Category: Tablets

The future of tablets

The future of tablets isn’t what analysts thought a year ago, or even last fall.

The market for PCs continues to decline (but at a slowing rate: IDC, Gartner), yet tablet growth is also slowing forcing many analysts to scale back their forecasts. Smartphone growth is slowing as well.

There is a lot of discussion, mainly from an investor point of view about why: saturation, price points, supplier market share, etc., that are relevant for both business and consumer markets. Recently the focus has been on iPads because of Apple’s earnings call but the trend is not limited to Apple.

Why aren’t tablets taking more share away from PCs?

Given the phenomenal growth of tablets the last few years, their computing power, and the large overlap of general use cases shared with PCs (email, browsing) it did seem that tablets were on track replace PCs in large numbers. But the use case overlap was not large enough to support the forecasts. Tablets are tweeners, fighting for space between the superior communications of smartphones and greater productivity of PCs. Being in the middle is not normally a desirable spot for a product, but tablets excel at information and entertainment consumption and this middle is a pretty big and happy place to be.

What do we use PCs for? For years we have been using PCs for some combination of productivity, information / entertainment consumption, and communication. PCs were largely designed and most useful for productivity, whether business or personal, and that’s why we bought them. As PCs evolved and became capable and appealing for information/entertainment consumption and communication we bought more of them. And at some point whatever motivated us to buy a PC, our actual use of them flipped – we now spend a higher percentage of time using our PCs for information / entertainment consumption and communication than we do for productivity. And of course this is the domain of tablets and why they have taken as much of the PC market as they have.

But tablets are simply not as good as PCs for a large number of productivity applications. Until they are this will act as a governor on tablet growth and allow for a shrinking but still large market for PCs.

In The iPad Is a Tease Jean-Louis Gassée points out that:

So far, Apple’s bet has been to keep the iPad simple, rigidly so perhaps, rather than creating a neither-nor product: No longer charmingly simple, but not powerful enough for real productivity tasks. But if the iPad wants to cannibalize more of the PC market, it will have to remove a few walls.

I would say Gassée’s post is from the point of view of a user who would like to replace his PC with an iPad but can’t, that this is a larger cohort than enterprise users or even power users, and that this is the best way to think about the productivity penalty portion of slowing iPad sales.

What would make a significant dent in the iPad’s productivity penalty? Microsoft Office support alone is necessary but not sufficient. A better solution for text entry than accessory keyboards, smooth and rapid app switching, and easy file access would each make a big difference. See below for links to other thoughts.

There is also a maddening and ironic side effect of using iPads for industry applications where they are productivity enhancers. For example, I used to be able to choose between an iPad (mostly research and entertainment) and a laptop (mostly work) for most trips, but a couple of my current projects include working with apps that only run on the iPad. I can’t be productive without having both an iPad and a laptop. Even in the office I often need both within reach. Unfortunately this situation is likely to get worse as more iOS, (and Android!) productivity apps appear.

Watch out for smartphones

Benedict Evans suggested another avenue for inquiry in a tweet:

.@asymco @gassee posit: slow iPad sales are worse news for the PC market: implies phones can take the greater share of PC use cases

— Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans) April 21, 2014

I don’t know Benedict, but I picture him smiling devilishly as he composed that tweet. As well he should have.

The more types of computing devices there are the more complicated figuring out use case fit is going to be.

The future of tablets

The future of tablets seems promising in the near term since neither PCs nor smartphones can match their information and entertainment consumption experience and tablets will get better at aiding productivity. The better they get the more market share they’ll take. And of course we haven’t seen all the new industry apps where the tablet form factor and interface is a net productivity advantage.

On the other hand, the right kind of user interface – perhaps a high resolution holographic interface not dependent on form factors for projection – would free us from our quaint categories of PCs, tablets, smartphones, smartwatches, glasses, and be truly disruptive. Once computing power and user interfaces become independent of physical size all bets are off.

Further reading on iPad growth:

The iPad’s Curse — Ben Bajarin

iPads and Tablet Growth – Benedict Evans

Don’t Give up on the iPad – Ben Thompson

How Apple Could Continue to Own the Enterprise Tablet Market — Tim Bajarin

The Astonishing, Disappointing iPad – MG Siegler

Multi-channel Publishing and Content Reuse

The blog on our sister site, gilbane.com, is the place to tune to for our series of speaker spotlights and general updates about our upcoming conference in Boston. Here, I’ll be highlighting a few conference sessions and why we have decided to include them.

