S07E10 - The death of tablets?

It's our final week of season 7 and the team turn their attention to tablets. Rafe's gathered some research (so we know the numbers are right) showing the iPad has lost its market-dominating position with overall sales of tablets slowing too. Samsung is catching Apple fast with its broad range of tablets and price-points but the smaller, lower-cost devices are the real winners cumulatively beating both the big firms.

In other news Ewan's finally a productive member of society again (well, he's started his new job) and Rafe's finding dual-sim phones useful in rural areas with poor network coverage.


Ben: Hello and welcome to the 361 Degrees Podcast, season 7, episode 10! My name's Ben Smith, from Wireless Worker.

Rafe: I'm Rafe Blandford from the All About sites.

Ewan: I'm Ewan from Mobile Industry Review.

Ben: Welcome back, gents! Hello! Last episode of the season.

Ewan: That's right.

Ben: So, you all fired up?

Ewan: Oh, yes, yes. Can I hit the table?

Ben: No.

Ewan: (sigh) (the sound of a table being knocked on)

Ben: No. We don't-

Ewan: Okay, anyway....

Ben: There you go, so we went and spend all this money on expensive microphones here only to be knocking it around. Rafe Blandford is looking particularly "on it" this week!

Rafe: I'm ready and raring to go!

Ben: Ready and raring to go.

Ewan: He's on it like Janet.

Ben: Exactly. And for listeners that are interested in behind-the-scenes coverage, Rafe Blandford is sporting two cushions this week, to enhance his proximity to the microphone.

Ewan: He's not sitting on them.

Ben: No, but he's propped himself up so he-

Rafe: What are you trying to say, Ewan?

Ben: He's propped himself up so he can be close to the microphone.

Ewan: Right.

Ben: We can get this sorted. So, Rafe Blandford, welcome to the podcast. It's interesting to see the rest of you, now, just emerging from behind the microphone.

Ewan: Did you miss me, by the way? From the other episode?

Ben: Where did you go?

Ewan: I wasn't here, you know, physically. Do you not remember?

Ben: You weren't here for episode ... was it 8?

Rafe: 8.

Ewan: 8.

Ben: Yes, that's right. And now we can reveal that episode 9 was already in the bag. That was a secret, that we sometimes record them and have them stored away-

Ewan: Out of order.

Ben: Out of order-

Ewan: Yes.

Ben: I know. Don't tell anyone; this is our secret, you, us, and 15 thousand listeners.

Ewan: Yes. Can I make a comment about the ‘tool’ though?

Ben: Oh, a moment. A moment's thought. Go on, then.

Ewan: Yes. Right. Who was that guy that said the podcast last week wasn't very good ... Or, was it ... When he said he was missing me!

Ben: I thought that was nice!

Ewan: Yeah.

Ben: Someone tweeted you on the Twitters to say that they missed you on the podcast!

Rafe: It was kind of like a backhanded compliment, really?

Ewan: It wasn't! I need to read it out.

Rafe: It did suggest that you, perhaps ... He wasn't enamoured with your contributions in previous episodes.

Ewan: Basically, the listener called me a tool. Let's just get it right. Now, why did he call me a tool?

Rafe: Because he's using you to fix things?

Ewan: Oh, come on. Wait a minute. I'm expecting some kind of, "That's absolute nonsense! Why is he doing that?"

Rafe: "Oh, I mean, that's absolute nonsense"-

Ben: Come on, Rafe. You do the impassioned defence and I play backup, here.

Rafe: I really was very surprised to see a comment like that-

Ewan: Oh yeah, yes, yes.

Rafe: Because I appreciate, and I'm sure the readers do too ... readers? The audience, even-

Ewan: Right. I said I'd mention him.

Rafe: Realize just how important, a vital part, of the trio that is 361. It starts with a 3 for a reason.

Ben: It does, it does.

Ewan: Okay. Michael Warner ... Thanks, Mike. "Why is it that when Ewan is on I think he is an utter tool"-

Ben: That must be a euphemism where he's from for "important member of the team."

Ewan: But I miss him when he is not there. Big smiley.

