Prices for Android and Windows tablets have been in freefall over the last year or two. These days you can pick up a Windows 8 tablet with an Intel Atom processor for as little as $60.

While that might sound like good news for bargain hunters… it could also be a sign that device makers are having a hard time moving all the tablets they’ve built.

Research from Flurry Analytics that looks at device activations over the recent holiday season seems to bolster that case: the team’s year-end report suggests that tablet sales are down while smartphone sales remain strong and so-called “phablet” or big-ass phone sales are on the rise.

So are tablets doomed?

winbook tw70

Maybe… it’s possible that people are buying fewer tablets, which is leading device makers to offer cheaper and cheaper models in hopes of making their products appealing… and that could lead to lower profit margins which will make tablets less attractive to manufacturers. Rather than continue to offer dirt-cheap hardware, they could decide to pull out of the space altogether.

That’s at least one explanation for the vicious cycle that led to the sort-of-death-of-netbooks a few years ago (although you could argue netbooks never died — they were just hibernating: recent small, low-cost notebooks and 2-in-1 devices like the HP Stream 11, Acer Aspire Switch 10, and Asus EeeBook X205 sure look a lot like modern iterations of the netbook concept).

But there could be something else going on: tablet sales might be slowing down not because nobody wants or uses tablets… but because tablet owners don’t feel the need to upgrade their hardware all that often.

If you bought a tablet a year or two ago and use it to surf the web, watch videos, read eBooks, or play games from time to time, you might be happy enough with the experience to hold onto that tablet for a few years. Meanwhile smartphone users, at least in the United States, are used to upgrading their phones at least once every two years when their service contract is up for renewal. So new smartphone activations remain pretty strong while tablet activations slow down.

flurry

Flurry points out another possible explanation though: In 2013 about 4 percent of new device activations were phablets. That number jumped to 13 percent in 2014, while tablet activations declined.

Instead of using a big-screen tablet for some situations and a small or mid-sized phone for others, Flurry’s figures could be evidence that some users are gravitating toward a single device with a nearly tablet-sized screen and the capabilities of a smartphone.

Apple’s launch of the iPhone 6 Plus with a 5.5 inch screen probably helped spur the growth of this segment. But Samsung, Motorola, and a number of Android smartphone makers also continue to offer phones with big screens.

Clearly there are a number of ways to interpret the latest trends indicated by Flurry’s report. And I doubt tablets are going to disappear overnight. But they could eventually become niche devices like eReader with E Ink displays, especially as some of the features that make tablets special start to find their way into big-screened phones, touchscreen laptops, and other devices.

via Slashdot

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79 replies on “Are tablets heading the way of netbooks?”

  1. we bought a bunch of low cost £50 tablets for a specific project, they are quick and responsive – despite running Windows . I think the market will start to catch up again as more devices hit the ‘tank of fuel ‘ price. You really have to think to pay iPad money, but Windows or Android is affordable by all. Once people realise what you can do with a £50 Windows tablet they will start moving faster.

  2. I believe it’s mostly due to manufacturers oversaturating the market while at the same time consumers don’t believe they need to upgrade a tablet every two years. It’s ridiculous that they tried the same model as phones to begin with. Remember when the Ouya was announced to have a cell-phone like lifecycle with constant updates? Backers were rightly pissed off because it meant they weren’t trying to future proof anything, they were simply expecting people to throw money at them every time a new iteration hit shelves. A cell phone is used daily, all the time, and taken everywhere. This means it incurs much more ‘wear and tear’ and is exposed to many more insatances where it could become damaged. People don’t typically do that with laptops, tablets, game systems, etc. so the two year lifecycle doesn’t make any sense.

  3. I am still using a pocket computer from 2002, it does what I want and is much more portable than any tablet.

  4. I like the cheap windows tablets coming up I’m just waiting for the next-gen with 2gb of ram to drop at the $100 price range, also for Console OS to hit more devices… I like windows for productivity, but IMO Android still rules the roost for smaller screens.
    I notice phone/PC melds are coming closer and closer to mainstream I am hoping to see some phone/pc hybrid devices soon I think M$ could really profit off of Windows Phone if they released x86 phones with HDMI out that gave you full desktop os capabilities (photoshop etc) when hooked up to an HDTV or screen-casted with the phone controlling the apps side of things and a bluetooth keyboard controlling everything else.
    My problem with tablets is that they are kind of a pain to carry vs a phone that you can just stick in your pocket.
    My ideal device would just be a small phone that you put in your pocket but could project a large holographic screen, but unfortunately optics technology isn’t up to the point that it could penetrate the consumer market yet the tech is still too expensive, but it still makes me wonder if tech like that could reduce screen fatigue.

    I can foresee project ARA seriously shaking up the tablet space and making them largely irrelevant with 7″-10″ touchscreens that encase the phone while acting as a screen module.

  5. If Manufacturers don’t invest in some serious innovations for Tablets besides making them Cheap$, then people might loses interest….
    I Use my Galaxy Note 4 as I main device then my Chromebook to lastly my Tablet of when I’m mobile to even when I’m home rarely use my Desktop or Laptop… it does not mean I could not use my Tablet more?, it is by the limitations inherently in my Tablet that my Galaxy Note 4 overtakes as if ever they made a 7-9″ inch Tablet to I can make Phone calls with??….. I would probably not need other devices as much as I do… of course I could list the other things such as Docks to use multiple displays or easy additions of hard drives and keyboard/mouse of the many one might include to what a user might need.

