Hardware is Dead! Tablets will Explode!

Jay Goldberg writing for VentureBeat reports that he purchased a 7″ no-name touchscreen tablet, with 4g ram, Wifi, Android Ice Cream Sandwich, for $45 without haggling in Shenzhen, China. A revelation, he says.

  • Hardware margins are under siege. Making money on hardware is not a long-term defensible position. Companies that hope to make money need to market an “experience”. IOS is one such “experience”.
  • The number of different types of tablets will explode, and the number of actual tablets will explode. Derivative special-purpose devices based on tablet hardware will also explode. Touch-screens on your fridge, that sort of thing.

By the way: Hardware is Dead! Tablets will explode! It all sounds so apocalyptic. Why do we use such terms when discussing the technology business. It’s almost like we’re trying to scare ourselves.

This latter prediction – that the number of computing devices in the tablet form-factor will explode – isn’t really new. Business Insider made the same prediction a month ago.

Similarly, Fortune magazine ran a headline in February of this year about the coming explosion in tablets. In April, Forrester Research predicted the explosion, too, though by estimating 760M tablets in use by 2016, Forrester appears to have actually underestimated the trend.

Mr Goldberg seems willing to make the easy predictions, echoing all the people who came before him. He also doesn’t offer any deeper insight. The rapid growth in the popularity of tablet-based hardware may be the interesting headline, but to me, the implications are much broader.

  • a huge rise in the demand for apps. I am not one who imagines that the touchscreen in the door of your mom’s fridge needs access to an App Store. There is no need for a general purpose computing experience embedded in refrigerator doors. On the other hand, computers in refrigerators needs to run an app, a very specific app. So the number of apps will explode.
  • Specialized apps must be created by specialized developers. Extrapolate from the refrigerator into all the other specialized embedded systems, for all the other specialized user experiences. The demand for talented application developers will also explode.
  • The complement to apps and developers of course is cloud APIs, compute, and storage. Expect huge demand in all of these pieces, in direct correlation to the number of tablets sold.

But, I would say that, wouldn’t I? I work for the leading API Management company. True enough – I am biased. But I had this view before beginning my job here. I knew the need for apps and storage and cloud compute was exploding. I am an investor, though not one with a particularly large store of liquid assets. What I invest is my time, and I chose to work for Apigee because I believe it’s a good investment of my valuable time.