Ben: Yeah, we missed you as well, but that's because you normally buy dinner.

Rafe: Yeah, I mean, I really missed being screamed at from the other side of the table.

Ewan: Apologist!

Ben: I did my best, I did my best. And I tried to use my Ewan MacLeod soundboard that you had provided, but there weren't sufficient opportunities-

Rafe: Sorry.

Ben: In a very sensible, reasoned conversation, to hurl abuse at one of my close friends.

Ewan: Well, let me hurl some abuse at Mike, and say, "Mike, very kind of you for mentioning me. Thanks so much."

Ben: We value all feedback.

Ewan: We do indeed.

Ben: Thank you, Mike.

Ewan: We do indeed.

Ben: Thank you for listening; please keep listening.

Ewan: And I'm very, very expensive.

Ben: Very expensive!

Ewan: A very expensive tool.

Ben: Okay. Have we any news?

Ewan: Better than Black and Decker.

Ben: We've done a lot of chat-

Ewan: Yeah.

Ben: But have we any news?

Ewan: I got a new car!

Ben: You had a new car at the beginning of episode 8.

Ewan: Yeah, I know, but I've actually got it now.

Ben: Okay, fair enough.

Ewan: But this particular model, it only does TuneIn, and it doesn't do the podcasts in TuneIn on the radio, on the media center thing ... It's a bit annoying. So hopefully the next one that's arriving will have that in it.

Ben: Just plug your iPhone in.

Ewan: Yeah.

Ben: Rafe Blandford, any news from you?

Rafe: I've recently been playing with a dual SIM device, which I thought would actually be particularly helpful, but then I realized that living in the middle of the countryside where there's only reception for one operator, it was quite helpful. Because I could just take one phone with me but then have the second operator, of course, appear once I got some signal.

Ben: There you go! And I don't have any news. Nothing exciting has happened.

Ewan: Oh, I've started a new job.

Ben: You've now started your new job?

Ewan: That's right. Episode 8, I was coming to you live from the carpark at Nationwide HQ in Swinden. So, hello Nationwide! They're all very nice people.

Ben: How exciting! And being a Nationwide customer-

Ewan: Are you a Nationwide member?

Ben: I'm a Nationwide-

Ewan: We don't have customers.

Ben: Oh, okay. I'm a Nationwide member.

Ewan: Yep.

Ben: And that means that every penny they spend on you could have been given to me or as a discount on my mortgage, so I hope they spend that money wisely.

Ewan: Well, the compliance policies probably prohibit me…

Ben: … from making any comment…

Ewan: Yes.

Ben: We're in serious danger territory here.

Ewan: Thanks. Yeah, so, carry on! Let's move on.

Ben: Okay. Ewan MacLeod decides it's time to move on.

Rafe Blandford, what are we talking about this week, this last week, of series 7?

Rafe: Well, we thought we'd talk a little bit about tablets, because they're sort of going away; no one's buying tablets any more, there's been declining sales of the iPad. So, kind of a broad question to answer: Are tablets irrelevant now? Are they going away?

Ben: I ...

Ewan: Come on, then, Ben. Come on.

Ben:

Ewan: That was two seconds of silence!

Ben: It's good I edit this, isn't it?

Ewan: Yes.

Ben: It'll be one second of silence by the time I edit it.

Ewan: Okay.

Ben: I was going to say, anecdotally, I don't think so. My sense from observing the UK market, with the gift of my eyes, is that they are not going away. In fact, it looks to me like they are increasing numbers and we see them in more places. So, this is a very clumsy way of saying, "I see them in supermarkets, now, and I see them in"-

Ewan: You mean being sold in supermarkets, or being used?

Ben: Sorry, being sold. I see them being retailed in lots of different places. And so take, for example, we talked about Tesco's Hudl device.

Ewan: Mm-hmm.

Ben: Very low cost. Being sold in a supermarket, where you wouldn't have necessarily thought to go in and bought a tablet before. You remember we talked about ... The episode about buying young people tablets ... Where we talked about, just before Christmas, I think, in the last season-

Ewan: Yeah, the one where you were both wrong.