  6. I really don’t think so: most netbooks around me see very light use, as holidays machines, or in a pich. Days, weeks, months go by with no use, though they do sometimes get out.
    On the contrary, most tablets see daily use. I think the main issue is that there’s no reason to replace old tablets yet. 2013″s 1280×800 10-inchers are still perfectly fine for… everything. People are not asking much of them: web+media, social+messaging, light games… Like with PCs, only gamers and prosumers have any reason to upgrade, really. Until they break, or H.265 obsoletes older tablets. CPu speed, RAM, wifi speed, even Android version don’t really matter for those three tasks.

  7. I am still trying to find a tablet that fits my needs. The iPad has the best apps, but the screen is too small for any real extensive document creation. There is rumor of a larger display coming. But, knowing Apple’s pricing policy, it will probably cost $700+. I say that’s too much to spend on something without a keyboard attached.

  8. As far as Windows tablets are concerned, Intel and Microsoft have driven the price down due to offering the Intel Bay Trail chipset below cost and offering WIndows 8.1 free on 9 inch or smaller screens. Intel has already mentioned that the subsidy would be going away shortly.
    The Micro Center pricing did seem like they were trying to clear them out after having a lot of them returned,

  9. Is there such a thing as a touchscreen laptop, with a normal amount of RAM & storage, but the display half is detachable (w/ its own battery of course) while still functioning for two-way purposes, i.e. it accepts input as normal?

    Like a tablet thin client minus the Remote Desktop/VNC overhead– not sure how they’d accomplish this wirelessly but the WiGig protocol was supposed to do this one-way at short ranges (using DisplayLink-style compressed A/V)

  10. I don’t know but if the the past is repeating itself then I hope to see more UMPCs like the OQO sliders, Vaio P, Viliv N5 and many others.

    1. Absolutely. I would love to see a new Sony Vaio P. It doesn’t have to have the ultra wide screen ratio the Vaio had, but i would like a 7 or 8in netbook with modern internals.

      Basically a Venue 8 Pro, but with a hinge and a keyboard. Maybe an M.2 slot in the keyboard 🙂

      1. Hoping to see an 8″ screened clamshell with a built-in mouse. I’ve tried the whole tablet and touch only UI and it’s just not good enough. There’s a reason why even iPad and Android tablet users get keyboard attachments despite the touch optimized interface.

        1. The Vaio P was the ultimate clamshell UMPC. it’s only problem was the early gen Atom chips weren’t up to the job.

          I’m sure the Atom Z3xxx generation could do better.

          1. I actually liked the Viliv N5 better but yeah, modern quad core Bay Trail is over triple the performance of the Z5xx single core ATOMs the Vaio P used and can use a fraction of the battery power to boot… and the upcoming Braswell/Cherry Trail updates should be even more interesting…

          2. The Viliv was cool, but I never got my hands on one. I had a Vaio P11-series. It was definitely a device that was better in theory, than reality. But I think that formula of device is something that would do well today. Now that we have the hardware to support it.

            If they were going to do it again, I would prefer a 16:9 resolution over the 25:12 ratio of the Vaio. There was no practical reason to have an ultra-wide screen on something so small.

          3. You forget the stuff it in your fat jean pants pocket ads ;-p

            But really, the wider design did allow for a bigger keyboard without making the device too wide… QWERTY layout doesn’t really lend itself to be easily scalable…

            Though, they may just opt for a slide out keyboard instead of a folded clam shell design… Provided we even see any Vaio devices anymore now that Sony has sold off that property and it may be a Japan only product from now on…

            While pretty much all the old UMPC companies went out of business… So we’ll have to wait for either a new one or one of the big name companies to produce a UMPC now…

          4. Yeh, I’m not holding my breath over Vaio (the new Vaio brand) reviving the P-series.

            Honestly I would buy one from any brand, if the specs are right. If Asus made one I would be happy.

    2. If only I can get an OQO or Viliv N5 with Bay Trail and other current components. Also, no lame PowerVR graphics. Even the Windows drivers weren’t that great let alone getting it to run on Linux.

  11. I speak for all power users. We need windows and we need it to be powerful. We need full windows with at least 8gb of ram, powerful graphics, and the power of an i7 in our pocketable phablets which can be docked into a laptop-sized frame when we need real productivity. Android? Chrome? OSX? Linux? Give me a break. Us power users need keyboard shortcuts (and memorize them all), and utility programs like launchy, PtrScr, FULL blown photoshop, blender, gimp, instant cloud sync, 100 chrome tabs simultaneously, screen recording software, ALL RUNNING AT THE SAME TIME! For all you windows haters, you have no clue as to how productive you can be and how reliable windows is these days.

    1. 100 chrome tabs ?? Really?…. at work I never have more than 10 on those rare occasions…
      at home it is unlikely for those who Tablets are mostly marketed towards in mostly a Web environment that Apple/Android currently fills the need, if in the future more innovations are to be had then things might change.

