Blog Post

Content, not hardware, has made tablets the current king

Tablets may be a hot item now, but they’re just getting started. By 2016, 34 percent of the U.S. population — 112.5 million — will own tablets, making them the fastest adopted consumer electronics device in history. But tablets alone won’t be the big story in the coming years according to James McQuivey, VP, Principal Analyst, Forrester Research. Speaking at the paidContent 2012 event on Wednesday, McQuivey noted that it’s not just a “tablet or iPad world” coming, but an “everything world.”

“Rapidly converging technlogies accelerate the benefits of consumer delivery,” McQuivey said, and that benefit is digital content and entertainment. “It’s all about the software,” he said, because software services make the content easy to access across a wide number of devices, such as the 35 million e-readers also owned by consumers. “The big thing happening is a platform promise between device makers,  service providers and consumers.” That’s why the iPad(s aapl) is a hit: It’s a solid blend of hardware, software and ecosystem support.

This “platform promise” is bringing unprecedented use of devices for content, particularly with the iPad. Consumers are looking for a full package; not just a nice piece of hardware. And until others can offer that full, “everything” package, Apple will continue to lead. But don’t count out Microsoft(s msft), McQuivey said, given the 70 million Xbox 360 devices connected to televisions.

“The platform is the new throne where content reigns and content is king,” he notes. “And the platform promise can make or unmake a king at any time.” The iPad might be sitting on the throne now, but as competitors build up the promise of their platform, the game of thrones rages on.

Tablets: Not Just an iPad World

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3 Responses to “Content, not hardware, has made tablets the current king”

  1. It is about platforms, but it’s not (only or primarily) about content. Tablets, smartphones, and other devices are useful to the extent and only to the extent that they help people make their lives simpler and more enjoyable. Content consumed for its own sake is entertainment, and entertainment is only a small part of making one’s life simpler and more enjoyable.

    Indeed, platforms are only superior to more disjointed/modular alternatives because the former require less hassle than the latter.

  2. This analysis and its contradictions underscores the difficulty of the tablet market. Dr. McQuivey says that content is king but also asserts that there is “a three-way conspiracy by device makers, service providers, and consumers” and goes on to say that “the platform has the power to crown a new king anytime it wants”. Meanwhile the ways that people use tablets seem to be for many of the same reasons that we use computers — email, games, social networking, etc. Thus it doesn’t appear that content is king, and the platform doesn’t have the power to crown a new king. Doesn’t this suggest that the tablet has been adopted for a variety of reasons (the three way conspiracy) and that sometimes its content (Kindle), sometimes its hardware (iPad seems superior in this category), and sometimes its consumer preference (which is driven by marketing). To succeed in this rather complicated field, a vendor has to have a strong message to deliver to and on behalf of the three conspirators (something you, Kevin, have often and accurately pointed out). That’s why the only winners thus far (and for the foreseeable future) are Apple and Amazon. Samsung (and others) has terrific hardware but have no answer for content and marketing.