I have seen a lot of tablets recently, but none won my real appreciation. A lot of them are digital handcuffs, fluffy pink on outside and hardened steel on inside – and I’m not a BDSM freak, sorry. Others lack the carefully designed lure into restraint and submission, but still are far from what my heart craves for.
And it craves for a Really Functional Tablet. One that is good for everything I throw on it. One that I can rely on. One that most people would recognize as “My Tablet”.
What it would be like? Well, I’ll share this to everyone interested.
First of all, it will be hackable and repairable, on both software and hardware level. Not because I’m into spending all of my time playing with the toy instead of doing work. But because if it is accessible and attractive to the tinkerers, there quickly will be a thriving ecosystem around it. You will easily find someone who can replace a dead battery, RAM or even CPU, for a fraction of the cost for a new tablet. The same if you need it upgraded. Or connected to your obscure model of handcam, NAS, Mac 2015… Or made to support the new 5G connectivity. And so on. One simple, universal and convenient tool instead of a truckload of specialized gadgetry, often incompatible one with another. Do only digital heads value this?
As a part of this, its specs should be open – I’d love to run Linux on it. Sure, not everyone does. But if the thing is open enough for Linux, it will be open enough for any software to come. You’d prefer Windows Mobile? If it’s open, Microsoft will surely come in. You’d love iOS on it? Apple should be dumbasses to miss the opportunity. You prefer Android? Google will surely make a port. You’d rather go Cyanogen Mod, or something like? If the hardware is open, wait this soon… And you’re a code guru and would like to make your own software for it? Of course you can. And this is the best, including for the ordinary users – the next Really Great Things appear where there is diversity and openness. The PC would probably never be created outside a garage.
What about the hardware? A standard quad-core Snapdragon or another ARM CPU will be more than enough. 2G of RAM should be enough, and a slot for a laptop-standard DDR3 would provide plenty more on need. (And won’t cost much.) 16G of SSD are a perfect start, and an extension (slot, card-based or both) will be a bonanza. (BTW, a card reader costs pennies and will be also great for storing photos etc.) A decent camera is mandatory; smaller front-facing one will be nice, but not a die-for. Wireless connectivity is a must, lack of it will be dealbreaker not only for the techies.
What I will need is phone abilities. Yes, it will be unwieldy to hold close to the ear – so what? There are these magic devices called “handsfree”, both wired and wireless. A phone-capable tablet in your jacket pocket or purse and a Bluetooth handsfree are a killer combination: expect them to become the standard in just a couple of years. Of course, the phone should be able to double also as a 3G/4G link – cheap and powerful solution.
Another must are the connection ports. Good tablets today come with HDMI output, micro-USB input and sound in/out ports. Add to this an USB hub chip (also pennies) and maybe FW, and you get a powerful media center in the same small factor. Plug a huge external harddisk in the USB, and you have a detachable Big Storage for what you will not be comfortable to put into the cloud. (Which pretty soon is going to be everything: more and more customers realize that most cloud providers happily sell their personal data to everyone – government, spooks, corporations, banks, criminals, you name it.) Cameras, PCs, games, TVs, Google Glasses… whatever. If it exists, you can connect it to the same your tablet.
And there are more things to add and attract the customer with. GPS? It will be welcome. Gyros and movement detectors? Fine. Kinect detectors? Great, if size and price allows… All these things do not cost much when ordered industrial quantities. And building them into one package and allowing the software to interact with them will bring an enormous amount of flexibility. You will not be anymore constrained by the abilities of your hardware – you will be enabled by it to do whatever you didn’t dared to even dream before.
Yes, bundling most mentioned extras will increase the production cost. Probably by $20-30. Who wouldn’t be happy to pay $50 more to have them all? Very few people. And they already have plenty of crippleware to choose from. Don’t be afraid of losing them – this is the price for gaining the most and the most influential buyers, the society opinion makers. Whom you will rather court?
And most of all: be honest and loyal to these customers. They are the smartest ones, who instantly see the foul play. And they are quick to hate and slow to forgive for it. Give them willingly and heartily, be on their side. Segment the market according to their needs, not according to schemes for squeezing them dry. Offer them protected, but unlocked devices. Give them the freedom they would love, and will honor you for it.
Not only because it is “Not Evil”. Do it because it will deliver profits. These clients will pay you with loyalty where the others will jump the ship. They will prefer buying from your e-markets, even if you don’t offer a lot of choice, maybe even if you can’t offer the lowest prices – and e-trade is where profit is today. They will do it to support you because of your honesty, exactly like you will always support a poor but decent person against a nasty and greedy bully. More and more customers realize that market honesty must be rewarded and unscrupulousness must be punished, or else every new day brings less of the former and more of the latter.
These are the greatest customers in the world. The ones who will stay with you in even the desperate situations, and will help you to overcome all the odds. Win them, and you will win the business war.
And you can win them with what they will be happy to call “My Tablet”.