Ben: Actually, I am now prepared to admit that I was wrong-

Ewan: Okay. Thank you.

Ben: In that episode-

Ewan: Feels good, feels good?

Ben: It feels good. But I can tell you that for why?

Ewan: Go on.

Ben: Because the cheap Samsung tablet, what did that do?

Ewan: Did it break?

Ben: Yep. It's completely stopped working. Completely futzed, dead: knackered.

Ewan: Steve Jobs says you're doing it wrong.

Ben: Thank you.

Rafe: So, while Ben is wrong, the rest of the public is actually ignoring his advice, because the kind of share of iPads is now down to about the 30% mark, having previously been at 80%, so, when we used to talk about tablets it meant iPads.

Ewan: Yes.

Rafe: That's changed now. But to kind of give an answer to the question: the reason people are talking about this is because iPad sales have plateaued. Actually, that's generally true for tablet sales in general, but maybe to a lesser extent. This is to the extent that we've seen about a 9% decrease, year over year, in iPad sales. They're actually selling fewer iPads in the last quarter than they did a year ago.

It's probably worth addressing some of the reasons for that, but what you've got effectively is an S-shaped curve, in terms of the volume of sales, and it contrasts with smartphones, which have been kind of a hockey-stick curve, and only just now we start to see the evidence that the growth in smartphone sales is starting to slow down. And obviously tablets are much earlier on that curve.

Ben: What makes the bump? So when you talk about an S-shaped curve or a hockey-stick curve... Hockey-stick is the one where it kind of takes off slowly, and then suddenly it accelerates, and just keeps going up and up and up, and you can't sort of-

Rafe: That's right.

Ben: You can't see a turning off. But when you say an S-shaped curve, what you mean is that there's masses of sales, and then there's fewer, then there's masses of sales. I mean, it's more kind of lumpy.

Rafe: It's more a case of-

Ewan: He means an S on its side.

Rafe: I do mean an S on its side ... It's kind of the idea that tablet sales, previously, were increasing, and people thought, "They're going to be just like smartphones; it's going to grow and grow and grow." Actually, it's got to a certain volume per year and it now looks like it's flattening off. You can look at the numbers in different way, but, for example, we're about 50 million in the last quarter, and there's the idea that that may be 50 million in the quarter after that and after that. Now, Christmas is always going to be a bit of an exception here. I think the important point to make is that tablets are not like smartphones in their sales volumes and actually in many other ways.

Ewan: Yeah. Do people ... What's the lifecycle? Do you think people are replacing them every year ... Well, not every year ... Every two years?

Rafe: That's where the consensus comes from, why this has happened, is that the lifecycle of the tablet is longer than a smartphone. So people who bought the original iPad maybe now are only thinking about upgrading to the iPad Air, or not even then.

Ben: I've always gone through life believing that iPads owned the tablet market, and there were lots of other devices available out there, but nobody bought them in enough quantities to ever worry about it. And if you look at the business I do, where we might be required to make apps or services, that certainly holds true for the people we tend to service ... But if this market has plateaued and Apple's share is dropping, who's coming to replace them, then?

Ewan: Well, it's everybody else, right? See?

Ben: Brilliant. That's the insightful analysis that we were after.

Ewan: And that ends the podcast! No. Right, well, obviously got to think about Amazon. Amazon are hawking their Kindles and it's a very, very nice deal if you're in the market for a tablet. It's very difficult, actually, if you're a private customer, to ignore them pushing the Kindle tablets at you. You've got the Hudl, from Tesco, and also the ... what's the one from Aldi? The Medion LifeTab.

Ben: But the difference there, though, is that Medion is a brand in their own right, isn't it?

Ewan: Fair point, but it's the one that Aldi's pushing, if you like. Then you've got Samsung, Lenovo, Asus, Acer ... I mean, everyone and their dog is doing an Android tablet, right?

Rafe: I think I'm right in saying Medion is actually out of Lenovo itself, as well.

Ben: Ah, okay.