        1. apparently many people do!, I use it every day and Bloat depends on the user and what he puts on it, I often see people put extensions and apps on their browser of which they rarely or never use. I have what I need on my Chromebook as is the easiest and least maintenance device in which I have owned, I turn it on and use it!… if you use it for which it was designed then you will never have a problem with it… just as with smartphones for example I have a freind with over 300 apps installed of which most of them are duplicate functions of many? WHY???… as I said I turn it on and use it… What can be better than that?

    2. If you have to open 100 tabs and run all those software that you listed, you wouldn’t be running it on a tablet would you? Also, windows is the shittiest when it comes to power users. It takes one line in the terminal to install software in Linux. 100+ tabs? Do you know who opens 100+ tabs? My grandparents. You, sir, are not a power user.

      1. One line if the software repository (also the ones for dependencies) is already configured on your machine and you know the exact name of the package that you want. Power users use 100 tabs. My grandparents open up to 4 different pages at a time, all in separate browser windows.

        1. But a power user would by definition be the one that does it so much they remember the packages off the top of their head. Even if not, it takes a few more lines to wget a src package and build it.

          No, a power user does not open 100 tabs. That’s ridiculous. Not only do I call that someone not a power user I would give them a big smack in the back of the head for being so stupid unless they are old people. A power user should know the inners of the computer/OS much more than the average person, and should also know that using 100 tabs is a waste of memory. The average user has no idea of this and leave the tabs open so they believe they don’t have to bookmark the page.

    3. Hard to tell if this is parody or not. If it is, bravo! (If not, you speak for a tiny minority of users, and a group no major corporation could make a profit from.)

    4. Maybe in 5-10 years. Of course, at that time you’d probably be asking for 16 core CPUs, 128 GB of RAM, 1 PB SSD, GPUs 10x more powerful than today’s high-end desktop GPUs, etc. all in your watch that can project any size screen and keyboard in mid-air.

  12. I speak for all power users. We need windows and we need it to be powerful. We need full windows with at least 8gb of ram, powerful graphics, and the power of an i7 in our pocketable phablets which can be docked into a laptop-sized frame when we need real productivity. Android? Chrome? OSX? Linux? Give me a break. Us power users need keyboard shortcuts (and memorize them all), and utility programs like launchy, PtrScr, FULL blown photoshop, blender, gimp, instant cloud sync, 100 chrome tabs simultaneously, screen recording software, ALL RUNNING AT THE SAME TIME! For all you windows haters, you have no clue as to how productive you can be and how reliable windows is these days.

  13. What crippled the netbook industry was abysmal versions of windows, not the hardware.

    1. But they were all abysmal. While my XP netbook worked fine with a fresh install, system updates regularly made the machine unusable for 15 minutes or more (I’d use the Nexus 7 until the netbook freed up).

  14. The problem with tablets is we keep getting more of the same. Minor spec bumps, but overall, they look, feel, and function the same. So why upgrade if there’s nothing “new” to get excited about.

    Things that I note and look for when browsing tablets: 1) Quality front facing speakers. Tablets are intended as media and game devices, why do so many manufacturers continue to put speakers on the back? 2) A Stylus. Drawing and note taking are much easier on the larger screen of a tablet, and an included stylus makes these things much easier. 3) Better split screening. This is more an android problem, but several manufacturers have the capability. 4) Better front facing camera (even if we got rid of the rear camera). Aside from iPads, i never see anyone using the rear camera on their tablet. But I see people use the front facing all the time. Put the hardware where people use it. 5) Thinner bezels. 6) Different Materials. Enough with the plain black plastic rectangle. Rubberized, ruggedized, textured, colored, leather, wood, metal, etc – just give me some options!

    I think if they started to look outside the box a little on design, sales would improve.

    My Devices: Moto X (2013), HP Slate 7 Extreme, HP Stream 7, HP Chromebook 14, HP Slate 21 Pro, Hisense Sero 7 Pro

    Devices I want: Droid Turbo, Nvidia Shield Tablet, Samsung Note Pro 12.2, Android TV

  15. Garbage statistics? Most tablets do not “activate” being WiFi-only, unlike… a phone.

    1. uhh, yes they do. All three major divisions, ipad, android and windows all activate your tablet and track model to user credentials.

  16. Tablets are basically useless at least in their Android and iOS incarnations. Phablets and convertibles (laptop/tablet) are the wave of the future.

    It’s absurd to carry a tablet around for mobile web usage when you can just get a phablet and also have a phone at the same time.

    Similarly, there’s really no point to having an iPad unless you just want to play games on it. It’s certainly nowhere near as useful as a Windows convertible.

    1. strong opinions that not everyone agrees with. I enjoy having an LG G3 and an 8″ tablet and an ipad.

    2. I’m sure you enjoy browsing websites on a phablet rather than on a 7-10 inch display? Or would you rather sit by a desk and browse from your laptop when you can be lying on your bed or sofa with a 10 inch tablet… genius.

      1. When I want to browse websites, I just flip the screen around and I have a tablet. But I do a huge amount of browsing on my phone as well.

    3. Tablets, useless? Just watched 6 1/2 hours of video on my tablet during my recent transatlantic crossing, and will quite happily play a game or two of Hearthstone on my tablet in bed before turning over and going to sleep.

