When does size matter on your Tablet?

Back in 2007 - with 5" OQO and EVERUN

Over the weekend, news leaked of Apple preparing a larger iPod Touch to compete with low end tablets that offer a smaller screen size than the iPad’s 10” display. This comes after Steve Jobs has stated a that a 7” tablet isn’t the same as a true tablet in a 10” model.

Add to that the fact that Samsung has a 10” tablet arriving very soon in the next generation of the Galaxy Tab. It was an inevitable upgrade, but it has me wondering what the “perfect size” for a tablet PC really is. Do companies see the 10” profile being the only answer or are they simply trying to gauge the perfect approach for consumers.

I don’t mean to say that there is a size that everyone should be using. After all, some people prefer a 13” laptop while others like to sit at their desk with a 27” monitor. It’s a matter of preference. But, in terms of what the market wants, it’s a good question. There are more than two dozen tablet computers arriving in 2011 and each of them sports a different selection of key selling points, but many have settled for the 10” display size.

Profit Margins vs. Consumer Interest

Beyond what Apple has produced and sold, we know very little about what consumers really want or need out of a tablet device. With projections pointing to three times as many tablets selling in 2011 than in 2010, we know that people want them, but what specific selling points will work as the market advances?

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While some people are worried that the market will become oversaturated in the next two or three years as so many companies try to jump into the fray, I think it will probably help a lot of them figure out exactly what consumers want. Does screen size matter? Does resolution matter? Can real work be done at 7” or is this in-between size formatted more for entertainment?

At the same time, look at the ruckus started by Motorola’s $799 price point for the Xoom – a 10” tablet. The device is not available yet and some analysts are worried about its viability. Personally, I think the Xoom will sell just fine – though whether it can become the mythical iPad killer I don’t know. Either way, that larger screen size surely has an impact on the device’s price.

For a company to maintain profitability and provide many of the features desired by customers, screen size is a tempting target. Samsung offered a 7” only tablet with their first foray into the market. Dell offered first a 5 inch and now a 7 inch tablet with their Streak tablets, allowing them to keep the price under $500. And when the Playbook launches later this year, it will come in at 7 inches, though how much it will cost remains to be seen.

Finding the Perfect Balance

There is no “perfect” size for a tablet. If the market really does bloom to more than 240 million by 2015 as some have forecast there will be plenty of room out there for both 7 inch and 10 inch tablets. The real question is this – what will a successful 7 inch tablet look like versus a successful 10 inch tablet? And what about multimedia only devices like a potential 5 inch iPod Touch?

Personally, in the past I’ve used an OQO e2 (5” device) as a primary device for a 9-month period, and yet currently my device of choice is a 13.3” Tablet, i.e. the Fujitsu T900. Maybe size matters differently as we age (no pun intended), and I definitely know it matters differently as our workflow and productivity needs differ too. When I was using the OQO I was constantly in-and-out of meetings, cars, and planes and constantly mobile. Currently my meetings take longer, I reside at several destinations and definitely multi-task more heavily. So while the 5” screen with Active digitizer and pull-down keyboard was enough 2yrs ago, now the 13” Tablet with dual mode multi-touch, and digitizer input, and convertible full QWERTY keyboard I find hard to replace as a primary device.

To me the magic numbers lie in my proposed usage. For my primary machine I never go bigger than 15” any more as I just don’t see the need, and I definitely hate the reduced mobility these sized devices create. And yet as my preferred secondary device I find the 10” Tablet is most rewarding as its large enough not to struggle when multitasking, and yet small enough to not warrant dedicated carry bags or man purses! LOL. I just find 5” and 7” devices hard to justify when I may as well revert to my phone (currently Samsung Galaxy S) for simple data manipulation – and of course phone calls.

Does size really matter, or does the ecosystem you plug into play a role also? Is iPad’s success partly due  to the taylored applications and how thye reside on the device, hence more effectivley using screen size?

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What are your thoughts?  Tell me your stories!

Comments

  1. Brucewilsonpa says

    Good to see you “back” Hugo (I know you never left but you’ve not been as active for awhile). My experience matches yours almost exactly — after a number of UMPCs (including OQO) I went for the ipad — been thru 2 ipads (got a wifi only first but went for the 3g) and although I enjoyed the convenience and flexibility, got tired of the IOS limitations. Went for an HP Touchsmart (12″ tablet — old style) and loved its capabilities but too heavy for routine carrying around (couldn’t afford the HP Elite tablet or the Thinkpad table). I had a Galaxy Tab for several months and there was no doubt I MUCH preferred the smaller form factor over that of the ipad….. But it was really only good for media and entertainment — too small for “production”. Now I’m awaiting my Xoom, although releasing it w/o Flash and a req’t to return it for the 4g upgrade has me rethinking. Bottomline: it really does depend on the user’s REAL needs — and IMHO many (most?) who have bought ipads did so out of curiosity (me) or a “follow the crowd” mentality — Steve Jobs promised he was selling “an experience” and he was right. Only question is whether enough of us will ultimately “need” a 10″ tablet style” device….. maybe our smartphones are “enough”(?)

