Low-cost Tablet Market Needs a Serious Facelift


      The overall tablet market is in sort of a downward slump right now. With tablet sales expected to stall 7.2 percent this year, down from the enormous 53.7 percent growth last year, developers and manufacturers are scrambling to come up with something new for the struggling tablet industry.
     Although tablets will soon become the go-to device for most American consumers, and perhaps even shoppers in developing markets, to perform their everyday tasks, sales have suddenly taken a dive, something that’s unheard of for red hot consumer electronics.
     Experts have tried to reassure investors by arguing that this just a short-term hurdle to overcome and that there were too many quixotic expectations in the early stages of the mobile market. Others, however, have conceded that tablets are akin to video game consoles in the sense that they don’t have the same utility as a smartphone, and consumers are beginning to come to this realization.
     Benedict Evans, an analyst and investor with the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, told Bloomberg News that as smartphones become larger and transform into phablets (a hybrid of a phone and a table) consumers are having a difficult time attempting to justify throwing down $400 for a tablet.
     The International Data Corporation (IDC) averred in a report that many consumers are using their smartphones to perform their day-to-day chores and office tasks instead of their tablets – this also means that tablet lifecycles are lasting longer than the usual two- to three-year periods that smartphones experience.
     Since consumers and workplaces are depending upon personal computers and laptops to perform more complex duties, like content creation and document production, there is a growing trend to adopt low-cost tablets. The demand for these products have seen immense growth in emerging markets, particularly in China and India.
     Manufacturers are already taking advantage of this. Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi may launch a $100 tablet early next year, while Samsung’s low-cost tablets are generating an enormous amount of sales in New Delhi. Meanwhile, Intel announced last month a partnership with Chinese chip maker Rockchip to produce processors for low-cost tablets and other affordable devices.
     The XMM6321 dual-core processor with 3G capabilities, which was the first chip to come out of the collaborative process between both enterprises, is already reaching global markets for the inexpensive mobile devices. It has become so successful that it will soon be seen in Android devices.
     According to media reports, the chip supports display resolutions of 854 x 480 or 1024 x 600 pixels and can handle 1080p HD video decoding at 30 FPS while also enabling 8MP rear and 3MP front cameras. In addition, it can have a clock speed of one GHz.
     With the Chinese tablet market projected to grow between 40 and 60 percent within the next few years, it’s this type of power that low-cost tablets need. Will it facilitate enormous growth of the low-cost tablet industry? Time will tell, but it is promising that companies like Samsung and Intel are taking it seriously.
     Tech firms are realizing that consumers prefer to use tablets for social media, shopping and checking email, but when it comes to more intricate aspects, ostensibly the PC remains king for bigger and more important computer tasks – hence why desktop PC shipments will reach 133.5 million units in 2014, only slightly down 2.2 percent from last year.
IDC analyst Tom Mainelli may have said it best in an interview with Computer Weekly: “PCs still have a big role to play, primarily in commercial but also in consumers’ lives.”
     Apparently, the untimely demise of the death of the PC have been greatly exaggerated, and this won’t bode well for the tablet industry unless something can transform the power and functionality of tablets.

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