      Consumer tablets, for the most part, are not mobile devices. They are media consumption devices — browsing, books, email, video, audio, games, etc. — that are typically used around the home.

      As for games, there are hundreds of excellent mobile games for tablets. Not everyone wants to play LoL, or WoW, or CoD.

    4. No. iPad is all I own and I am engaged, active, productive, communicative, self educating, social, informed, evolved, creative, consuming, investing, and discovering. Better for it. It’s a big world and it takes all kinds . No absolutes.

  17. Having a decent desktop dock that doesn’t cost $150 would go a long ways to making them more usable, especially Windows tablets.

    1. Docks are unecessary. Just use a USB hub. You literally can do everything from video output to input and storage with just USB.

  18. Maybe the world is slowly starting to suffer from screen fatigue… I certainly am, at least.

    1. After 30 years as a computer user and computer professional…

      Nope, not yet.

  19. Most people have bought one. As mentioned already, there is no compelling reason to upgrade. Processors are now more capable than what 95% of the general public needs. The cameras are improving but are overall, meh. Battery life isn’t changing much and in some cases worse than previous gen. Ipad Air anyone? There isn’t much too this really. Most people bought one or two and because apps are apps, people’s existing tablets are handling what they need them for.

    And of course I can’t resist this comment. If the $179 Asus “notebook” and HP Stream “notebook” is a “netbook” to some of us, then they didn’t actually go anywhere. Being feeble, comparatively speaking, those two models are “gutless” which to many, seems to be the criteria of naming the category in the first place. To me, they tick all the boxes that those “netbooks” did or still do. It’s the press and media deciding that netbooks aren’t around. I question that decision on a logic basis. I get SEO so perhaps that’s where the answers lie.

    Also hybrid convertible laptops must play into stats. Those are or are not tablets? Some of those sold and is that being considered in an apparently flawed statistical analysis?

  20. What are the compelling reasons to upgrade to a new tablet?

    I have an iPad mini that almost never leaves my side. The only issue I have with it is reading technical documents for work. Diagrams and graphics are hard for me to read without a lot of zooming and scrolling. My solution was to buy a used First Generation iPad with 64gb and 3g. I loaded it up with software that can display and allow me to modify the common document formats. No more zooming and scrolling. I did think about a getting a new iPad, but the the iPad I bought cost me $90 including shipping. The 3g is fast enough for what I need to do.

    I also have a Vivotab Note 8 which is great because of its ability to ink. Now I take my handwritten notes directly in Onenote instead of scanning in my notes and key wording them. Had Asus not offered me a cheap tablet with the inking function, there would have been no need for me to buy 3rd tablet.

    The tablet market is saturated and all of the tablets out there are pretty much the same. We can ague about IOS vs Android vs Windows, but at the end of the day, they all basically do the things and only marginally batter than the tablets previous to them.

    Unless some OEM offers me a very useful new feature, I have no need to buy another tablet until one of mine stops working. And even when that happens, I will probably look at buying a used tablet first.

  21. But tablets were supposed to be the end of the PC..just like the Dreamcast was supposed to usher the death of desktops lol. Ah sweet speculation, the heart and soul of the stock market.

    1. The Dreamcast was well ahead of its time. Buying pirated games openly in North America was incredible wasn’t it? Perhaps that open market affected game sales and the consoles success?

  22. Agree with everything everybody else has said.
    My need for my Nexus 7 pretty much ended once I had a netbook that wouldn’t lock up and a smartphone I could check email on. Wife continues to use hers in bed, but she doesn’t use it nearly as much as I use the chromebook.

  23. Sales can’t just moonshoot every year, eventually people get something ‘good enough’ and stop upgrading every year. The early tablet game was changing fast enough that many people were buying every year, but once you have an HD screen and a fast enough CPU/GPU (and well written software) to drive it fluidly there isn’t much reason to update. Tablets aren’t PCs, they run little apps, most of which are written to a lowest common denominator platform spec.

    The masses have been flailing around now for a usable platform for decades. The PC suffered two flaws. One was that the concept is of a ‘mind extension’ machine, not a media consumption and communication platform. Normal users don’t really fit that model. The bigger problem is Microsoft’s monopoly, forcing anything that looks like a PC (other than luxury brand Apple stuff) to ship Windows. Netbooks bucked that trend briefly but were quickly beaten back in line. Chromebooks might eventually succeed but would be the first example to.

    Windows is complex and unreliable and utterly insecure, especially without professional system administration. In other words, exactly the worst possible choice for a typical ‘end user’ at home. They all hated it but saw no other choice but to accept it because of the lack of options and a very successful effort by Microsoft to rebrand ‘Windows virus’ into ‘computer virus’, i.e. the belief (fostered by the popular press) that ‘all computers’ suffered from the systemic problems of Windows. This lead to a hopeless resignation to their fate, since even if there were an alternative (like scrimping and saving to afford a Mac) it wouldn’t really help since ‘all computers’ were just as unreliable and insecure.

    That they want an alternative is obvious from history though. When the netbook appeared they couldn’t make them fast enough. When they mutated into small Windows laptops the segment died. Next the tablet space caught on fire. Whether they continue buying tablets or decide a larger phone is ‘good enough’ doesn’t matter. Some may even migrate upward to ChromeOS. Those people never should have had to buy a PC and Windows to play games, watch cat videos and do social media and they aren’t likely to ever do so again.