  2. iheke says

    Hugo, good to see you back in the game after Origami folded (no pun intended). Being a mobility user with a long memory – I still think that 7″ is a slate sweet spot. For me, I think that smart phone screens will occupy the 3″ to 5″ space, ultraportable laptops will occupy the 11″ space (the Sony P series being even smaller than that). And eReaders will sit in the 5″-6″ bracket. Once upon a time when device convergence was all the rage I would have thought that everything would surge towards a 5″ screen with everything on it. However now we’re definitely living in the multiple device age. In that world, you will see 10″ tablets fighting it out with laptops and 5″ tablets fighting it out with smartphones and eReaders – but for me – the right balance between productivity and portability lies in the 7″ bracket with all day (8hr) battery life.

  3. iheke says

    Hugo, good to see you back in the game after Origami folded (no pun intended). Being a mobility user with a long memory – I still think that 7″ is a slate sweet spot. For me, I think that smart phone screens will occupy the 3″ to 5″ space, ultraportable laptops will occupy the 11″ space (the Sony P series being even smaller than that). And eReaders will sit in the 5″-6″ bracket. Once upon a time when device convergence was all the rage I would have thought that everything would surge towards a 5″ screen with everything on it. However now we’re definitely living in the multiple device age. In that world, you will see 10″ tablets fighting it out with laptops and 5″ tablets fighting it out with smartphones and eReaders – but for me – the right balance between productivity and portability lies in the 7″ bracket with all day (8hr) battery life.

  4. Harry Arendt says

    Honestly I am very disappointed that both samsung and dell decided to disable the phone functions on their 7 inch devices. For me a 7 inch device would be the perfect all purpose carry device. I wonder if it was the carriers that forced this change.

    • Brucewilsonpa says

      I had a Euro version of the Galaxy Tab that included the voice phone feature — since it was unlocked it worked fine on my AT&T wireless account (had to pay for a second iphone account, though). I paid several hundred $ more to get this because I felt the same way about the Galaxy Tabs being introduced by the service providers. However, after several months I realized I wasn’t getting the value for this feature because I still used my smartphone (had I canned that an relied on the G-Tab it might have been different but the G-Tab form factor isn’t very good as a telephone unless you use a headset)

  5. Dave P says

    Like you my daily computer was a 5″ OQO until the company and the motherboard died (unfortunately in that order). Prior to that I used a Motion 12″ slate. Now I use a 9″ HP Slate.

    To me, the size is less important than the weight. After my 1 lb. OQO, even my 1.5 lb. Slate seems a bit heavy and I can’t conceive of lugging around your 4.5 lb. Fujitsu. Still, size does offer opportunities and limitations. For viewing, almost any size works (although bigger is better, or at least easier to read). For inking, on the other hand, I’d say the 5″ format only works for short notes, the 7-9″ format works for extensive notes, and the 12-13″ format is best for inking documents. For portability, the 5″ can fit in a pocket which trumps everything larger (since even I’m not geeky enough to get a vest with an iPad pocket). But, you need to factor in the power of smartphones which also offer pocketability.

    As far as the ideal, I think it boils down to what computing suite you want to work with. For a two computer solution, a smartphone and a convertible tablet is the way to go. I have gone with the three computer solution with a smartphone, small Windows tablet, and desktop. Now if EverNote would just add inking to their Android app, it would be great.

  6. Jason Dunn says

    Great article Hugo! I think that, as with many things in life, there is no “one size fits all”. Apple’s flat out refusal to make a 7 inch iPad is typical of their “We have the perfect product for you as long as you like it in this size, this colour, and with these features” approach. But if they release a bigger iPod Touch, well, that solves the problem of them not having a bigger iPad yet not having to back-peddle on their statements. I for one would love to see a bigger iPod Touch – 5 inches would be excellent I think.

  7. harv says

    Hugo,

    I believe the TC1100 was close to the perfect size and wieght. I bleive that the 16:9 proportion of the 2710/30/40p series has not improved the utility of the tablet. I hesitated to aquire a Slate 500 due more to lead time than anything else, but I was not happy with it’s screen size – too small for actual productive use. I have to read drawings and documents on the screen and can not be zooming in and out with the compromised graphics processing power on these devices. And yes, I’m getting too old to see the really small details when the window resolution is set to optimize the screen real estate. So give me a 13″ screen, an 11 hour battery, and an OS that allows me to be productive not just a consumer, and I’m buying a bunch of these….

