Tablet Manufacturers are Missing the Point

The iPad is a shining example of how a tablet computer should be designed.  Trying to build a tablet that runs desktop apps is missing the point.  Desktop apps were designed for the Windows paradigm, one that includes keyboard and mouse inputs as essential.  You cannot translate those properly to a tablet by simply trying to map touch input to keyboard/mouse input.  It is kludgy and overly complicated for mass consumers.  Tablets need to be built with a touchscreen-specific operating system, such as iPhone OS or Android, and all apps should also be designed specifically for a touchscreen input, not a keyboard/mouse input.

HP has their slate tablet coming out soon, but it’s running Windows 7, not Android.  That means that users have to deal with a file management system, drivers and spyware.  It isn’t much of a benefit to be able to run your existing Windows software when that software was designed for a keyboard/mouse input system.  If you want a portable device to run Windows, then a netbook will be much easier and faster to use for the most part.  If you watch the promo video, you’ll see HP showing off the tablet-centric software that comes with it for photos, videos, music and Skype.  Those apps made for the tablet paradigm are what it’s all about.  But Windows 7 doesn’t have thousands of apps designed for tablet devices like iPhone and Android OSes.  HP is advertising those apps as the reason to get the slate, but supporters say that their ‘advantage’ over the iPad is running the non-tablet Windows software.  Since the experience of that software is crippled, that isn’t much of an advantage.  For tablet computers, it comes down to the interface and the apps that run on the platform.  Right now, Apple’s App Store has a huge head start here.

Competitive Factors for Tablet Devices
Importance of Tablet Competitive Factors

Apple and Android are the only two true players in this space at this point, as they are the only 2 tablet OSes with enough developers behind them and are were built as tablet OSes from the start, not ported over from Windows to try to fit into the tablet paradigm.  The longer that other companies don’t get this, the further behind they will fall.  At this point, the best bet for a non-Apple tablet manufacturer is to use the Android OS in their system.  However, the problem with that is where is the differentiator?  If HP, Sony, Compaq, Dell, and others all create an Android tablet, then there isn’t much to compete on besides battery life, price and design, as they are all the same where it matters: the OS and the app store.  But can an HP or even a Sony really create their own tablet OS and app store at this point?  Do they still have time to catch up?  It would seem the biggest advantage to be gained against Apple is to use Apple’s closed system against it.  That means creating an open system, which has its own problems and will have to compete against Android which every other manufacturer will be using.  How does Sony, for instance, build a large enough user base of their theoretical tablets to get developers to spend resources building apps for their platform?  Perhaps running Android OS and differentiating with great exclusive apps, form factor and battery life is how Sony or HP can gain decent market share.

As for Windows 7, I haven’t seen a good argument for why an OEM should take on the extra cost to use Windows 7 instead of Android OS.  And unless Microsoft can get Windows 7-enabled tablets and smartphones into many millions of users’ hands, then developers don’t have much incentive to develop tablet apps for the platform.  They may port apps from Android if it’s easy enough, but that doesn’t give the Windows 7 app store an advantage over the Android app store.  For tablet and touchscreen devices, the single most important thing is the quality and breadth of the apps designed for the devices.  And for mainstream consumer adoption, ease of use and minimal required maintenance of the OS is very important as well, especially without a keyboard.  That’s why trying to port a desktop OS to tablets/smartphones isn’t the ideal path, but seems necessary to support standard desktop software, which again I argue is not important enough to support to force users to deal with the associated headaches and lack of tablet apps.

Bottom Line: What really matters in the end is how a tablet competes in the high importance factors in the graphic above.  Excelling at the lower importance factors doesn’t really matter if your device can’t compete in software, battery and fluidity of input mechanisms.  This is true of websites as well.  Instead of focusing on the low value features and functionality, websites should focus on excelling in the factors that truly matter to the users.  The fringe factors just don’t matter as much as many people think they do.

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2 Responses to “Tablet Manufacturers are Missing the Point”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nicholas P. Nicholas P said: Tablet Manufacturers are Missing the Point […]

  2. […] wrote a few weeks ago that tablet manufacturers are missing the point when they use a desktop OS like Windows 7 in order to be compatible with desktop software.  That […]

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