Rafe: It's one of those that are co-brands. I think it's fair to say Samsung, as in the smartphone space, is kind of the big number two player. It's not quite a-

Ben: (laughs)

Rafe: Ah, Ben. It's easy to amuse you. It's not quite at Apple's level-

Ben: It just sums up the build quality recently that we've had on the Samsung devices.

Rafe: But there's a whole lot of fragmentation in terms of who's doing what.

Ewan: Right.

Rafe: But the general pattern you can observe is there's been a flourishing of the sub-£200 tablet device, and then even cheaper than that. The Hudl that you referred to is around the £100 price mark, and even the Kindle Fire devices are ... All of them are a cut below the iPad; the iPad reigns supreme at the top end, and it's very similar to the smartphone space, in that sense. But I think those cheaper Android devices are being used for something different.

Ben: Well, so, Rafe Blandford has furnished us with research before this episode.

Ewan: All right.

Ben: I was presented with a note beforehand and the thing on here that I think is super interesting is 2014 Market Share: Apple, 27% market share with the iPad; fine, I would have thought it was higher ... but, the highest of the market shares.

I presume this is global market shares, right, so there's going to be probably quite significant regional variations.

But the thing that really surprised me was: Samsung, 17%, not a distant second-place. I was surprised because I thought Samsung's devices, although there was tons and tons on the market, didn't still think they were selling particularly well. Then a bunch of other names or small percentages, but, ‘Others’ are 44.4%. Really what we're saying all those other devices-

Ewan: Surface? Yeah, I'm amazed at the Surface, yep.

Rafe: We'll come back to the Surface.

Ewan: Well, we have to come back to the PlayBook.

Ben: PlayBook! Do you remember the PlayBook?

Rafe: Nice door stop.

Ben: I found some ... and I'll use the plural ... I found some PlayBooks in the cupboards the other day. Literally, no idea what to do with them.

Rafe: Okay.

Ben: I feel like I should do something productive with them, but what a shame, because actually, form-factor wise, I quite liked that device.

Rafe: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Ben: But, 44% of the market owned by "Others," So that's not: Samsung, Lenovo, Asus, Acer. Who is it? Who is this group that makes up this bigger share? Because that is substantially bigger than Apple, taken in combination.

Ewan: But it's all going to be 2%, 1%, 3%, half a percent. Yeah.

Rafe: Whereas companies like Xiaomi with their MyPad and lots of other small players, and-

Ben: Well, so it's at least 44 1% players.

Ewan: Yeah.

Ben: Otherwise they'd be on our list. So, you know, it's basically-

Ewan: It's OEM manufacturers that probably aren't that aware or exposed to us here in the UK.

Ben: Rafe you hinted at this. So, iPad is sort of a multipurpose, rich ecosystem, kind of high-end device, and at least some of Samsung's tablets are compatible in that space. But all this "other," nearly half the market, is below the radar. What are these devices being used for? Where is it coming from?

Rafe: I think you have to look at them as basic media browsers or content consumption. It's kind of something that the iPad in its early life got kind of slated with, but actually I think you have to acknowledge now that the iPad is being used for more than that.

But actually as you go to the simplest level, it's basically video and internet consumption. Most of these tablet devices, the cheaper ones, are sitting next to sofas, on kitchen tables, and they're being used in the home for an internet browser. Instead of having to go to your laptop or your desktop computer ... And there'll be some game usage in there and some app usage.

Ben: Yeah.

Rafe: But they're kind of a window onto the internet. The advantage of tablets is they're "instant on," readily portable around the home, so you can have them wherever you'd like: prop them against a book or as a second screen when you're watching TV. It's sort of a different class of device from both computers and smartphones. It's one of the bugbears that tablets are often lumped in with smartphones, but actually they're very different types of devices.

Ben: This is where it gets confusing, because Apple have chosen to have the same operating system on their smartphones and tablets, all the way up to their larger tablets. Android does the same but doesn't-

Ewan: But not really.

Ben: Well, but doesn't differentiate, doesn't draw a line between the devices.

Ewan: Yeah.

Ben: I suppose there's more form-factors as well, so you've got more scaling issues and my experience is that the tablet experience is less refined.