We’re big believers in the potential for learning from colleagues in other industries. There are many shared challenges crossing vertical boundaries not always obvious because of different vocabularies, and often a gem can be found in the variety of solutions, or an idea can be sparked by a slightly different lens on the problem. The publishing industry’s influence on computing and digital experiences goes way back and is especially applicable horizontally – markup languages, style sheets, electronic type – and of course multi-channel publishing. This is why we have usually included a publishing track in our conferences. This session looks at how a couple of publishers have dealt with some thorny multichannel publishing issues.

P2. Multi-channel Publishing and Content Reuse

Tuesday, December, 3: 2:40 p.m. – 3:50 p.m.

In this session two publishing organizations report on projects that involve moving publications and existing content from print to multi-channel digital. Business Insurance, part of Crain Communications, implemented a digital publishing strategy that supports interactive digital content and content reuse across print, Web, iOS, and Android, all based on HTML5. Wolters Kluwer Health now creates textbooks with versions for print, multiple eBook formats, and integration with Learning Management Systems and other advanced learning tools. As part of their multi year initiative they report on a recent project where they implemented round tripping between XML and author-editable Word documents, and discusses the technical and organizational problems they solved.

Moderator:
Tom Brown, VP, Multichannel Solutions, HP

Speakers:
Dave White, Chief Technology Officer, Quark Software Inc.
Case Study: Transforming Print Content into Mobile and Web Apps
Ken Golkin, Technical Project Manager, Wolters Kluwer Health
and
Niels Nielsen, Managing Director, Avalon Consulting, LLC
Long Cycle Reuse in Textbook Publishing: Cracking the XML–>Word–>XML Round Trip Nut

 

Mobile development strategy – platform decision update

Last April I suggested that evolving mobile platform market changes meant organizations needed to re-visit their mobile development strategy and said

“What has changed? To over simplify: Apple’s dominance continues to increase and is unassailable in tablets; RIM is not a contender; Microsoft is looking like an up-and-comer; and most surprising to many, Android is looking iffy and is a flop in tablets with the exception of the very Amazon-ized version in the Kindle Fire.”

Not surprisingly, things have changed again. Two major changes are that Samsung is now a major player, and Google has finally made progress in tablets with the Nexus 7 and the much improved Android “Jelly Bean” release. Amazon’s second Fire is also more robust. There are now real choices in tablets – personally I have an iPad, a Fire HD, and a Nexus 7, and I use all three of them, and for many purposes I just grab the closest. But businesses making a significant investment in a platform for development need to carefully evaluate its stability and staying power.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the debate among analysts over what the iOS and Android market share numbers mean – specifically, whether the larger and accelerating Android market share numbers threaten Apple’s dominance. At first glance it is natural to think that dominant market share signifies a safer bet, and indeed many analysts make this point. But it’s not so simple. Last year there was evidence that even though Android devices had a market share advantage, Apple devices accounted for much more total online activity – were used more – and it is probably safe to say that use is a requirement of product success.

More importantly, if you look at profit share, Apple continues to dominate. So the opposing view is that Apple may be the safer bet since for most values of company/product health, profit trumps revenue.

In “The Mobile Train Has Left The Windows 8 Platform Behind“, John Kirk, who doesn’t mince words, has no patience for the view that Android’s market share means it will squash Apple:

“According to Canaccord Genuity, Apple took in 69% of the handset (all mobile phones, not just smartphones) profits in 2012. Samsung took in 34%, HTC accounted for 1%…

No one not named Apple or Samsung is making any meaningful profits from the handset sector…

Many industry observers have the handset market all wrong. They opine that Andoid is destroying iOS. What is actually happening is:

  1. With 69% of the profits, iOS is doing just fine. More than fine, actually.
  2. Android destroyed every phone manufacturer not named Apple (BlackBerry, Nokia, Palm, etc.).
  3. Samsung destroyed every Android phone manufacturer not named Samsung (HTC, Motorola, Sony Erricson, etc.).

