It was only about a year ago that the tablet market was only really about general-purpose tablets. There was the dominant iPad, and the fragmented Android market. Ebook readers were a separate animal altogether, although the anticipated release of the first Kindle Fire raised the question of whether it would bridge the general-purpose and ebook market.
In some ways it did, adding enough apps and internet access that it was hard not to sneak in some work email or web research even when your laptop or iPad was purposely left at home for the weekend away with the family. But of course Amazon’s business model was/is different – a subsidized device to increase the sale of content. And Amazon’s use of Android was significantly more customized than other Android tablets.
The folks over at Tech.pinions continue to be a must-read for anyone following/investing in the tablet market. John Kirk in Battle of The Tablet Business Models: Lessons Learned and a Look Ahead, argues that the future of the tablet model will be determined by the business models behind them, and points out some consistencies and lack thereof between the major players, Apple, Amazon, Google, Samsung and Microsoft. He is surely right that too often commentators and analysts have focused on hardware characteristics and software and not paid enough attention to business models. However, product capabilities can either create new business model possibilities or prevent their success so also help determine the landscape. For example, a non-glare, color display with low power requirements that combines the best of an iPad and a Kindle will certainly have a material effect on the market. In any case John’s post contains a number of nuggets.
Another aspect to consider in tablet market evolution is the difference between enterprise and consumer tablet markets. We’ll look at that in another post.