But then you get to the Windows ecosystem, arguably third-place, and that's where it all goes a bit screwy. I was looking at some Surface devices the other day. There, I don't think they are tablets. I just think they're laptops.

Ewan: This is about the Surface 3, by the way?

Ben: The Surface 3. The new one.

Ewan: Okay.

Ben: I was in America, as I'm wont to do sometimes. I, you know ... Cosmopolitan.

Ewan: You didn't get Ebola?

Ben: Well, it's not rife around the Washington D.C. area.

Ewan: No, you've got to be careful. On the planes.

Ben: Fair enough. Well, I wasn't licking anybody.

Ewan: You might have it right now!

Ben: Fair enough. Well, I'm feeling pretty perky for someone, but-

Ewan: Three or four weeks? When did you go?

Ben: To be perfectly honest, if I caught anything, it was a mild apathy about Microsoft devices.

I went into a Microsoft store, which looked exactly like an Apple store except for the number of people who were inside of it. It was ...

The Apple store was down the hall. So, I went to Tyson's Corner, which is a big mall not too far away from Dulles airport in D.C., and I think it's actually, if memory serves ... I'm going to show myself up now ... I think it's where the first Apple store was ever opened, the first mall store.

Now, you wouldn't know it from the store; the Apple store today, it just looks like a regular-

Ewan: Normal one.

Ben: A normal one. But, go in: big, pine, light wood tables, all the devices laid out, the big TVs lined up along the walls, but it was alarmingly quiet.

It did give me some quality time with Surface tablets, and I just think they're laptops. I think this is where ... It's an interesting diversity, is that obviously Windows Phone has a specific kind of style and way of working, but of course, even on their tablet devices, they're still using a desktop style of working. All of the tablets, all of the Surface devices were shown with keyboard covers on and, you know, that keyboard cover includes a touchpad that you use to use a minute, and ... Hang on a minute!

Ewan: Which you've got to, because ... Yeah.

Ben: This is just a laptop with the laptop bits slapped behind the screen instead of under the keyboard! You know.

Rafe: Yeah, it's interesting. It partly reflects where the companies have come from: obviously Windows, with its kind of heritage in the desktop space, and Apple have grown up the iPhone to the iPad, and Google obviously had great success in the smartphone space. It also reflects the philosophies of the companies.

But I agree with you. The Surface, to me, isn't a tablet in its keyboard configuration. It's a replacement for a laptop. Now, obviously you can distinguish between the Surface Pro and the Surface RT, but in one sense that's almost irrelevant.

I think all the companies are looking to try to create universal platforms, but that's still going to be a few years away. What I mean by that is, the same thing running on your phone as your tablet as your PC. And you have ChromeBooks and what Google is looking to do there to unify things, but actually that's going to be, I think, harder than people generally seem to think.

            So it kind of does introduce this idea that tablets have a broader reach than you might first think when you look at them, when you just define them as a bit of glass, basically, between 7 and 10 inches in size ... You have to think about it as: the very cheap ones, which are basically a way of creating an internet portal screen. Then it's the tablets in the iPad mould, which are productivity, which you can attach a keyboard to but they're really designed to be held in the hand.

And then the ones that, if you like, are the transformers ... and Asus do a whole bunch of these ... and it's where Windows has probably found a niche, if you like. They haven't really come alive in that kind of standalone tablet space. The Surface certainly has its advocates, and make no mistake, Microsoft has had to write off a lot of money in that space-

Ewan: A lot of money. A billion dollars or something like that.

Rafe: Looking a bit further ahead ... It is. ... I actually think that sort of crossover between tablet and laptop is probably where a lot of things are going, because the tablet is a standalone device, or not a "computer" at the moment, because of the limitations of the hardware in terms of the processing resources ... That's going to start to go away, and, for me, it kind of pushes home the message that tablets are really replacements for PCs, they're not replacements for smartphones.

Ewan: Right.

Rafe: I think that's what we'll see in the future.