Pundits like to predict the imminent demise of iOS, but those profit numbers say just the opposite. And even as Android’s market share has increased, iOS’s profit share has increased too. Market share is no guarantor of profits. This should be self-evident. But apparently, it’s not.”

Kirk follows up with more entertaining disdain for the “church of market share” at “Does the Rise of Android’s Market Share Mean the End of Apple’s Profits?“.

In terms of tablet market share,

“According to Canalys, Apple – despite being supply constrained – sold 22.9 million tablets for 49% share, Samsung shipped 7.6 million tablets, Amazon shipped 4.6 million tablets for 18% share, and Google’s Nexus 7 and 10, combined, shipped 2.6 million tablets.”

In conclusion,

“Only Samsung and Apple are competing in phones. Only Amazon, Google, Samsung and Apple are effectively competing in tablets. The mobile “train” has left the station and companies like HP, Lenovo, Dell and Microsoft are standing on the Windows 8 platform, watching it pull away.”

For more on Microsoft see Kirk’s full post.

Mobile platforms are still evolving and the coming proliferation of new device types guarantee that there will be continuous and substantial change made to those that survive. No one responsible for a mobile development strategy should wait almost a year to evaluate their current plan. Fortunately there is no shortage of useful platform data. It just needs to be interpreted critically.

How long does it take to develop a mobile app?

We have covered and written about the issues enterprises need to consider when planning to develop a mobile app, especially on choosing between native apps, mobile web apps (HTML5, etc.), or a hybrid approach that includes elements of each. And have discussed some of the choices / factors that would have an effect on the time required to bring an app to market, but made no attempt to advise or speculate on how long it should take to “develop a mobile app”. This is not a question with a straightforward answer as any software development manager with tell you.

There are many reasons estimating app development time is difficult, but there are also items outside of actual coding that need to be accounted for. For example, a key factor often not considered in measuring app development is the time involved to train or hire for skills. Since most organizations already have experience with standards such as HTML and CSS developing mobile web apps should be, ceteris paribus, less costly and quicker than developing a native app. This is especially true when the app needs to run on multiple devices with different APIs using different programing languages on multiple mobile (and possibly forked) operating systems. But there are often appealing device features that require native code expertise, and even using a mobile development framework which deals with most of this complexity requires learning something new.

App development schedules can also be at the mercy of app store approvals and not-always-predictable operating system updates.

As unlikely as it is to come up with a meaningful answer to the catchy (and borrowed) title of this post, executives need good estimates of the time and effort in developing specific mobile apps. But experience in developing mobile apps is still slim in many organizations and more non-technical managers are now involved in approving and paying for app development. So even limited information on length of effort can provide useful data points.

I found the survey that informed the Visual.ly infographic below via ReadWrite at How Long Does It Take To Build A Native Mobile App? [InfoGraphic]). It involved 100 iOS, Android and HTML5 app developers and was done by market research service AYTM for Kinvey, provider of a cloud backend platform for app developers.

Their finding? Developing an iOS or Android app takes 18 weeks. I didn’t see the survey questions so don’t know whether whether 18 weeks was an average of actual developments, opinions on what it should take, or something else.

Of course there are simple apps that can be created in a few days and some that will take much longer, but in either case the level of effort is almost always underestimated. Even with all the unanswered questions about resources etc., the infographic raises, the 18 week finding may helpfully temper somebody’s overly optimistic expectations.

 
 

Tablets in the Enterprise and BYOD strategies

A couple of observations about tablets in the enterprise:

  • Tablets of all dimensions have a role in enterprise use, as do all types of personal computing devices.
  • BYOD is certainly a challenge for some organizations, but is a reminder of how we should have been managing data all along.

Tablets and other personal computing devices in the enterprise
One reaction to Apple’s iPad mini last week was that it would change the dynamic of Apple’s market for tablets since a 7″ inch tablet is more appropriate for consumers so enterprises would stick to the 10″ versions. The only thing correct about this view is that the tablet market will change. But we don’t know how – use-cases are evolving and there are way too many variables beyond physical size. It seems just as likely that the iPad mini form-factor could grow faster in enterprises than the full size iPad. In any case there are certainly enterprise use cases for a smaller, cheaper iPad, especially since those seem to be the only significant differences, and there is no apparent app development cost or learning curve further easing enterprise adoption.

