Technalysis Research
Previous Blogs

September 23, 2014
Is the App Ecosystem Sustainable?

September 16, 2014
The Wearable-Identity Connection

September 9, 2014
The Password Dilemma

September 8, 2014
Insider Extra: SanDisk--Driving Flash Forward

September 2, 2014
Smart Connected Devices: A New Forecast

August 26, 2014
Phablets—aka Pocket Computers—Drive New World Order

August 19, 2014
Device Usage Diversity

August 12, 2014
New Life for the PC

August 5, 2014
Hot Items for the Holidays: Large Phones, Notebooks and Smart TVs

July 29, 2014
Smartphones: Life's Remote Control

July 22, 2014
The Joy of Vintage Tech

July 15, 2014
Digital Generation Gap

July 8, 2014
Virtualization Reborn

July 1, 2014
Portable Digital Identities

June 24, 2014
The Future of UI: Contextual Intelligence

June 17, 2014
Moving to Markets of One

June 16, 2014
Insider Extra: Dell and the Battle for Business

June 10, 2014
Screen Overload to Drive Screen-less Devices

June 3, 2014
Apple Drives Vision of Seamless Multi-Device Computing

May 27, 2014
Surface Pro 3: The Future of PCs?

May 22, 2014
Insider Extra: SanDisk: The Many Faces of Flash

May 20, 2014
The Technological Divining Rod

May 13, 2014
Computing in the Cloud

May 6, 2014
Device Usage a Question of Degree

April 29, 2014
The Next Smartphone Battleground: Durability

April 22, 2014
BYOD: A Work in Progress

April 18, 2014
Insider Extra: AMD Back in the Groove

April 15, 2014
The Mobility Myth

April 9, 2014
BYOD Dilemma: Devices vs. Data

April 8, 2014
Insider Extra: Qualcomm's Evolving Story

April 1, 2014
A Wearables Forecast

March 25, 2014
Measuring Success in Wearables? It's Thousands of Thousands

March 24, 2014
Insider Extra: Intel Strategy Moves Forward

March 18, 2014
IOT: Islands of Isolated Things?

March 11, 2014
Wearables Cautionary Tale

March 4, 2014
The New Platform Battle

February 25, 2014
Watch What Happens

February 18, 2014
Talkin' 'bout Touchpads

February 11, 2014
The MultiOS Conundrum

February 4, 2014
Computing Redefined

January 28, 2014
The Apple Problem

January 21, 2014
The 2-in-1s People Might Want

January 14, 2014
The Post Tablet Era

January 7, 2014
The Innovation Asymptote

December 31, 2013
Top 5 2014 Predictions

December 17, 2013
Holiday Shoppers Gifting Themselves

December 10, 2013
Companion Apps

December 3, 2013
Aisle Check

TECHnalysis Research Blog

September 30, 2014
Tablet and Smartphone Futures: Specialization

As the markets for tablets and smartphones continue to mature and saturate, I believe we’re heading towards some important changes. Specifically, I think the time for mass market smartphones and tablets is rapidly nearing an end.

It’s not that we won’t have any big products, but post-iPhone 6, I think it’s going to be much harder for any vendors (including Apple) to create something that has enormous mass appeal.

The reasons for my thinking are pretty simple. As people have become more comfortable and familiar with smartphones (and tablets), they’ve started to realize the specific things they like and don’t like about certain models or certain types of devices, and they’re gravitating towards models that meet their personal needs.

Look at the debate over the iPhone 6 vs. the 6 Plus. Some people really want the bigger screen and some people really don’t. In fact, you could argue that the entire large smartphone (“phablet”) category is a great example of the specialization I’m referring to here. Depending on personal preferences and tastes, there are very strong supporters and detractors of the entire movement.

In that light, I think the introduction of BlackBerry’s Passport phone last week actually makes a great deal of sense. The Passport is not something that an enormous number of people are going to want, but for the right market (mobile professionals who work for companies with strict security policies), it’s actually a pretty cool device. Similarly, for people who care more about looking at work documents on a phone than watching movies, the 4.5” square screen of the Passport works very nicely.

In the case of the Passport, it’s also important to remember that many people who still use BlackBerries carry two phones: a work phone and a personal phone. While that may not be an ideal situation for many people, it’s perfectly OK to many others. Again, in that light, the Passport is a great update of the work phone.

Moving forward, I expect we’re going to see a lot more specialization by other vendors to meet the needs of specific markets. As I’ve written about before, there’s a huge opportunity to create different types of smartphones for different age groups—15-year olds and 55-year olds don’t need (and probably don’t want) the same phone. I also expect to see a group of people who will steadfastly hold onto smaller size phones because of their easier portability and “pocketability” and expect some vendors to cater to those needs.

I believe the specialization trend will extend beyond phones to tablets as well. Of course there are the OS-based differences—just as there are for phones—but there’s also screen size preferences and other activity-based differences. The 9.7” iPad did a good job of introducing many people to the concept of a tablet, but honestly, is there anyone really that excited about another version of it?

That’s why I expect to see Apple introduce a larger 12” or so tablet, in addition to updated versions of their 9.7” products. A larger iPad isn’t likely to sell as well as the smaller models, but it will fill the needs of creative professionals and others who really want a larger screen size quite nicely. Similarly, that’s also why I find nVidia’s Shield gaming tablet to be an intriguing indicator of where the tablet market is headed. The Shield tablet is never going to sell anywhere close to the iPad or even generic Android tablets, but for the right audience, it’s a great product.

As appealing as the concept of more specialization may be, however, there’s a big challenge for hardware vendors: the larger the sales volume of a given device, the more you can reduce its costs and, conversely, the lower the volume, typically, the higher the cost. Smart designs will allow vendors to leverage similar components across multiple products, but it does place more difficult demands on their supply chains (and product designers).

Ultimately, technology products are likely to follow the path of other mass-produced goods, such as cars, appliances and even clothing. In all those markets (and many more), the ability to specifically target different types of consumers and then create products that match the unique needs/interests of those different consumers is what allows companies to thrive. Now, it’s time for technology companies to step up to those challenges and give us the breadth of product options that the market is hungry to see.

Here's a link to the original column:

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