Holiday shopping? Probably one of the hottest gift ideas this year is a new tablet and with so many choices out there the options can be hard to weigh. There are so many differences that they can make choosing the right tablet quite difficult. Here are some golden rules to consider when tablet shopping.
If you are like most people you think Heinz and ketchup are interchangeable, or Kleenex and tissue are one in the same. Sometimes brand can become synonymous with the product and as great as that is for those two examples, it certainly doesn’t help the competition any, nor does it necessarily help the consumer since the “brand” becomes empowered to represent choice. When it comes to PC hardware in general, the discussion for a long time was about Windows alone. As tablets have become more and more in demand we now have four legitimate operating systems as options for the consumer. The key is to start your tablet search with OS in mind and pick the system that fits your broader technology ecosystem.
Most consumers start the tablet search thinking about the guys that got there first. When you are the first to make something and the product is simply amazing in terms of innovation and ability, you deserve the market share you grow. But, like the examples above, the brand doesn’t necessarily define the product. For the market leader (and you know who I mean) the real value lies in their integrated ecosystem. Everything they make runs the same software and they all work together simply and easily. Sharing applications and content across devices is easy and is a built in technology. As well, the engineering and product design is first rate. Lastly, the ecosystem is tightly controlled so all third party applications are rigidly vetted for functionality and stability. That control, design and functionality comes with a caveat; price.
Windows & Windows8
Windows has just recently launched their Windows8 operating system and the coolest thing is that it too creates a seamless ecosystem across wireless devices (both tablets and phones) the PC and the TV via Xbox. Being new, there are limitations in terms of knowledge base and applications. Having played with a Win8 tablet I have to say the operating system works very well on the portable device, I would even say that it’s built for speed. For the bulk of PC users the challenge will come from learning this new operating system in a world dominated from “what you knew”. With such a recent change the jury remains out, but for a branded ecosystem Windows certainly is worth looking into.
Blackberry & The Playbook
Blackberry users may or may not have tried the Playbook yet but for a functional, smaller tablet the device continues to make waves, especially when priced aggressively for seasonality or promotion. The “price is right” mentality moves a lot of consumers to Playbook. but through personal use I love the robust ergonomics and small size. The biggest hurdle is overcoming the market perception and limited applications available but with OS10 coming for Blackberry I’d expect to see big things.
The biggest growth segment in tablet is for Android. The benefits of the Android operating system are direct contrasts to the market leader. As an open source OS there are no barriers to application creation so it’s simply the easiest OS to go from conception to availability meaning TONS of applications and growing fast. It also means compatibility so your music, data, and video are usable in most formats and don’t necessarily have to be brand friendly. This open source can create fragmentation but it also means choice.
Continuing with the Android theme, the open source OS means anybody can make one so you have more choice in hardware size, configuration and cost. You can find Android tablets as small as 5” and as large as 13”. Some come with removal keyboards. Some have SD card expansion for memory. Some have built in pens designed specifically for note taking, drawing and editing. This flexible choice in hardware also gives the consumer a flexible choice in price as well. Key benefit when examining hardware is choice, so Android has the advantage here.
That said, when you are the first, the most and best known and all your tablets come in the same size you provide a different advantage; accessories. There are far more options around cases, sound docks, and any number of accessories for the brand leader in tablet. If you need the absolute right case, than choices here greatly outnumber the competition.
Windows also has multiple brand partners so again you have the choice in hardware but not as wide as Android, yet.
The true advantage of portable technology is connectivity; getting your songs or pictures to all of your devices, getting your pictures or video to your TV for example. Here again the brand leader has an advantage with interactivity across devices. They all just work together, easy and simple right from the box. Android devices give you flexibility for connected devices. There are applications and devices that allow you to do anything you can do with the alternative but you might need to work a little bit harder for it. If you are comfortable with technology, this flexibility and choice around device and content format has value. If your VCR flashes 12, well, you might want the easy choice.
Overall, the choices are far broader than many consumers think when they start looking. My best advice is don’t be afraid to try one you haven’t tried before because you would be losing out on choices around hardware, price and configuration. Tablet sales are growing fast and one thing I can guarantee is that the holiday shopping should be filled with great deals.