But the bigger point is that enterprises need to be able to support not only multiple tablet and smartphone form factors but a large subset of an unpredictably large set of personal device types.

This is not a new challenge, it is simply one that is accelerating because of the decreasing costs and increasing ease of device development. “Personal” devices in enterprises are not new – employees have often used their own personal computers especially as they shrunk in cost and to BYOD notebook size. Tablets and phones are the next step, but enterprises will soon be dealing with watches, wearable computing, and implants which is why…

BYOD strategies need to focus on the data not the devices
The BYOD continuum is also largely additive – employees aren’t just replacing devices but often using multiple devices to access and process much of the same data – keeping up with the variety and volume and versions of personal devices is hopeless. A BYOD management strategy that focuses on device management will at best have a negative impact on productivity, will certainly increase costs, and most likely fail. There are environments and applications where data security is critical enough to warrant the overhead of a device management strategy that approaches being fail-proof, but even in these cases the focus should be on the data itself with device control as a backup where it makes sense.

It may not be much easier to manage the data independently but that’s the ball to keep your eye on.

Tablet market evolution and mobile development strategies

It was only about a year ago that the tablet market was only really about general-purpose tablets. There was the dominant iPad, and the fragmented Android market. Ebook readers were a separate animal altogether, although the anticipated release of the first Kindle Fire raised the question of whether it would bridge the general-purpose and ebook market.

In some ways it did, adding enough apps and internet access that it was hard not to sneak in some work email or web research even when your laptop or iPad was purposely left at home for the weekend away with the family. But of course Amazon’s business model was/is different – a subsidized device to increase the sale of content. And Amazon’s use of Android was significantly more customized than other Android tablets.

The folks over at Tech.pinions continue to be a must-read for anyone following/investing in the tablet market. John Kirk in Battle of The Tablet Business Models: Lessons Learned and a Look Ahead, argues that the future of the tablet model will be determined by the business models behind them, and points out some consistencies and lack thereof between the major players, Apple, Amazon, Google, Samsung and Microsoft. He is surely right that too often commentators and analysts have focused on hardware characteristics and software and not paid enough attention to business models. However, product capabilities can either create new business model possibilities or prevent their success so also help determine the landscape. For example, a non-glare, color display with low power requirements that combines the best of an iPad and a Kindle will certainly have a material effect on the market. In any case John’s post contains a number of nuggets.

Another aspect to consider in tablet market evolution is the difference between enterprise and consumer tablet markets. We’ll look at that in another post.

Gilbane Conference workshops

In case you missed it last week while on vacation the Gilbane Conference workshop schedule and descriptions were posted. The half-day workshops tale place at the Intercontinental Boston Waterfront Hotel on Tuesday, November 27, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm:

Save the date and check http://gilbaneboston.com for further information about the main conference schedule & conference program as they become available.

First group of Gilbane sponsors posted for Boston conference

Conference planning is starting to ramp up. See our first group of Gilbane sponsors, and don’t forget the call for papers!

Time to re-check your mobile development strategy

The mobile platform landscape has changed dramatically in the last few months. So much so that organizations who even recently reached decisions on a mobile development strategy should re-visit their decisions. I’m not talking about HTML5 vs app development issues – though those decisions are just as important and directly related because of continued innovation in device and operating system capabilities combined with the need to protect content development and management investments – but about which platforms will be viable, or meet your level of risk tolerance.

What has changed? To over simplify: Apple’s dominance continues to increase and is unassailable in tablets; RIM is not a contender; Microsoft is looking like an up-and-comer; and most surprising to many, Android is looking iffy and is a flop in tablets with the exception of the very Amazon-ized version in the Kindle Fire. These are pretty general statements, but if you are in charge of your company’s mobile development strategy considering their impact is a good place to start a check-up for a possible course correction.

Another place to start is to read the excellent post by Tim Bajarin Why Google Will Use Motorola To Become Vertically Integrated. I won’t summarize because the entire post and the comments are really a must-read.

Gilbane Boston conference now accepting speaking proposals

The call for papers for this year’s conference is now open. See information on the topics and instructions.

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