Not all tablets are created equally.
Often, this doesn’t really matter. I mean, the consumer knows what they want (presumably) and has a price they want to pay, and they buy something. However, it’s necessary for those of us trying to understand what’s happening to get a little more in-depth. To categorize tablets so we can gain insight into “what the number mean”. It’s not about market share, it’s not even about profit share. Not for people who are trying to analyze the industry rather than the financial markets.
Ben Bajarin, who perhaps gets me thinking more than is good for anyone, has been thinking out loud on twitter on how to categorize tablets. I had this thought-flow that I’ll try to keep brief.
It’s clear an iPad is a tablet that is impacting PC sales.
It’s clear that a Kindle e-book reader (not Kindle Fire) is not. I don’t know enough about the Kindle Fire personally, but let’s say that the Kindle Fire is only good at media (books, videos, audio) playing. With that assumption, let’s say the Kindle Fire has no impact on PC sales.
There’s an element of “computing device” vs “entertainment” device. Actually, I don’t necessarily like the word “entertainment” but it will do for now.
Personally, I don’t like to read on my Kindle (eReader). I like to take advantage of the digital format by highlighting and commenting on what I’m reading. It’s really hard to do on a Kindle, very easy to do on an iPad. However, an eReader does have the ability to notate, highlight, and share elements of reading (and video/audio). It’s a modern experience of an old skill (reading, watching, listening). It’s not just replacing the book, it’s replacing the book and adding limited computing to change the experience. In the case of reading/watching/listening, the limiting computing added is trivial in terms of computing requirements needed in the device.
What about sketching?
What if someone bought an iPad only to sketch?
One could argue that sketching requires PC-level performance. But, it’s not something you’d do on a PC.
If you’re an artist, you might purchase an iPad simply for sketching the same way you’d buy a Kindle Fire if you were primarily going to use media. In both cases, you might do some minor email, or browsing (things I know you can do well enough on a Kindle Fire). But… if you’re buying the iPad as a sketch pad it’s like buying a Fire as a TV.
That makes it hard to count. I think I’ve been trying to figure out if this matters when trying to understand the impact tablets are having on PC’s.
Now, people who might otherwise not use a PC who use the Kindle Fire are not going to expand their “computing use cases” and start using the device for more PC-like things, so it’s OK not to count this as a PC replacement. However, someone who buys an iPad as a sketchpad might (I’d think they would, but that’s my opinion not a data-based observation). So, maybe it doesn’t matter how it’s used, it’s the class of device that matters. If it can “be a PC” it should count as a “PC”.
The thing is, even that classification is hard. Hard because people are buying iPads because they’re cool and using them like “dumb media tablets”. This is the equivalent of buying an iPad instead of a Kindle eReader and only using it to read.
How do you determine the ratio of iPads purchased as PC replacements vs those used like LeBron is using them? (in the category of PC replacements, not actually someone saying — ‘I need a PC, but am going to buy an iPad instead’).
It’s one thing to use an iPad “dumbed down” like LeBron, it’s another to “extend computing” by doing something only a PC-replacment-class iPad can do (like sketching).
I’m not sure this makes sense, but I think it’s going to be unfair to just say “iPads are PC replacements” and cheaper Android tablets are not as a way to gain insight into what’s happening in the personal computing space. There has to be a way to simplify and categorize it though.