Surfing with Tablets: Catching the Wave of Adoption

Everyone sees tablets as small cheap computers exquisitely mobile. Everyone sees some problems with adoption of tablets:

  • very short product cycles,
  • many choices, and
  • different capabilities compared to desktop/notebook PCs.

People can dodge the issues and avoid tablets, missing out on their obvious advantages. People can paddle faster and catch the wave: pick a model and implement solutions rapidly before it becomes “obsolete”. After all, if some new feature comes along in the next few months, you lose nothing by sticking with the choice you made a few months ago and by enjoying the benefits you saw for years. The units will not become heavier, use more power, slow down or become less secure.

This puts the same pressures Google, the OEMs and retailers feel onto the buyers and end-users but it allows the world of IT to change rapidly working for people rather than some puppet-masters like Wintel. Using an inexpensive/open architecture like ARM/FLOSS, once the device is purchased the people who bought the devices get the benefits as long as they keep the device. Rather than worry about whether or not such units can be bought next year for additions or replacement, buyers can stock up. They are small and cheap. It makes sense. Rather than worry about whether particular software will be available, make your own. In these days of software built on rapid development platforms and write-once-run-everywhere languages like Java, folks can dash off a new app or modify an old one in a few days.

Gone are the days of planning for future IT years in advance. We can have the future now and make things happen. The whole world has gone crazy for smart phones and hundreds of thousands of apps became available in a year or so. The same is happening for tablets. Java is a global popular rapid development language and programmers are numerous. Whatever app is needed can be created in short order, in some cases faster than a purchasing department can act. There are databases and search engines for many popular apps. This makes a mockery of the old adage that people will not change platforms because applications do not exist. On top of that people are using more web applications than ever before. There is just no barrier to adoption of the new technology, if we move quickly enough.

Bill Drummy wrote about this with respect to the pharmaceutical industry a few days ago. see Pragmatism vs. Possibility: the false pharma fight over the iPad

“Already half of the top 20 pharma companies have bought into the tablet platform. And the mandate is coming all the way from the top: In a memo to employees, Novartis CEO Joe Jiminez said, “It’s clear that we need to move quickly to incorporate this kind of cutting-edge technology into the way we work.””

It’s not just about the iPad, either. The differences from one variety of tablet to another are large and small. Prices range from just over $100 to about $700. Almost anyone could find advantage from adopting any of them in comparison to the usual notebook. OEMs are sprinting to produce models that distinguish their products from their competition. They are all succeeding and very few are failing. The world just wants small cheap computers. In this competitive market everyone can thrive and the buyer gets what he wants for a good price.

We have not seen this kind of market with the microprocessor-based PC since IBM standardized on DOS/Intel. While IBM forced multiple sources of CPU as a concession from Intel they granted M$ a monopoly on the OS and that has persisted until the last couple of years. Now we have more models than ever from Intel, Via, AMD, and a panoply of ARM-cored processors and multiple OS for the x86/amd64 and ARM-based CPUs. Every OS has many thousands of applications and rapid software development systems. There were only occasional cracks in Wintel until 2010 but in 2011 the floodgates are open and to fish in fast waters takes daring and speed. Those who do not paddle fast will be left behind.

I am almost certain that Intel will diversify its hardware rapidly enough to survive this transition in the long run. After all, they eventually will reduce power consumption of x86 to the point that it doesn’t matter within a few years. If x86 use 0.1 W and ARM uses 0.02W, will anyone care? They will continue to do well on servers and non-mobile clients indefinitely but servers will become more powerful while clients become less powerful.

M$, on the other hand, is planning to take years to make the transition, a period in which the wave will have passed and the new technology will no longer be rapidly adopted but will be mainstream/widespread. At that point, M$ will have to compete on price/performance and $100 price-tags for licences will be history for the OS commodity. The prices of the new gadgets will fall so fast that there will be no place to hide $100. That’s what small cheap computers do. Everything becomes a commodity. It’s all about price/performance, not exclusivity or marketing. No amount of salesmanship will make up volume for comparable products with a huge gap in price.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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