Ben: So, a question, then. Because if the vast majority of the tablet market is being made up of these small players who we think are making specialist devices like media browsers, video viewers, web tablets, those kinds of things ... Those devices aren't generally tied into an ecosystem. The typically run on Android, but they run on the non-Google kind of super cheap, "just make it work" version of Android. Are all the big ecosystem players just missing a trick here, then, by losing all of these people out of their ecosystem to just these unconnected devices? Why isn't there a Windows video player or something that kind of means you can just watch your ... I don't know, your Xbox video, or whatever the kids are calling it these days.

Ewan: I think it's an interesting question. Can I tap on a little bit there, or tack on a bit, saying: How many people go out and buy a rubbish one, then think, "Hmm, I'll get an iPad."

Rafe: There's obviously a cost question there. I think this is actually Android is ahead of the game in that cheap space; Microsoft is trying to get there, which is why they've removed the license fee for a certain set of devices, you know, below 7 inches in terms of screen size, and they're sort of introducing the idea that they're going to be doing the below $200 tablets. It's not going to reach that $100 iPad price point.

But certainly, one of the trends we'll see this coming Christmas, is Windows tablets coming on stream that are under £200, so, a notable price difference from the iPad. When we talk about tablets, you can talk about that kind of "media consumption" or "internet window" as one class of device; then there is the tablets in the traditional sense, typified by the iPad; and then there's kind of the transformer devices, which are much closer to the laptop.

Ewan: Yeah.

Rafe: If we think about those three classes, will they come together more? Possibly. I think there's a price element, and it's also what you want to do with the device.

If I can introduce something at the other end of the scale, it's also the rise of Phablet devices. You could perhaps sort of say that's a reason, maybe, that tablet sales have trailed off a bit, because we're talking these large-screen smartphones.

Ewan: 6 and a half inches, I mean ...

Rafe: 6 inches and above ... It depends where you draw the line. But certainly I've see people using those for scenarios which probably would have been tablet problems until this point. It's in the home, kind of browsing the internet, you know. And you talk to them, and they are, "Oh, I couldn't have done this with my smartphone before I was using a tablet, but actually I just want to use one device, or I can't afford to have a tablet as well."

Ben: The thing I was thinking about is, when do tablets, at the high-end, when do tablets start to sort of become indistinguishable from laptops? When do they start to replace them in the way that we've always argued mobile is going to erode desktop? And then, when does small tablets really just become Phablets and you can't blur the lines. Because I was thinking, I've tried to work on my iPad just in my business day, and I'd say, finger in the air, 80% of what I need to do, what I would describe as a fairly normal office job, I can do perfectly well on an iPad.

Ewan: The hardware isn't the problem, I don't think. I think it's more the software isn't available or hasn't-been-imagined-correctly-yet tablet.

Ben: But I think if you look at the bulk of what people do, the 20% is the minority stuff that's specialist, because if you think about the apps and services we use in my business, we’ve got all the standard Office, email, calendar, contact stuff, which most of them do perfectly adequately. And all the rest of our services, like, company intranet or business apps-

Ewan: Expenses systems.

Ben: It's all done through a browser, which equally well just works as well through ... from a tablet-

Ewan: Right, but is it an aging browser, or is it ... ? You know, where some offices or some companies, you can only use Internet Explorer 6 or 7 or 8 to access that SAP system that they've custom-coded-

Ben: True, true! There is a bit of that going on, but I mean, that will ... At the time when those systems are replaced, they'll be replaced with systems that have responsive mobile interfaces, because it's difficult to buy systems that don't have responsive interfaces and things now, so-

Ewan: Where I struggle with a tablet is if someone FaceTimes me. If I'm having a FaceTime work conversation or a Hangout conversation, I can't, then, do anything else. It's very interesting. That uses the tablet exclusively.

Rafe: I think that multitasking point is an interesting one, because tablets have grown up as basically being a single action at a time. You haven't had windows in it. Certainly, when I've been trying to work on a tablet, that's the issue I've come across, which is why we've seen Samsung introduce the idea of side-by-side apps; that's something that's rumoured for iOS 9, Windows 8 already has it. So I wonder if that will change things.

Ben: I do quite like the ... I suppose maybe it's not a technology thing ... but I do quite like the imposed self-discipline of, "I'm doing a task, I haven't got 13 other windows distracting me," because, I would say, in my working day, those windows are more frequently a distraction than they are a benefit.

