I generally agree with many of IDC’s forecasts when it comes to mobile devices. I couldn’t disagree more with the latest one however. The research firm reduced its tablet sales growth for two reasons: Demand for larger phones and growth of wearables. I’m fine with the first reason because that’s one of semantics; at some point, larger phones will simply be considered voice-enabled tablets and I’ve said more than a year ago that such tablets will replace phones. But wearables?
Sorry, but the whole value proposition of a tablet is the improved experience over a smaller screened device. Why then will consumers suddenly crave a small screen experience that’s going to be worse than on a big screen? Will people actually replace a tablet purchase with a wearable purchase?
The only reason I can think of for IDC to believe this is because it’s stuck in the same trap many others are: Thinking that smartwatches and other wearable displays will bring value as second screen devices that can also run apps. I’m taking a different view and alluded to it on Twitter earlier this week:
If future smartwatch sales are expected to eat into phones & tablets sales, there's no innovation; just a smaller screen for same stuff.—
Kevin C. Tofel (@KevinCTofel) August 29, 2013
The innovation I’m expecting is in hyper-personal contextual data: A watch or wearable that knows where you are, where you need to be, what’s next on your calendar, what your likes and dislikes are. Think of a personal assistant that’s better suited for glancing at data points on your wrist then forcing you to retrieve a phone from your pocket.
I alluded to this earlier by saying I want Google Now and other contextual type features on my wrist. Yes, it’s available on a phone already, but I think the phone is really the second-best place for Google Now. A more effective place is on the wrist, in Google Glass or other small tech that becomes “invisible”.
A tablet, on the other hand couldn’t be more visible. Yes, you can get contextual information on a tablet, but the more I think about it, the more I think that’s overkill. Give me a small screen that’s always an eye movement away for this type of helpful data. And I’ll take a tablet on the side for my apps, gaming, content consumption and other uses. But since the devices offer — or should offer — very different experiences, I don’t think we’ll see cannibalization of tablets through wearables.