  8. Hugo Ortega @MrMobilePC says

    @Brucewilsonpa: Thanks for the warm welcome mate. I’m always humbled how many people remember me.  About your comment I can definitely relate. AS you can probably imagine my tale involves Samsung Q1, Q1U, Q1UP, Fujitsu U2010, T2020, T4210, T730, TabeltKiosk Sahara, eo a7330D and much more. Like you it’s about productivity more so than “entertainment”. Like you I got the iPad, and given the amount of tech buyers in the globe, it makes sense that a good portion of the buyers would have bought them no matter what; as you say, out of curiosity. I still think the market needs more Windows Tablets as no matter how complete Apple has their “experience” I think most users will benefit from the bigger ecosystem Windows offers. Like you I think the gab between tablet an phone will broaden, i.e. I want my phone to be smaller and my Tablet bigger. The reality is the last thing I want is three devices, as two good ones would be plenty! PS. Great to chat again Bruce!

    @iheke: Thanks for the welcome back mate. Like my comment to Bruce, it’s fun to be back amongst friends. Regarding your comment I’m surprised 7″ is the sweet spot. Maybe tell me what 7″ unit you have (or wish to have) that you use, and that addresses your needs. And how it addresses those needs? I’m yet to be convinced but willing to listen.

    @Harry Arendt: Don’t get me started on carriers! The manipulative way they carry on really makes me sick – especially when it changes what’s available and who it’s available to. Their need for profit, exclusive contracts and market share increase, at the expense of the end user, I hate. You got it right!

    @Dave P: Great comment and description mate! I too use the three device approach, and like you am calling on EverNote, and for that matter OneNote, to get their act together! I like your point that size and weight have a good relationship which also needs to be considered. Regrettably I am a bit geeky and would wear and iPad vest…if it were avialble for a Win7 Tablet, and had solar charging abilities LOL

    @Jason: I love your summary of Apple – it’s exactly as I see it. Regarding the 5″ iPod Touch, do you not think it is superfluous given the 7″ galaxy, or an Archos?

    @Harv: while I’m not affected by poor eyesight just yet (*smiles*) I am affected by heavy multi-tasking, and for this I’m leaning towards bigger is better lately, even for my secondary machine. I like the 13″ Tablet I have and think the 10″ Tablet for on the road works well too. I do however need to see better convergence and better battery life to be able to leave something at home. Until then it’s still 3 (and sometimes 4) devices for me to suit my daily activities locally and abroad.

    @ALL: Great comments everyone!

  9. FlyingShawn says

    The last couple years, I’ve been carrying around a P1610 on my trips as an airline pilot and think the screen is a perfect fit for me. Granted, the keyboard is a bit tight for extended typing, but the 8.9″ screen at 1280×768 is just right for both handheld web browsing in the terminal and for longer sessions when I get to my hotel room.

    I think the key there is the screen resolution (more important than just the size). Yes, text can be a bit small, but there are enough pixels in both directions (especially vertically!) to be able to use Windows 7 without feeling like I’m looking at it through a peephole.

    That’s actually the main reason I’ve dropped the HP Slate from consideration to replace the P1610: I love the idea of a 1.5lb, 9″ Win7 slate, but I feel like the 1024×600 screen would just leave it unusable for any real work (if they upped the resolution, put in an Oak Trail chip, and added a pen garage, it’d be the top of my list!).

    I’d also have to agree with Harv above, I’ve always thought the TC1100 was the pinnacle of Tablet PC design: perfect size, even weight distribution, hot-swappable battery, pen garage, convertible option, etc. If only they’d bring it back with a modern processor and dual-mode digitizer…

  10. Hugo Ortega @MrMobilePC says

    @FlyingShawn: I think lots of people know I feel the same way about the TC1100. Not only was the unit functional as a slate, but the keyboard too was of exceptional build, rigidity and weight (or lack thereof). Imagine an i7 TC100 with 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD, 1280 x 800 resolution and unlocked 3G! Sign me up! Even if it were expensive I think it would turn lots of heads!

    Regarding your comments on resolution I think you’re spot on! Ultimately the 16:9 aspect ratio is hard to work with. With some tinkering it can work well but I think a good high resolution, 4:3 aspect ratio device, of 9″ to 10″ flavours would be a nice sweet spot!

    Thanks for the great comment mate.

  11. dstrauss says

    Sorry for being late to the game, but I wanted to say that 7″ is a good compromise size for a secondary device. I have owned an iPad, Slate 500, and now an Android 2.2 version of Nook Color. Besides the incredible price value to the Nook, I find its size and weight to be distinct adantages over the other two, and to me it is better built and easier to hold than the Tab. But above all, even with my ancient eyes, the 7″ IPS screen is “big enough” and offers substantial screen room compared to my 3.5″ iPhone 4.

  12. Hugo Ortega @MrMobilePC says

    @dstrauss: One thing I’ve talks about for years is that tablets either replace a notebook, or a pda/phone. With this in mind, what you’ve said makes total sense. To replace a small device with a 7″ makes good sense, and in fact probably feels big! ;-)

    PS. Great to have you comment mate! Better late than never!

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