Tablet Wars: User Experience Expectations are High
By Jim Lundy
In the Tablet Wars that are coming, the expectations of users of how a Tablet behaves are very high. Just ask anyone that has used an iPad and then tried to use something else. This blog post is the result of a conversation I had with an IT Leader over the weekend. He was looking at our site via his iPad and that prompted a discussion about his user experience on that device vs what we both have seen with others. We both agreed that in the Tablet Wars that are looming, the bar for user experience has been set very high by Apple.
Tablet Wars: OS and Hardware integration
The fact of the matter is that tight OS integration with hardware isn’t optional anymore. The OS can’t just work, it must work flawlessly. The user (person using the device) expects it. In fact, when a device has issues, word spreads like wildfire (just ask Apple or Google). For all the vendors planning tablet offerings in the coming months, no matter what OS is planning to be used, if it isn’t flawless user interaction, behavior, you might as well as forget about it.
Is this the reason that Microsoft is getting into Tablet hardware business (to offer tight OS and hardware integration)? Only time will tell. Clearly, with Microsoft getting into tablets, it means many more will also enter the Tablet wars.
When discussing the user experience, it goes beyond how the OS behaves. We are talking about little things, such as how the Tablet auto-detects and connects to wireless signals. After authentication, can the device hold the wireless signal? It may seem trivial, but it isn’t. Old Android releases (prior to 4.0) on some Android Tablets had this connectivity issue (it would drop the wireless signal) and it wasn’t fun at all. The only way to address it was to reset the device to ‘factory settings’ and an old OS release that worked.
Tablet Wars: Little things matter
On other items, such as battery life when playing HD movies, users take for granted that the battery will keep up. This is non-trivial stuff. The competitive benchmarking that has to be done on the tight OS integration with the hardware and the behavior of the OS is huge. Under no circumstances can the user get error messages from the OS.
So what we have is a new barrier to entry that will force vendors who want to jump into the Tablet Wars to step back and delay launches until the bugs are worked out. General Managers (at PC or Tablet vendors) have to understand this and set the bar high internally.
One of the reasons that the bar has been set so high is that the OS maturity from some providers, such as Apple, is high. iOS may only be at version 5 (version 6 is looming), but in reality, the mobile OS has been under development since the very first iPod was released in 2001. That device had touch built into it. In fact, many people had trouble using early iPods because they were not used to a touch interface.
Having said all that, Google has been doing their homework. We have a First Cut that is coming out this week on their new Android 4.1 release. So far, it looks promising.
The question for Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft, RIM and even device manufacturers that use Android, is what is the minimum viable product you can release that will make people happy and cause them to recommend the device to others. Clearly, the Apple iPad Tablet and the mobile ecosystem that surrounds it, has caused a very high bar of expectations to be set.
As we discuss in our premium research, mobile ecosystems help to drive demand for tablets. The failure of many to offer a vibrant mobile ecosystem is one of the reasons those vendors have not fared well in the Tablet Wars. We expect many tablet form factors to emerge. Some are even calling this the mini tablet wars. 7-8 inch tablets, such as the Google Nexus 7 and the rumored iPad Mini are the first of many new form factors that vendors will experiment to leverage price as a decision criteria. As voice interfaces improve and images can be projected (such as google glass), tablets may shrink even further to wrist watch size. For now, displays matter and that is a big part of tablet selection criteria.
The question still remains. In the upcoming Tablet Wars, who will be the first vendor to produce an iPad killer? Tell us what you think.