Tablets, a computer category that was made popular by Apple’s iPad has sold lots since the first iPad was released. Other players have equally joined the race. While the growth in the tablet market is stalling, a new player just joined the race: MiPad, made by Xiaomi makers of a customised Android phone that’s unseating Apple’s iPhone in China.

Many people get a tablet, thinking it's going to replace their laptop when they travel or when they’re mobile.

Companies like Logitech create well designed keyboards that can attach to the iPad. I once bought one of these myself, only to discover that I’ll need my laptop to do my writing, picture editing and remotely using the customer service tool I use at work.

I am mostly processing words, uploading and editing photos, downloading content for blog posts on the Web.

For me, it is the convenience of typing at a rapid pace while on the laptop that I am yet to get on the iPad or any other tablet. The virtual keyboard does not give me the same proficiency as the physical keyboard on the traditional laptop. I have owned and used different tablets starting with the iPads - the last being the iPad Air, Nexus 7 2013 edition, Samsung GALAXY Tab and Samsung GALAXY Note 10.1.

In my interaction with people, I have found that many people have expressed dissatisfaction with tablets, despite what the makers and the media made us believe, that the tablets are the laptop killers. Not only have the tablets not killed laptops, the number of tablet sales have stalled.


Tablet Sales Stalled

There are a few reasons given by pundits for the stalling of tablet sales figures. It is on record that Apple has sold over 210 million iPads to date. Many of the people who want tablets most probably have one already. The satisfaction rate with people who have iPad is high.

Anyone having an iPad now is not likely to want an upgrade to the latest one when the old one is still working pretty fine. In addition, Samsung Tablets are taking some of the market that Apple’s iPad are supposed to be gaining. Whichever way we look at it, the growth in the tablet market isn’t as it was two years ago.

In my conversation with people online and offline, I have met people who thought the tablet was a computer they’ll need to carry about and do some of their computing work. Many of these users have either sold off their tablets or left them dormant.

Some have converted their tablets to a gaming device or use it to watch videos.

Like Tomi Ahonen said,

tablet immobilises people.

You can’t use a tablet while you’re on the move. You have to stop in your tracks or find a seat somewhere to be able to comfortably use a tablet.

For those who want to do real work, they’re going to find that it is either not convenient or the app that they’re using on their computer isn’t available on the tablet they’ve chosen. They’ll have to settle for something less convenient to use.

People are abandoning their tablets, being less fulfilled with the purchase; some are rather satisfied with the tablet they have that they’ve probably had the tablet they’re using for several years and since it still works, they do not have any reason to want to change it.

Enter Ultrabooks

Here we are and computers aren’t dead and do not show a sign to be going anywhere. Rather, what we have is the case of tablet sales stalling.

Tablets have eaten into the market shares of laptop computers, no doubt. However, they’re far from killing it.

Netbooks were introduced sometime ago, but they failed to capture the market. The reason: these Netbooks were sub par in specs.

They are simply suitable for surfing the internet and not much can be done on them.

Dell XPS14 Ultrabook

With the new Ultrabooks in the market now, laptops within the size of 11”, 13” 14” and even up to 15” in some cases, we have laptop makers like Apple, Lenovo, Samsung, Dell, Acer and some other OEMs that are making these devices that have impressive specs.

Some of these Ultrabooks have core i5 and i7 processors.

In conferences these days, I do not see people using primarily iPads as they once did in the earlier days. People are traveling and lugging around Ultrabooks - MacBook Air, Lenovo Yoga, Samsung Ultrabook etc.

A very small bag like the one I carry my 13” MacBook Pro in can accomodate those Ultrabooks comfortably, plus the Ultrabooks are super thin and light. My 13” MacBook Pro is far from being light. It isn’t a laptop I’d love to be lugging around every day. I sometimes leave it in the office.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

What Microsoft is attempting to do with the new Surface Pro 3 is what I would have expected Apple to do.

Microsoft has just launched the Surface Pro 3 to the public. The earlier editions of Surface were never capable of being a laptop replacement. They came this close to doing that, but no.

A device that doesn’t allow one to run apps and services that one runs comfortably on the laptop can’t replace the laptop. Imagine being away from your computer for a week and you have to do some work where you are, but you’re left with a device that can not run some of the apps you run on your laptop computer. That’s going to be a bummer. No one would travel for work and go with only the iPad and be able to work optimally as he would on the laptop.

The Ultrabooks have filled this role as the business person’s travellers companion. They’re light, run full Windows apps and services and can be easy to lug around the world.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

The Surface Pro 3, the new iteration of Microsoft’s Surface, has the potential to fully run Windows apps and services and run them efficiently.

The Surface Pro 2 can run full Windows 8 apps and services too, but it is with the Surface Pro 3 that the Surface has finally matured.

The Future

I see a future where other players join Microsoft to create hybrid computers.

Businesses that are heavily invested into the Microsoft environment are going to buy the Surface Pro 3 for their business executives that travel a lot, as this won’t slow down their productivity.

If large companies buy the Surface Pro in the numbers, then Microsoft will begin to win. But time will tell.

A device doesn’t just sell because it is excellent and it is a great fit for the market. There’s marketing and there’s the changing needs and desires of consumers - here today and gone tomorrow.

Dell, Lenovo, Samsung and the other OEMs might be threatened by what Microsoft is doing with the Surface. They either leave the hybrid tablet computing business for Microsoft or they latch on and start taking a share of the market.

As for Apple, the market for tablets as we know them today has tipped, this segment of the market that the Surface is being positioned to serve has Microsoft as the only strong contender. Let’s see if Apple will make any move wit the new iteration of the MacBook Air, its own Ultrabook to play in this segment.

I have tried the Samsung GALAXY Note 12.1 Pro by Samsung and I’m not very impressed. While it is a functional device, I do not think it can work as a laptop replacement for me while working from a remote location. I am finding it hard to decide which segment of the market it is meant for.

Tech bloggers and writers who have first hand experience with the Surface Pro 3 have mixed reviews pouring in. While some think the type cover doesn’t do the work of the laptop’s keyboard, others say it is sufficient and works better than the type cover on the earlier Surface.

Tech reviewers and geeks are not the right group to use as a pointer to how a product will do in the market. Let’s see what the average consumers will say a few months in.

Cover Image Credit: Magnus D

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