Laid-back Browsing and The Future of The Tablet

by Krishna on October 3, 2011

Cédric Beust analyzes the threat to Google from Amazon's Silk browser:

I really don’t see the threat, here, especially not the one coming from Amazon’s Silk browser being used as a cloaking proxy for its users. Yes, Google will not be getting browser hits directly from Fire users, but let’s face it: no matter how successful the Fire will be (and I bet it will be very successful), it will never go very far in terms of browser market share compared to smartphone access or even PC access. As for Amazon, I bet they will keep getting most of their data from non-Fire users connecting to by a very, very wide margin.

I think this is wrong on many fronts. But first, a few observations and predictions!

One of Amazon’s killer moves was the price point. Reaching $199 is a big milestone. This effectively kills all low-end competitors. Apple owns the high-end market, but the $300 differential is a big one. I was talking to a friend yesterday and asked him what he could do with an iPad that he couldn’t do with the Kindle Fire, and beyond the aesthetics and the engineering, he did not have an idea. I would suppose that few people would have that answer. If you can perform the most common functions on a Kindle, why not go for the less expensive option from a good brand?

Tablets will kill low-end laptops on one side of the price spectrum and e‑readers on the other side. The main benefits of e‑readers are the specialized reading device (no distractions) and the E‑ink display. But the former is overrated and the latter will be solved by technology sooner or later. People want to have fewer devices and portable at that, so they will converge towards the device in the middle, which is the tablet.

One of the big selling points of the iPod (the music player) was the iTunes Store. Easy purchase of music down to your computer and music player. The big thing going for Kindle Fire will (and should be) the ability to integrate with the Amazon Store to purchase anything seamlessly. The killer application would be like a “Magical Household Purchaser” that knows all your grocery and household items and when to order them. Maybe as RFID tags become cheaper, that will happen. (Aside: Take a look at the Paleofuture blog for some past predictions of the future)

The laptop will merge with the tablet. For what is possible, look at the Macbook Air. Now think if you eliminated the physical keyboard and put the screen there. That is a tablet right there doing all the things a laptop will do. For most uses, (as the iPhone proved), you don’t need a keyboard, which in fact gets in the way when you are relaxing on your sofa or bed (what we can call “laid-back browsing”). But if you really want a keyboard, imagine a future tablet having a very thin slide out keyboard.

Some technologies like bendable /expandable material for devices and displays can radically change the size of the devices. You could carry a tablet in your pocket, but when you use it, the screen is as large as you need it to be. What we are getting to is whether your smartphone will become your tablet or vice versa. That is anyone’s guess.

At the higher end (in price, quality and performance), computers will be pushed back into the work realm. You will see industrial designers, movie makers, software programmers, etc. use high-end computers. This is similar to how the average person now takes photos on their phone or point-and-shoot cameras, while professional photographers continue to purchase very high-end cameras with powerful lenses and other accessories.

Sometime back, there was a big shift in consumers preferring laptops over desktops. Laptops were always more convenient, but they were much more expensive and often were less powerful. But once they broke certain price points, laptops became big sellers. The same thing is going to happen to tablets now. We saw that with the HP fire sale when $100 tablets flew off the shelf. People see great convenience in having a device that they can easily carry (just like a book) around the house and use it for reading, watching movies and shopping.

What all this boils down to is that tablets are going to be much more pervasive than we can imagine. And if Amazon corners a big chunk of that market, which they will, Amazon Silk will go very far in the browser market share. Most people are not going to switch to another browser if Silk does browsing effectively. Most of the non-Fire traffic that Amazon will get will be people browsing from their workplace, which is significant, but not the only thing. See the use cases:

  1. Browsing while waiting at airport / hotel / coffee shop. Check!
  2. Browsing while watching TV. Check!
  3. Browsing after waking up or just about to sleep. Check!
  4. Searching for recipes while cooking. Check!

Browsing in the car — maybe we have to wait for that a bit as Kindle Fire only supports Wi-Fi. But seriously, outside of work and during serious hobby work, where do you think a tablet will not be used for browsing? [Bonus: Read what you do with a $99 tablet.]

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