AT&T Launches Own-Brand Tablet with DirecTV Front and Center (Aug 21, 2017)
AT&T today announced Primetime, an own-brand LTE-enabled tablet which it will sell under an installment model and allow customers to add on to their shared data plans. The device puts the DirecTV services AT&T also sells front and center, meaning that this is not just an opportunity to sell more connected tablets but also another push to connect its wireless and entertainment offerings in bundles. History here throws up some worries: Sprint and Verizon have seen terrible tablet subscriber growth in the past year because they’re passing the two-year anniversary of when they gave away lots of free tablets on two-year contracts, and customers are now churning in big numbers. This tablet from AT&T carries its own brand, and it’s not clear from AT&T’s press release what sort of specs the device has, but there’s a risk that AT&T sees the same churn in 20-24 months when customers have paid these things off. Overall, I’d also argue that AT&T’s bundling of wireless and entertainment hasn’t worked all that well either for its TV business or its wireless business, both of which continue to bleed subscribers, while Verizon bounced back in a big way in Q2 thanks to its big push around unlimited. That, and not TV/wireless bundles, seems to be what’s selling in the US wireless industry at the moment, and AT&T is the odd one out among the major carriers in not promoting the unlimited offerings it re-introduced earlier this year. I’m not sure this tablet changes any of that, and it feels like another attempt to shoehorn DirecTV into a wireless proposition rather than simply leading with what customers are looking for.
Apple today upgraded its iPad Pro lineup and announced a new version of iOS with big changes for the iPad as well as support for AR. The major theme in both the hardware and software aspects of the iPad announcements was productivity, where Apple continues to push the iPad Pro as a potential laptop replacement. The hardware changes improve performance across the board while specifically tweaking the ratio between screen and device size for the smaller iPad Pro in a change that likely foreshadows what Apple will do in a more dramatic way in the Fall with the iPhone. Just as the Mac lineup became more powerful with today’s announcements, so the iPad is becoming more powerful as a potential computer replacement, and the iOS changes specific to the iPad further that message, with support for a much wider range of multitasking scenarios and other more sophisticated features. For the first time, the iPad version of iOS feels like it’s gaining a truly distinct identity that’s really optimized for heavy-duty productivity tasks, and it will be interesting to see how the OS feels on the iPads not designed for pro use, because a number of user interface elements and conventions will change as a result. However, the other big change in today’s iOS announcements is support for AR through ARKit for developers, which is Apple’s first foray into AR. Notably, whereas the VR support in the Mac is primarily aimed for today at creation of VR content, Apple’s AR push is much more end-user centric, and will enable developers to quickly and easily create a range of AR apps and games for the iPhone and iPad. Whereas smartphone-centric AR today is very photo- and video-centric and dominated by companies like Snapchat and more recently Facebook, Apple’s platform approach could dramatically expand the use of AR in smartphone apps and move smartphone-based AR forward significantly in terms of mainstream adoption.
IDC Adjusts Forecast PC and Tablet Growth Downward (May 26, 2017)
IDC has adjusted its combined PC and tablet forecast downwards by several percent, with the overall picture one of shrinkage through next year followed by modest growth from 2019 to 2021. Within that broad category, desktops and standalone tablets are forecast to decline strongly, while laptops will grow slightly and “detachable” tablets (those made to be used with keyboards) will grow the fastest. IDC says it’s revising its forecast downward because those detachables aren’t growing as fast as it had thought. It’s also worth noting that any growth that exists right now in the market is entirely in the commercial market, while the consumer PC market (even including tablets) continues to shrink). It’s also worth noting that even in 2021, IDC forecasts that those detachable tablets will only be 11% of the total market. We’re continuing to see a diversification of the PC market across these various categories as both vendors and consumers try to figure out which combinations of tablet and laptop form factors and features work best, with much of the action so far at the premium end of the market. Things could get interesting (and move off IDC’s forecast trajectory) if we start to see some meaningful competition in that detachable space from vendors targeting the mid market, but there’s little sign of that happening yet.
Samsung Surface Competitor Gets Poor Reviews (May 26, 2017)
Images Leak of New Microsoft Surface Pro (May 19, 2017)
Amazon Updates 7″ Tablet, Lowers Price on 8″ Version (May 18, 2017)
The tablet market continues to be one of the most interesting in consumer electronics. Having grown faster than any other previous new category, it’s been in decline now for several years, with almost all players seeing declines in sales. Amazon’s chunk of the market has always focused on smaller, cheaper tablets, partly a reflection of its inability to compete in premium hardware but also reflective of a broader strategy of selling devices at or below cost to stimulate investment in its ecosystem. It’s now refreshing its 7″ tablet, its cheapest and most popular version, and also lowering the price on its slightly higher end 8″ version, a sign that it’s still very interested in the category. That’s interesting at a time when Apple has said its sub-9.7″ tablets are the only segment of its iPad business that’s declining, and when it’s reported to be considering phasing the smaller iPad mini out altogether. What we’re seeing in some ways is an increasing bifurcation of the market between larger premium tablets used by adults for work and other more sophisticated tasks and smaller cheaper tablets used mostly for video watching and to a greater extent by kids.
