CTIA 2012, the mobile industry's largest and "weightiest" North American trade show is just about to wind down. Back in New Orleans this year, the show was big and noisy. Despite the many vendors present however, it was relatively light on mobile device hardware. In truth the Spring CTIA show is really about wireless infrastructure, and on that front it did not disappoint - but if anyone was anticipating lots of cool new mobile devices…well, this wasn't the show for it. Even Samsung was hiding out in a meeting room and not dazzling anyone on the show floor itself with its new Galaxy S III smartphone.
Walt Mossberg (right) of the Wall Street Journal did host a panel that focused on the
future of tablets (for the most part), though the panel was a bit disappointing, consisting only of Samsung's VP of Product Planning - Nick DiCarlo (left), and Barnes and Noble's President of Digital Products - Jamie Iannone. Samsung's DiCarlo suggested that consumers were not really buying enough tablets (aside from iPads of course), and B&N's Iannone made it clear they are focused entirely on low-priced Nooks. Relative to answering the question of the future of tablets no one got it right - failing entirely to note that the real future of tablets is in enterprise laptop replacement, and not in consumer acquisition.
Back on the show floor, Huawei at least had a presence and had its speedy MediaPad 10 FHD
on display. Then there is Toshiba...and its new line of Excite Android tablets. Among them lurks a giant - a huge (we’re not exaggerating) 13 inch tablet. This was certainly new - our first encounter with a tablet of this size. We also had the opportunity to spend some hands-on time with the machine at the ever present MobileFocus media event that PepCom hosts at all the major tech trade shows every year.
The photo shown here doesn't quite do justice to the size of the new tablet. It is thin, to be sure, but it weighs in at over 2 pounds. With Ultrabooks looking to downsize laptops into this general class of weight, one can at least get a sense of just how heavy it is. Actually holding one makes an iPad feel like a tiny little thing, and there-in lies the rub.
Too Much Tablet is…Too Much Tablet
The Excite 13 sports the required quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 chip and it will ship - supposedly in June 2012 - with Android 4.0 (aka Ice Cream Sandwich). Sure, it's fast. And a 13 inch screen - while no iPad retina quality display killer, it looks pretty darn good. Price-wise we can anticipate it will be competitive with the high end of the new iPad line. But what's the point?
From an enterprise perspective we're hard pressed to see a true business use for a large scale tablet, especially one running Android. With the release of Windows 8 tablets just around the corner, as well as the full scale Windows 8 ultrabooks that will soon hit the market, we doubt the Toshiba Excite 13 will find an enterprise home any time soon. A more forgiving consumer market, especially on the gaming side, may emerge, but even here we do not see a need for such a large tablet. Apple's Macbook Air and the sleek new ultrabooks from Dell and Asus, for example, provide far more firepower - and a keyboard - for essentially the same footprint.
We're interested in hearing other points of view. Will a 13 inch tablet find its way onto the wish lists of enterprise users? Why? What business uses would one put such devices to? Our own guess is that a large tablet could cross over into retail-side applications such as restaurant menu displays and the like. Larger tablets are also likely to cross over into the space that Samsung and Microsoft are carving out for their interactive "surface" displays.
One reader has noted that a large tablet such as the Excite 13 makes it much easier for those of us who may be older and/or have difficulty viewing small tablet and smartphone screens are very likely to welcome a larger tablet. It is a fair point to make, and there is no doubt that the larger display makes viewing easier for those of us in this camp.
Toshiba did manage to inject a good bit of interest into an otherwise mobile hardware-deprived CTIA. And it will be interesting to see if such a tablet will carve out a hefty niche for itself or not. Meanwhile, let us know your thoughts on where a 13 inch monster tablet might fit into your business environment.