Are tablets “dead”? That’s certainly what Romain Dillet seems to think in a piece he posted to Techcrunch yesterday. It makes a big thing out of how none of the major Android tablet companies had any new tablets to showcase at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year.
Dillet does undercut himself a little by noting that Lenovo has released some cheap Android tablets “but it seems like nobody noticed.” Nonetheless, he does make a valid point that tablets from companies like Samsung, Sony, HTC, and LG are nowhere to be found this year, and they didn’t even mention tablets at any of their conferences.
Dillet places the blame on tablets having become a commodity with few if any differentiating factors between them, most people already having fully-capable tablets at home that still do everything they need, and larger “phablet” phones taking over tablets’ old ecological niche as the big screen people use to interact with online services.
This does seem to mesh with the sales statistics I reported on last month, showing that generic tablets are more or less holding steady, while expensive “ultramobile” devices are seeing huge growth, smartphones are seeing slow growth, and traditional desktop and notebook PC sales decline. And that op-ed I covered about iPad sales plunging seems to say the same thing.
Maybe Dillet is right, and tablets are another niche that’s dwindling as people get used to doing stuff on smaller screens that stay with them all the time. As I said in the pieces I linked in the last paragraph, I’m certainly not getting as much mobile use out of my Nexus 7 as I used to. These days, the main use it sees is sitting in my kitchen cabinet so I can watch my weekly TV shows on Hulu while I do my dishes. But as Dillet pointed out, that old tablet is ample tablet enough for me right now—I have no need to upgrade to a newer one. (Though I am also getting some use out of my $50 Fire, come to that.)
For reading e-books, of course, a bigger display is nice to have—but my Nexus 6’s own display holds very nearly as many words as my Kindle Paperwhite’s, so perhaps a phablet is big enough.