General Purpose vs Use-Case Specific Tablets

At CES 2011 I gave a presentation at a research track geared to technology industry insiders. One of the points I made which I'd like to flesh out in this article briefly was how general purpose tablets and specific use tablets fit into the consumer landscape.

First what do I mean by general purpose and use-case specific tablets? A general-purpose tablet is one that is capable of doing a multitude of things extremely well. Use case specific tablets are ones that have been built with a specific set of use cases in mind. The iPad and Motorola XOOM are examples of general-purpose tablets. Things like the Galaxy Tab, NOOKcolor etc are more use-case specific.

To some degree the screen size will play a major role in whether the tablet is general purpose or use-case specific. If you have used or seen the iPad then you know it capable of doing many tasks well. It is a best-in-breed portable media player, web browser, mobile game player etc. After using a number of different tablets with different screen sizes I am convinced the larger the screen the more general purpose the tablet becomes.

What I anticipate happening is that we will continue to see a number of 5-8 inch tablets come to market but all with a specific set of use-cases in mind. Some will be geared toward reading, some will be geared toward playing games, and some will be geared to entertainment and media, some for productivity and business etc. The point is that those tablets will compete on form factor and use-case. This market may seem crowded but if vendors craft their strategy correctly they can be quite successful.

On the other side of the tablet landscape we will see manufacturers compete at a general-purpose level. The hardware for these tablets will likely be very high-end from processor, screen resolution, storage capacity and more. This market I feel will be quite a bit more difficult to compete in than the smaller screen, use-case specific tablet market. I don't expect very many companies to succeed in the general-purpose tablet landscape.

The end result, however, could be quite interesting in a family dynamic. Given that all household members may have different interests – therefore choosing different tablets to meet their needs – consumer's homes will experience an invasion of screens all serving to accomplish different jobs.

What do you think and what size tablet screen most interests you?

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