Rugged tablets are a complex products, still finding their feet and yet will be the central to IT innovation in the next 10 years.  I met some interesting people last week, all of whom are Tablet focussed manufacturers, distributors or solution based providers so I took the opportunity to ask all of them what they thought the future of the tablet would be.  I’ve decided to keep names and numbers private in this case but the facts are still very interesting.

What will the role of the Tablet be in the next 5-10 years?

Rugged Hardware Manufacturer

It will be central to the whole idea of mobility.  As users become totally mobile, the tablet will be the weapon of choice for businesses and possibly individuals as it provides what they need in a mobile fashion.

Chinese Tablet Manufacturer

The tablet will be the replacement for paper.  The price is being driven to nothing, we’re already finding ways to create the $20 tablet so rather than being considered a business tool, they will just become the medium to do anything.

Solution /Software Provider

I agree with both of these.  We’re almost totally focussed on tablet right now, especially Android and IOS because of the fact a tablet can simply do so much more to support the business logic, businesses require now and in the future.

How’s the iPad and iPad mini going to fit in to this?

Rugged Hardware Manufacturer

It won’t.  People will see the value in rugged hardware.  Rugged hardware will be based upon Android or Windows 8 and Apple will lose out.

Chinese Tablet Manufacturer

The iPad is still the benchmark tablet and it has so many other features like brand, “coolness” and so many people use them and grow up with them that we cannot ignore Apple.  I think they’ll get cheaper but they’re here to stay at least for the next 5-10 years.

Solution /Software Provider

People talk about Apple like they’re still on this Boom/Bust cycle but Apple has never been this big and this prevalent before.  I think they got it right this time and they will be here for some time yet.  The fact is too many kids, adults, youngsters and elderly people use them, love them and join the Apple tribe!  We’re certainly putting IOS at the heart of what we do and banking on them for the next 5-10 years.

What about Windows 8, how do you see this changing the game?

Rugged Hardware Manufacturer

It’s a game changer because it will give the rugged market a truly mobile rugged tablet with all the values Microsoft can bring to a mission critical market.  W8 is the main reason Apple will struggle in the coming years.

Chinese Tablet Manufacturer

It will, but it has a big battle to fight.  If you look at the people actually buying Windows in general, they not buying it and the support for Windows XP, Vista and W7 is having to be extended.  We can put any OS on our $50 or $100 tablets easily so in a way it doesn’t matter to us but I don’t think the market is ready yet for a “do everything” tablet that will kill the iPad and Android.  I think we’ll the same type of infiltration for W8 as we have seen for WP7.

Solution /Software Provider

The truth is we’re not sure.  We have Microsoft expertise but in a world where expertise is now being spread so thinly, we feel that focus on speed and price is the way forward for mobile.  Microsoft offers neither of these to us so we’ll remain focussed on Android and IOS like everyone else in our market.  I think Microsoft will still make the best backend if you have the time and skill but they are a lot further away from winning in the mobile market than they think.

Do you see a role for Rugged Tablets

Rugged Hardware Manufacturer

Of course!  There will always be business customers who will want something tough, string, supportable and roadmapped and they will pay for that.  I understand what you just told me about the $20 tablet but that’s for a totally different market to us.

Chinese Tablet Manufacturer

It’s a good question.  Many manufacturers here are experimenting with cheap rugged android devices and whilst the odd one is a hit, most don;t really get off the ground.  You can also see the lack of faith in rugged tablets from the strategy “rugged Tablet” companies are taking when making them.  Very few are making their own put it that way.

Solution /Software Provider

Sorry to say but no I don’t.  However I also never really understood the market fully.  I understand that rugged supports certain business elements well but I also think rugged doesn’t support many important ones either.  Speed of development, easy changes/tweaks to solutions to keep pace with rivals and when tablets are $50 these days you can buy 10 for each rugged tablet, change your support strategy and still have change in the bank.

Lastly how will Android change the market?

Rugged Hardware Manufacturer

Well it’s already changing it massively in the rugged market and rugged manufacturers are reacting.  However I think many aren’t seeing it the way they need to so the rugged android tablet market is a bit of a hash up at the moment in a general sense.  Android is not going anywhere though.

Chinese Tablet Manufacturer

Its free, its easy to work with, anyone can use it as their platform, it gives us options and its a very nice OS.  Demand is still growing, market share is still growing and its the OS that gets the most attention from us now and in the near future.  Android is the one to beat right now, IOS comes a close second but all of it’s innovation relies on Apple.  I’m not saying Apple won’t continue to innovate but the power of the open Android market will surely win out in the end?

Solution /Solution /Software Provider

It’s key to the mobile market and in many ways is the core technology for many mobile software companies.  More and more businesses are picking it up for its price and ability to give them a changing platform that allows innovation.  Nothing else keeps up like Android does and the demand continues to grow for it too.  It will be key, it will grow even more and it will fend off W8 and IOS easily.

So there we have it.  Interesting views indeed from 3 very different people.  I’d be interested to hear what anyone else has to say so join the conversation, comments are open!!

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

About The Author

Dave's one of the founders of Raptor, his rants are memorable, his thoughts are stimulating and his heart is set on helping, entertaining and making things like mobile, Android, ruggedness, 3D printing and IOT simple.

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