As It Was In The Beginning …

There is a ritual I perform every saturday and I am very religious about it. Last saturday was no different and by 7.30am (GMT+1), the stage was already set. I tuned the TV to BBC, just in time to see Spencer Kelly give his intro on my favourite TV programme, CLICK.

In his usual comic style, he was amazed that it took decades for the mobile phone to have the small form factor as we know it today only for trends to be reversing back to the big form factor that is the tablet.

The comment really set me thinking. The tablet form factor is by no means new. Some people have traced the earliest reported reference to the tablet to the time of Moses and the tablets the ten commandments were written on. While this may sound incredulous and very far fetched, the earliest reported case of the tablet was probably the Apple Graphics Tablet.

The increasing popularity of the Tablet form factor has been traced to the emergence of the ereaders, notably the Kindle and to a lesser extent, the Nook. But consumers seemed to want something more than just a device to read from, they wanted a convergence device that would probably do more than what their laptops would do, while remaining portable. The geeks at Apple probably recognized this need and out came the iPad. And boom!, the tablet revolution started.

Ever since, there has been a flurry of activities in the tablet market, with almost every major manufacturer releasing or planning a release of their own product come 2011, thanks largely to the runaway success of the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the Apple iPad. This has caused a major downward shift in the demand for the hitherto popular netbooks for the more portable and fancier, albeit less powerful tablets. One thing is very clear here, consumers want portability and convergence of their array of devices but not at a price, either monetary or performance-wise.

Yes, we all know the iPad and the Samsung tab are over-priced, how in heaven’s name did Etisalat Nigeria come up with a N125,000 price tag (about US$800) for the Samsung Tab? A device that retails for about US$499! Shipping costs? Apple has also been accused of making ungodly profits from its devices. However, these products are selling (or sold) like hot cakes because performance-wise, considering the limiting form factor, they were outstanding.

Our native land, Nigeria, has indeed been caught up in the buzz. A major mobile network, Starcomms, has released its own 10 inch tablet, christened “my pad” into the market, retailing for N74,999 with some added extras; wifi Internet Router and 3 month internet access. A few other local companies have also unveiled their products and they have scheduled a 2011 release date. While the idea of having Nigeria visibly in the midst of the technological wonder that is the Tablet, we only hope that the rush to have their products in the market is well thought out. Some have already been accused of rebranding low quality, grey market, nameless Chinese clones with screen calibration issues and pathetic 3- hour battery life. I strongly pray that the delay in the release of tablets into the Nigerian market is for effective fine-tuning to make them comparable to the ipads and the galaxy tabs.

Nigerian consumers are very demanding and unforgiving. Also, they want the best products for the least prices. They have tasted what other manufacturers have to offer, price reduction as an excuse to push low quality devices into the market may meet with initial acceptance but a guaranteed failure on the long run. Whatever happened to all the Chinese phones that Nigeria was flooded with? A case of natural selection you would say?

While we continue praying fervently that the Nigerian offerings will be a success, for now, we will continue to wait on the sidelines. And with the likes of Apple “upping” their game with the rumoured release of Ipad 2 in first quarter of 2011, I hope these devices will not be “Dead on Arrival (DOA)”.

We can only watch and pray that I am very wrong.

Thank you all for your comments and contributions that has made this blog a success in its 6 months of existence. Special thanks to Eyebeekay for his invaluable contributions. This is Wale Falade signing out for 2010.

Happy New Year !!!

3 thoughts on “As It Was In The Beginning …

  1. When I hear of a device of over 10-inches diagonal display diameter being called “tablet”, I just wonder. Has that not crept into the realm of ‘netbook’? What exactly defines a tablet? Keyboardless, small-display (how small)? Now, what is the right size for the ideal convergent single device? And what are the other non-negotiable attributes? That device must be: 1) Light to hold (not carry!) and truly portable (i.e, can be carried about unobtrusively) 2) Must have adequate battery life to last the whole day (under typical use) 3) The screen display must be big enough (or displayed charaters big enough) to eliminate the possibility of eye-strain . 4) The device must also have a “night-mode” or sensor to automatically adjust the display contrast/brightness for stressless night viewing. 5) It must be perfectly legible in all light ambience conditions . 6) Must have a data-entry system comfortable and intuitive enough to use for extensive and comfortable use Problem is – some of these requirements are contradictory. For instance, number 3 above will usually work against Number 2. Some of these issues are software-addressable. The issue of displayed character size can be partially addressed by making stepless sizing of displayed_character an integral functionality of the OS. To illustrate , UcWeb for Symbial 60 Version 5 allows you to make the displayed characters a lot.. lot bigger than OperaMini Symbian. A software that attempts to do what should exist intrinsically with the OS of any mobile device – is Psiloc Font Manager (Symbian). Since a modern tablet will usually be keyboardless, different software are being integrated into them out-of-the-box – to make data input easier. You have software like Dasur SlideIt and Swype being licensed by some major phone manufacturers. There is need to develop a new, drastically more efficient power system – (for tablets, and generally too). It would appear the current battery technology has reached its developmental pinnacle. How about exploring solar energy, or something radically different from the current lithium-ion and cadmium-nickel battery systems used to power portable devices? As regards the solar approach, Apple is said to be working on this…

  2. The 10 inch option has its place, at least for people like me. This is probably the minimum screen size to view the most popular ebook, PDF. At least 80% of my ebook are in this format and i have long stopped trying to view them using my ebook reader with its 5 inch screen. At the right price, i will definitely go for a 10 inch screen size.

    Of all the attributes you mentioned, i believe the battery life is key. I keep wondering why any device would be less than, at least, 8 hours. That is about how long a working day is. Honestly, we can only watch and see. When all the hype has died down, the law of natural selection will take its course. The ones that do not fit the bill as a good portable device will probably come handy as a good paper weight or door wedge, an expensive one at that!

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