    That said, the Desktop PC / Laptop isn’t going away either. Some of us DO need a ‘workstation’ level computer. We will probably have to pay more for it though since the current prices are subsidized by economies of scale that are starting to end as that teeming millions quite buying PCs. WalMart will probably stop selling laptops and desktops but Office Depot never will. Lenovo’s sales probably will actually increase over time. Lets just hope we don’t return all the way to the bad old days of Sun hardware prices for workstations.

    1. Uh, kinda distorted view of history there…

      1) Macs really weren’t secure, they just didn’t have to worry because they were never really targeted… Even when they switched from the original Mac OS to OSX, it wasn’t until about 10.5 before they even implemented the basic Unix security and much later before they actively became concerned about security… Up till then many people just assumed Macs were secure!

      And iOS, when it was first released as iPhone OS didn’t even have Windows level security… it took years before it finally became pretty secure! Even in usability, it took years before you could even set up the OS without using a PC first… So don’t confuse what is available now with how it started!

      2) If Windows was really as complex, unreliable, and utterly insecure as you think it is then people would have left it in droves a long time ago!

      Sure, Windows was never well optimized, never that secure, and prone to be unreliable but never so much as to actually make people ignore the reasons why Windows has succeeded, which go beyond simple monopoly but actually into things like providing better than most driver support and general support that helped ensure most things would work right out of the box and the OS as a whole was flexible enough to cater to a wider range of users than most other OS options allowed…

      3) Netbooks sales continued to boom after the switch to Windows! The actual cause of their fall was a combination of lack of any significant updates over years, overt conformity that prevented any real innovation, and a industry wide effort to kill them off because they were very low margin products that most companies could not really profit from unless they could guarantee the sale of millions of units a year…

      From the very beginning one of the first priorities was to set a distinction between the traditional PC market and netbooks because they didn’t want the low margins to effect their much higher margin traditional market…

      Many netbooks makers got so competitive that even with cutting corners on product quality they still lowered margins to the point some companies were only making a couple of pennies of profit per unit sold!

      While the mobile market was not only booming but offered those same companies the ability to sell products with much higher profit margins…

      Really, netbooks were still selling pretty well when they killed them off but it didn’t take much of an excuse for OEMs to kill them off in favor of more profitable products!

      You are right that the Desktop PC / Laptop isn’t going away but it remains to be seen if we won’t see a further evolution of form factors and usages that we put these devices through as the technology continues to improve and how the continuing evolving software will influence our choices going forward…

      Flexible displays for example may make the distinction between phones and tablets mute as we may eventually just expand/unroll a screen to whatever size we need at a particular time… We’re just not there yet and there is also generally a gap between when new technology is available before people find new usages for them but what history actually shows is our needs keep on increasing as the technology improves…

      Once upon a time people thought a couple hundred kilobytes of storage would be all we would ever really need… now we’re into multiple TB drives…

      Sure, a basic device can presently satisfy most day to day needs but that won’t stay that way forever… especially when we start making use of features and capabilities that requires even more powerful devices… then the process will being again…

      1. Many of the complaints about Windows results from the fact that it supports so many different hardware combinations. You see the same thing today with Android–look how long it takes to get Android updates out to all the different hardware, and the problems that can arise on specific devices. The number of combinations there is minimal compared to that in the Windows world.

        1. It’s a little different with phones/tablets. The hardware manufacturers make money selling you hardware, so they had little to no reason to spend time getting the latest version of Android working on their existing hardware. They want you to buy a new phone. But yeah, your point is still valid too.

        2. No, the fact that Windows supports so many different hardware combinations is actually one of its strengths… Unlike Android, Windows already supports multiple hardware combinations out of the box… Having good driver support means you can have the same system work for years or even decades even if most support for the system had long expired… it’s also one of the reasons why Windows seems so bloated but being light and streamlined has its drawbacks as Android and other similar OS clearly show…

          Even GNU/Linux distros can have issues like developers deciding supporting a specific driver/feature is no longer required but means certain apps or internet functionality will no longer work… So users will often have to provide their own support and re-enable that support themselves… This happened for example for support for web sites like Amazon Instant Video because developers stopped supporting all the required dependencies and even removed them from their repositories… So such features wouldn’t work out of the box for the newer OS versions of the distros, showing not all bloat is bad…

          Besides, the x86 market has far less hardware fragmentation than ARM does… ARM is a extremely customizable and scalable architecture, but while that makes it easy to optimize and make as cheap as possible for the mobile market it also means software has to support far more different combination of hardware than the x86 PC market has ever had to do…

          There is also far less consistent driver support because the hardware can change dramatically from one device to the next in the ARM market… Even the same SoC model can have more than a dozen different variants and only the system maker and SoC maker will actually know which variant the device is specifically using as they usually never list the specific variant but just the model series…

          It helps that the x86 PC market is geared more towards performance and upgrade-ability… while ARM devices are normally made to be low cost, good enough performance for on the go needs, and pretty much disposable to ensure rapid end of life and quicker device replacement cycles…

          It’s not unusual to expect consumers to replace their mobile device every 1-2 years versus every couple of years to even over a decade for a PC… So there’s also much less need to ensure long term support for mobile devices…

          But the combination of high hardware fragmentation and high levels of closed driver support with minimal driver support are the primary reasons why support usually ends pretty quickly for most mobile devices…

          1. Supporting multiple devices is the reason Windows won out over OS2, but I’m talking more about people having trouble running Windows at times. That is much more likely with Windows than iOS because of the hundreds of thousands of combinations of hardware it runs, some of which is poorly designed (or has a poorly written driver). There’s no way Microsoft can even beta test on even half the possible combinations.