IDC Says Q1 Tablet Shipments Were Down 8.5% Year on Year (May 5, 2017)
For The First Time, Apple Drops Below Microsoft In J.D. Power’s Tablet Survey – Fast Company (Apr 7, 2017)
This is symbolically hugely important, because these are just the kind of stats that Apple likes to roll out on earnings calls and so on to highlights the strength of its products, far more so than market share or other statistics (though it often focused on percentage satisfaction rather than rankings per se). As the article makes clear, though, even though this is the first time Apple has dropped behind Microsoft, it’s not the first time it’s been beaten, as Samsung did so earlier. As is often the case with these rankings, you end up wishing the data were a little more transparent. For example, Microsoft apparently beat the iPad on Internet connectivity despite the fact that iPads offer 4G LTE as well as WiFi, which makes me wonder to what extent the ratings reflect the expectations people have of particular brands. In other words, are people pleasantly surprised that the Surface does certain things well, whereas others would expect the iPad to do those things well and therefore give it lower scores? Adjusting for those expectations would be tough, and I doubt JD Power does so. I also wonder to what extent Surface owners self-select into a much more narrow set of use cases for which the Surface is uniquely well suited, whereas the iPad is more of a general purpose device used by a far wider range of use cases, not all of which by definition it’s designed for. At any rate, it’s worth keeping an eye on this over time. Some of the other commentary in the article here is a little overblown – one thing is for certain: iPads massively outsell Surface computers of all shapes and sizes, so any idea that Surfaces are somehow displacing iPads in large numbers is nonsense.
via Fast Company
Apple today updated its online store and issued a press release around a new 9.7″ iPad, confirming a change in strategy which seemed apparent when the 9.7″ iPad Pro launched but wasn’t made explicit until now. The new iPad drops the Air branding, and offers specs a year or two behind the iPad Pro line, while reducing the price to the lowest in Apple’s iPad lineup, at $329 (the only iPad mini available now is the 128GB model, which starts at $399, meaning that for the first time it’s cheaper to buy the new 9.7″ iPad than the newest iPad mini). What we have now, then, is a clear bifurcation between the iPad Pro, which is the latest and greatest with high-end specs, new features, and accessories like Pencil and the Smart Keyboard, and the more basic and low-end iPad. The iPad Pro is therefore not just the iPad for people who want to replace their laptop, but also the best iPad for everyone else. The iPad, then, becomes the low-cost alternative, the one for people with simpler needs, for giving to kids, and so on. That’s going to do interesting things to average selling prices, which had gone up slightly with the launch of the iPad Pro line and will now come down, but also to Apple’s competitiveness in a price band where it really hasn’t played before, expanding its addressable market. This new iPad is effectively the equivalent of the iPhone SE, taking older innards and wrapping them in new branding to bring the price down to a new level, and I suspect that – like the iPhone SE – it will indeed bring the device to new people. However, I suspect it’ll take quite a bit more share of the overall market than the SE has in iPhones.
Samsung is doing its flagship smartphone reveal a month from now in New York, so it’s focused on other things at MWC. I already covered its VR headset update, but another announcement involved a couple of new Windows tablets. As is so often the case with these trade show announcements, specific prices haven’t been announced, but these are on the ultraportable side of the PC range, looking a lot like some of Samsung’s Android tablets but with Windows onboard instead, and with detachable keyboards. This definitely feels like the hottest segment of the PC/tablet market at the moment, with Microsoft’s own Surface, lots of alternatives from OEMs, and of course Apple’s iPad Pro coming at this from a different angle.
KGI: 3 new iPads to debut next quarter will slow decline in sales, 10-10.5 inch model wildcard | 9to5Mac (Jan 8, 2017)
The iPad had a better year in 2016, but shipments were still down 10-15% year on year, while revenues were down by a few percentage points. I believe revenues will likely level off sooner than shipments due to higher ASPs driven by the Pro models, while shipments will level off over the next year or two as well. New iPads which provide more compelling reasons to upgrade will help with that, but a lot of sales will be driven by replacements among the massive installed base of older models. The new models reported by KGI are intriguing – at least one new size will make an appearance, and it appears this will be the high-end version of the 9.7″ model, which will remain at a lower price point.