this out on your own, better is very subjective. While we all know that it doesn't matter what it is MS will always produce a better experience in your mind because you are not open to other options. The rest of us like to decide for ourselves and based on what is currently available MS isn't even in the game. Come Oct things could change but just because it's from MS doesn't make it worth bothering with let alone the best option.