          2. You can’t really compare iOS because Apple doesn’t support many configuration options at all… Apple actually drops support for any device once it is no longer directly compatible with their latest devices…

            While PC’s can be supported for years or even decades, regardless of how many different configurations!

            And yes, MS can never beta test on even half the possible combinations but the fact is they never have to! All the hardware makers have an invested interest in ensuring their hardware will work regardless of what combination the device gets configured…

            Mind, PC’s support both pre-made OEM devices and user custom made systems and despite there being some issues every now and then the vast majority usually work without issues for most people out of the box, unless someone doesn’t know what they are doing or get a badly made system…

            Most problems are still caused by user errors and by installing something the system wasn’t originally configured for, especially on desktop systems that can have virtually everything upgraded/replaced…

            Keep in mind that you’d never get that level of flexibility on any Android or iOS based system… Even OSX has more limited configuration options than Windows has… Even people who create their own Hackintoshes still have to work with limited hardware choices and work around solutions… never mind what Apple officially supports…

            While GNU/Linux is very flexible but there is virtually no out of box support for most systems and installations have to be customized for each and legacy support can be spotty at best, with support for features and capabilities that can come and go according to the whims of the developers and what they feel should and should not be included in their distro version…

            So, you have to weigh the strengths of having a system can work with a extremely wide range of options and still provides a mostly open ecosystem versus more stable options that are more closed and provide far fewer choices or requires users to provide more of their own support…

            Apple’s more closed system, for example, is one of the reasons why Windows is the better platform for gaming, etc… While stuff like games help make it seem Windows are more unstable because they stress the system far more than other apps…

            Sure, Windows will still tend to be more unstable than other options, even if you don’t game, but the most efficient and lean system is not always the best option for the masses and Windows is a OS intended for the masses!

            The main take away you have to consider is that there is really no perfect options… They all have their strength and weaknesses but it’s even rarer to find something that will support the majority of users and not just a specific niche…

            Regardless, it’s not like people never have issues with Android and iOS… Most users just either never customize or can’t, in iOS case without jailbreaking, but it’s usually far easier to recover on a PC than a mobile device when problems do happen and you can do a lot more with a desktop OS than any mobile OS, especially in terms of productivity…

            So, you are doing a bit of apples vs oranges comparison there as well…

            While not everything on MS side lacks optimization… Windows Phone, for example, sits between Android and iOS in terms of how well optimized and stable it is… a WP device with just 512MB of RAM runs better than a Android system with 1GB of RAM, for example… and MS is introducing a good deal of that stability and optimization into Windows 10… Windows 8 already has better recovery options than Windows 7 and MS has been making their drivers more stable over the years… Vista actually introduced sandboxed video drivers that helped Windows recover without needing to reboot all the time and Windows 8 started to expand that support and Windows 10 should be even harder to crash…

            Along with app developers finally starting to make apps more lean and stable, especially if they want them to run on both traditional systems and mobile range Windows devices… So, we shouldn’t stick to traditional views of Windows either…

  24. Nice article.
    A Device is introduced; sales boom; market gets saturated unless there are major reasons to upgrade. I was reading recently about the introduction of automatic washing machines after WWII: huge demand, big profit margins, many companies entering market – and 6 month waiting times for a washer. Demand and makers (and profit margins) are way down over a half century later, but that is not a sign of the death of washing machines.
    As Sumocat points out, early Netbooks were small, had SSDs, and ran a free OS not compatible with desktop Windows apps. Other hallmarks of the breed: relatively low-powered, and CHEAP! Primary use: connect to web. So I would say the Netbook is alive and well, and now has a Google logo: Chromebook.

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    1. Agree. Ecosystems are depend on that fact. Which is why, is the market dries up, tablets will be free giveaways. Like you get one for consuming air or drinking water.

      1. The cheap ones maybe, but there is still some innovation in tablets we will see in the next two years which will have people buying new ones. Apple tablets retain their value more so than other tablets, which is why you see some tablet market decline – they don’t need to be replaced. Android tablets are frozen until Lollipop is in wide release, and finally, the cheap Windows tablets weren’t as big as the silly execs thought they would be – any power-user knows better than to buy a device with Windows and less than 2GB RAM and 32GB of storage – 64GB is the preferred. The Windows tablet market took a step back this year, but I think next year we will see a growth there.

        1. I guess I would respectfully disagree with innovations in the tablet space. It’s a slab. Battery, camera, screens, processors can improve, but I don’t see those as being game changers. Detachables already exist. I can’t see the future, but it’s hard to see how such a device can really evolve from what we have now.

          I do agree with your take on Apple tablets.

          1. Battery and Processors are always an innovation. For Windows tablets, improving battery life and processing power is a huge game-changer. I’m sure we will see other innovations as well.