Ewan: That's an interesting point, yeah.

Rafe: For me, the fundamental limitation here is that you still the screen, and it's that screen size that largely dictates what you do. So, and when I've been talking to people in three categories, I say, think about it in three categories.

It's actually the up-to-7-inch size, which is largely a totally portable device; then there's 7 to 10 inches, which is kind of the natural tablet category, but not always; and then there's above 10 inches, which is when you get into laptop and desktop space.

Each of those things, you end up doing different things, and they have different location contexts, as well. I wonder, whether the thing that would change that kind of pattern, whether you carry more than one device, as Ben describes, is the ability to either have something like a flexible screen ... That seems a bit sci-fi or a bit far away, but there could be more intelligent use made of screen mirroring or using screens that already exist.

So, for example, for something like a tablet or a phone, we've seen several efforts over the years, from Motorola and from others to kind of ... The device that you can plug in and then becomes a bigger device.

Ben: Yeah.

Rafe: That still fundamentally appeals to me in some ways, but the trouble is you need software that will customize itself to each of those screens, and they're not clever enough to do that yet. It just feels like it's a bit too hard, a bit too much effort. You know, you're in the home, and you've got a big TV screen. Why is that not more used by the devices around you? It's not just about the screen-mirroring technology, which is kind of there now. It's admittedly not widespread, but there are other barriers to that kind of vision.

Ben: The failing there always seemed to me that you centred on one device that had lots of different screen sizes. Actually, buying additional memory and chips and processors and that kind of stuff really isn't a significant cost-driver anymore, and so you might as well have the hardware tailored to the platform where it lives, and that's why those kind of docking stations haven't really taken off.

Also you do want a more tailored, customized experience. So, maybe there will always be a high-end tablet, but what we'll see is far more overlap. Also, maybe some of that cultural change, so some of those beliefs that, if it's work, it has a keyboard, as you were saying.

If you walked into an office today and you saw a person on a laptop and a person on an iPad, I think, in my organization and probably most organizations in western Europe or ... western world, Europe and North America ... You'd say, the person on the tablet is doing personal stuff, or is playing games, or is doing "not work." The person on the laptop's probably working! You know. Actually it'll become far more culturally acceptable to see people sat there with all manner and range of devices, and say, "Well, actually, that person's just doing their email. They're doing comms and stuff."

Rafe: Absolutely. And obviously the connective ingredient in this is also the idea of seamlessly moving from one to the other ... which we're seeing coming in now, with Continuity, with iOS 8, same thing with Android L, Windows has also been pushing that for a while. It's all done though the Cloud.

But actually that seamless sort of ‘data anywhere’, pick up your experience and start it somewhere else, hasn't really come to fruition in a way that makes me feel I can rely on it. Because I would be perfectly happy to carry a phone and then continue on something at home by plugging into another screen or just have another device around the home, each one suited to a specific task. But at the moment that kind of continuous workstream is a pain, which is why you end up carrying the three devices around.

Ewan: You know, I'm still battery surfing, right? I'll use my iPad partially because my smartphone battery is going down, or so I know I got to do a phone call later on in the afternoon, so I need to keep the smartphone battery charged or I don't want to use it that much. That's still a problem!

Ben: Actually, funny you say that. On my way home the other day, I used my laptop until it ran out of juice, and then switched to my tablet to finish my emails, and then when that ran out of juice, then switched to my smartphone. And it-

Ewan: Your smartphone's the critical one, right?

Ben: But to complete a working day, I needed to exhaust the battery on all three devices. Now, clearly, like you, I could have run from charger to charger to keep everything top-top, but this was only, you know, a standard working day. That's going to be a major limiting factor in the future.

Ewan: What's the future then? Brief predictions because OFCOM’s media consumption report on the difference between 2012-2013 indicated that tablet usage has effectively doubled in the UK marketplace. When you look at how things are moving, does that mean that this time next year, 2013-2014, you reckon tablet usage will have doubled again? Or will it just have gone up incrementally? What do you think, Rafe?

