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Why small tablets will dominate the tablet market

Mike Elgan | July 10, 2012
Big tablet like the iPad will alway be popular, especically among high -end buyers. But the future belongs to smaller cheaper tablets like the Google Nexus 7 and the upcoming mini iPad, says columnist Mike Elgan.

For example, I wouldn't use my $500 iPad in the following circumstances, but would definitely use my $200 Google Nexus 7: The beach, in restaurants, at the movies (oh, calm down -- I'll shut it off before the trailers roll), while hiking, while walking around in disreputable neighborhoods, while on a boat, and so on.

Increased locations for use means more use, and more use means more enjoyment. Cheapness is a feature. Cheapness enhances mobility.

Because they're more mobile, they'll be enjoyed for more casual uses. The Google Nexus 7, for example, is a great example of the kinds of uses people will gravitate toward on small tablets.

The new Google Now and the newly improved Google Voice Search, both new to the Jelly Bean version of Android and first launched on the Nexus 7, suggest the killer app for small tablets: the virtual assistant. They're both so fast, accurate and uncannily insightful that people will want to to use them all day, every day.

Eventually, I believe, virtual assistants on both iOS and Android tablets will be given the power to control apps on the device. That combination will transform small tablets and phones into Star Trek computers that answer questions and go off and do things in the world on behalf of the user.

Small tablets are also perfect social networking machines. Phones are popular devices for interacting on Facebook, but not because it's a compelling size. Phones are way to small for the visual, photo-centric way people do social networking. iPad sized tablets are also flawed, because they're less mobile. But 7-inch touch tablets are an ideal combination of big screen and mobility. Google's new Google+ app on Nexus 7 is by far the best social networking platform ever introduced. Facebook and Twitter will probably follow with similarly great tablet-specific apps.

So while the larger iPad-size tablets are slightly more usable from a user interface perspective, smaller tablets are vastly more usable from a location and circumstance perspective.

And unlike bigger tablets, which gravitate toward web surfing, reading and email, smaller tablets will be used for more personal uses -- as virtual assistants and social networking machines

Why small tablets will rule the education market

The education market, especially K-12, is overdue for a tablet revolution. Few people outside the education market realize that cost is the only thing holding back that revolution.


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