            Not that you said this at all (more in response to the original article), but I also find the idea that tablets would be replaced by phones to be ludicrous. Maybe for some folks they like to watch their movies on a phone, but a great deal of us use larger tablets for consuming media and reading. Using a tablet-size phone is silly, just like using a tablet as a camera. I’m all for converged functionality devices, but there is a lot to be said for form factor and use case.

  25. More that the market is flooded with them, everyone has one and manufacturers churn so many out each year expecting us to switch every 6-12 months. A lot of people hold on to the ones they have already bought and many have found that they just don’t need or use them often.

    Plus I think many people who want windows tablets want something more powerful rather than a cheap compromised tablet. The first wave didn’t have simple things like hdmi out. The second wave decided 16gb of storage and 1gb of ram was acceptable and moved to budling in office 365 instead of the better non subscription office. Pen input has vanished in a drive to get cheaper.

  26. First, the one device that trumps tablets and computers in general now a days is the
    smartphone / cellphone. EVERYBODY has a device that plays
    music, takes pictures, browses the Internet in some capacity, might include a GPS, flashlight, read/compose emails, texts, chats, etc…They also carry this with them on their persons the majority of the time because they’re so portable and convenient. Phones now do a whole pile of stuff and for the majority of media consumption on the go, they can’t be beat.

    Second, with Windows 8 being a bomb in the minds of users on the desktop, people simply aren’t buying their tablets. Cheap or not, few people really care about it. Now I know there are people out there who will scream bloody murder and call me names because they love them so much, but so what. The market has ignored Windows 8 on tablet and traditional desktop/laptop computers and is a huge fact fans can’t deny no matter how upset they get. Maybe Windows 10 will change this perception…we’ll find out in 2015.

    Third, Apple and Android have the tablet market VERY saturated now. Those who are technologically more illiterate (which tends to be older people like my parents) now all have their trusty iPads and use them more often than their desktop computers. But those of us who geek out on this stuff, tend to use their main desktops or laptops more often than not for serious everyday computing and gaming. I use my laptop 100x more than my 2 tablets. But those who simply browse the web, read emails and watch videos or look at pictures already have tablets and don’t need feel the need to upgrade constantly.

    I could say something about disposable incomes for typical families being lower too which can negate the need to upgrade contstantly but this is already longer than I anticipated writing…anyhow, you get my drift.

    1. Be careful what you call facts, the market hasn’t ignored W8… there’s a difference between not being a raving success from actually doing badly… For some, it’s just that nothing short of a raving success can be considered a success but the market share of W8 did grow since its release and devices like the Asus Transformer Book T100 have exceeded sales expectations, competing well with Chromebooks, and those are facts!

      There’s just also a high level of biased opinion on W8 and that distorts many views and perceptions… But people have a distorted view of Windows in general… Like most don’t seem to remember it took nearly 3 years for XP to really take off… Mind W8 hasn’t even been around half that long yet… never mind how people resist change in general to begin with…

      That said, you aren’t that wrong on how people’s opinion of W8 has effected tablet sales… Those who don’t care still buy it but those that do are waiting for more/different options…

      But this article is on tablets in general and Intel doesn’t only make W8 tablets! So the effect is limited and the reasons are more complicated…

      One of the issues, for example, is we’re still about half a year away from the next significant hardware updates and the present hardware is already about a year old now and people aren’t seeing any significant performance improvements but instead some reductions as the prices have gone done and that just further pushes such devices into the only get if you need to replace your old device type…

      Another issue is the OEMs are still basing pricing on the old business model that relied on releasing a base unit at near cost and then charging a high premium for things like storage capacity and RAM… Apple, for example, charges $100 for each doubling of storage capacity even though it only costs them $8-$10 for each increase…

      This provides them the higher premiums to provide the profit margins most OEMs want to get but as the tablet market starts to bleed over into the PC market such practices have to change to actual value pricing…

      Yet another issue is many are introducing features that people in general don’t yet understand or accept a price premium for… like water proof electronics, the additional cost of a WACOM digitizer, etc. that in turn biases what people think devices should cost and whether they think it’s a good price or not…

      All of which only gets compounded by how PC tablets are being made to compete with mobile tablets despite a significant difference in usages and capabilities but way too many people think should be equivalently priced!

      So it comes as very little surprise that the tablet market isn’t really booming right now… there’s way too much confusion, way too much misinformation, too many outdated preconceptions, and general lack of outstanding quality and innovation to really catch the consumers attention…

  27. I bought the original Nexus 7 on launch, before I moved up to the larger screen of the Samsung S4. Before buying the S4 I thought I’d want another tablet (one for me, one for my wife), but after getting the S4 I hardly use the tablet, and my wife mainly uses it as a Kindle. Based on my experience, someone with a phablet would have little need for a tablet.

  28. Excluding China:
    Prices haven’t dropped this year.
    Windows tabs sure because both M$ and Intel are pumping billions into that.But you also get crappy hardware for it.
    The real problem is the very poor products we’ve been getting this year.
    Prices got stuck or even went up in the 100- 200$ range for Android in the West. Some regional and local vendors pushed prices lower but they focused on low res and same old A7 core.
    The design is lacking too.