Rafe: If we talk about the future, it goes back to the original question, you know, "Are tablets going away?" Absolutely not. That's just a function of the lifecycle. Tablets are going to become more important, but I think, as Ben suggested, those blurring lines at each end are only going to come to the front more. I do think there is going to be a place for that kind of high-end tablet, which is that 7 to 10 inch sweet spot, because it's the portability while still having a decent screen size, but I do expect there to be far more of this kind of continuous experience, moving from one device to another. And so the idea of a tablet as a standalone category will start to go away a little bit.

Ewan: Right, but could you answer the question, please, with the greatest of respect.

Rafe: Which question would that be?

Ewan: The question, Mr. Blandford, was, "Are we going to see tablet usage continue to double?"

Rafe: I don't think it will double again.

Ewan: What'll it do?

Rafe: You were talking about it being at 40%. I don't see it going to 80%. I think actually 40% is probably a fairly simple-

Ewan: Oh, okay. Between the 55 and 64 demographic, in 2012, 10% of adults in that 54 to 60-odd bracket, 10% were using tablets. That's now gone to 20.

Ben: I think that tablets are going to be your first computer and your last computer. So, the-

Ewan: Like that! Like that!

Ben: You will have more richer, more powerful devices-

Ewan: Put that on a poster.

Ben: Yeah, put it on a poster... You'll have richer, more powerful devices for your workplace, or maybe for hobbies and things like that, and home and ... But actually, if you think about it, what's the first devices we're putting in kids' hands? When we talked about Christmas, put in tablets, because: does a little bit of games, does a bit of comms, simple interface, affordable, doesn't matter if they break.

Then I think about grandparents, because actually, in our family, we tried buying them laptops so they could do Skype-

Ewan: Yeah. Too much, isn't it.

Ben: Try to give somebody who never really owned a computer before something with Windows on it, with all it's confusing-

Ewan: Right-clicks, and-

Ben: Even more basic than that. It's popped up a message that says, "This is out-dated," and needs constant care and condition. Yet, they came on holiday to see us, picked up the iPad and were Skyping without our help! In fact we came home, realized the battery had run out because they'd been Skyping family members and things of the day ... and just took to it absolutely easily! These were the people who were intimidated by Windows. The point is we've got a generation of people who'll be less and less intimidated by technology becoming pensioners and becoming people sort of outside the workplace as they retire. But as their needs for high-performance computing will diminish-

Ewan: Microsoft Word.

Ben: Comms and that kind of stuff will remain really important, and tablets excel at that.

Rafe: I think you absolutely nailed it there, Ben, in that "first and last," a great phrase. What's important in that distinction is they will still have a phone, and it will be a smartphone. That's the anywhere-everywhere device. The tablet is portable, but you don't necessarily take it everywhere. It's movable from one room of the house to another, or maybe when you go on holiday. So, I think maybe we'll see two categories of devices: the everywhere device, and then the computing device.

Ben: Yeah. Really interesting to see the ... The confusing one here, I think, is the fact that what dominates the market now is maybe a function of who was first in and had the most money to spend rather than actually the shape of the market in long-term.

Which was Rafe Blandford making me think about that sort of stuff with his numbers!

Okay, gents! Thank you very much. Season 7 has been enormously fun.

Ewan: It has! Come a long way.

Ben: If you've enjoyed listening to this or, indeed, disagreed with anything we've said, which although probably not-

Ewan: Have there been any more tools?

Ben: Not the order that those things normally occur in, let us know! Go to 361podcast.com. You can tweet us @361Podcast. You can email us right from the links on the website, using the form or the email address there. Thank you very much for listening. Thank you very much for all of your lovely feedback and comments; we really appreciate them and it makes it worthwhile doing.

We will be back very soon with Season 8. We are planning our 100th episode-

Ewan: Come on!

Rafe: Woo-hoo.

Ben: Which will be the first episode of Season 8, so, planning the ... Ewan MacLeod is going out to bulk-buy streamers and party hats-

Ewan: Oh, yes.

Ben: Even as we speak. Thank you very much for listening. Bye-bye