    Sure China is a hell of a lot more alive and Apple has been far more aggressive in Q4.
    We are also getting A53 cores but Intel might keep the Western tablet market under it’s boot, crappy products helps them sell costlier chips in PC.
    Phones will only really kill tablets when we have flexible and strechable screens but the very very poor product offerings are to blame.

    Amazon isn’t offering a good price per perf anymore, their design is outdated.
    Nexus committed suicide.
    Asus made a Nexus 7 with Intel Inside ,went Intel all over, prices are poor, gave up on bigger tabs.
    Sony has insane pricing.
    Samsung has too high prices.
    LG release overpriced low end garbage.
    HP is borderline ridiculous
    Michael Dell is clueless when it comes to the consumer market.
    Acer has been in a bit of a tailspin in the last few years
    Huawei has high prices, other phone makers don’t care about tabs anymore.
    And the fact that most tab makers are PC makers,doesn’t help either ,they are not very interested in the tablet market doing well, they are better off selling higher priced PCs.

    Lenovo has made some efforts but they are not very inspired.

    So what we need is competent tablet makers……
    As for the Flurry data,that’s pure garbage.

    1. agreed about samsung. it seems like they are too closely following in sony’s footsteps. people really don’t have that much brand loyalty.

      1. I guess i was in a rush to point out the negatives and forgot that there are some positives.

        There are some objective factors for tabs being neglected.
        The market is much smaller than the phone market and prices (and margins) dropped sooner than for phones.
        The good news is that it can change. If phone prices are crashed by the China guys, there won’t be much of a margin difference between phones and tabs and more phone makers will make tablets.
        This year A53 SoCs clocked at decent speeds are a nice gain in perf over A7 and 1080p 5.5 inch phones becoming the midrange in China should help 1080p tabs become more available.
        Later on maybe we get some big custom cores (like 4 Nvidia Denver cores on 20nm or 16nm ) and 4k screens pushing sales in the high end but 500$ is too much for a 10 inch tab so we still need better prices and for more OEMs to actually make big tabs.
        CES is in a few days, the Chinese new year in mid Feb and then MWC in late feb so we should see quite a lot of new devices in the next 2 month.The high end won’t be exciting (if it’s all Snapdragon,the 810 at just 2GHz it would not offer much, one expects more from a new core and a new process) but the midrange might look a lot better.

  29. smartphone sales remain strong and so-called “phablet” or big-ass phone sales are on the rise.this must incense all you people who rant about ” oh nobody needs a smart phone over 4 inches thats stupid” AGAIN mind your own freekin business!!!

  30. Netbooks originally had tiny screens, tiny SSDs, and were powered by tiny versions of Linux. The market crashed after vendors bloated them up to try to cram Windows into them. Now, vendors are sticking to that original formula with tablets (while still paying lip service paid to Windows) and going back to it entirely with Chromebooks.
    And, of course, there’s Apple. Even if everyone else quits, Apple will still make money selling iPads.

  31. Good thoughts.

    I think that the “race to the bottom” ended up splitting the netbook market into low-end netbooks and high-end netbooks (aka ultra-books). Lowering the bottom bar for pricing allowed for greater range of pricing that sandwiched traditional laptops and notebooks (in price points and functionality).

    We might be seeing something similar with tablets. The leveling off of tablet sales and the increase in the number of low-priced Windows tabs is setting the stage for splitting the tablet market as well. We can see rumblings of this in the regular rumors of an iPad Pro, and to a lesser extent the increasing acceptance of the Surface Pro 3.

    It won’t be boring, that’s for certain.

    1. Merely to stave off ARM Intel released piles of cheap chips onto the market and the result were these sub-$200 Wintablets which had no reason to exist otherwise (Chromebooks and Android tablets at least are fobbed off on the public for the greater goal of promoting the Play store). The Wintabs included the subsidized CPU part but any design/usability was treated as an afterthought

      1. No, these sub-$200 Wintablets were inevitable… Aside from the SoC they’re already using the same parts as their ARM counterparts and the cost of the SoC is a decreasingly small part of the total costs of a given device…

        There’s only a $15-$35 cost advantage between ARM and Intel SoCs, while subsidizing only goes up to around $50 per unit and that’s mainly to attract OEMs as well as be cost competitive to help establish market share…

        So Wintablets now going for $99-139 would still be below $200 even without subsidizing! There just wouldn’t be any sub $100 Wintablets without the subsidizing…

        It helps that MS is offering Windows on these devices for either discounted $15 or for free to help them better compete and Intel supports both Android and Windows on their tablets… So additional overhead costs are minimal compared to previous generation devices…

        Now the design and usability is a issue for the tablet market in general and can be considered a fundamental problem with tablets in general… more so for one trying to run a more robust OS and apps/UI not specifically optimized for tablet usage… So we may have to wait a few more generation of devices before that significantly changes for the better but limitations aside these devices have their niche market and can be useful depending on needs and usage types…

  32. True, sales have leveled off, but that’s no indication that nobody’s using them. As stated above, the perceived need to upgrade tablets is far less than with phones. I’m still quite happy with my Nexus 7 (both 2012 and 2013) and use them daily. And it would take a pretty compelling reason to change that. So naturally, sales are down and prices drop. Once manufacturers find the proper production pace (and market segment,) I don’t think they’re going anywhere soon.

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