When Apple announced the first iPad in September 2010, tech pundits were unsure what to make of it. Was it supposed to be a replacement for the laptop? Was it just a larger iPod to watch videos on? Nobody had any idea, probably not even Apple.
While most thought it was a slick, well-designed device with solid software, but many critics said it was ultimately an 'unessential device'. The market, however, could not disagree more: 15 million units of the original iPad was sold before the release of the iPad 2.
It was established Apple had created a new market segment and had caught rivals Google and Microsoft completely off guard. The netbook and desktop markets entered a tailspin they have still not recovered from.
Google finally found an answer, entering the market with the Nexus 7 and pushing a slew of other Android tablets made by partners like LG and Samsung. The tablet boom had started! It became an essential that every electronics company had to have in its line up and tablet sales soared towards the half a billion mark.
But something seems to have gone wrong. Tablet sales are now slowing down; they are still growing but at a slow rate. According to Reuters, "Tablet sales are set to rise only 11% this year, according to new forecasts by tech research firm Gartner, compared to 55% growth last year, even as smartphone sales continue to soar."
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As smartphones get bigger and do more, there are fewer good reasons for people to pony up several thousands for a tablet. Users are perfectly fine using their smartphones which are getting much larger to browse the internet, play games, or scan e-mails. The biggest issue with tablets is that people don't feel the need to upgrade every two years like they do with their phones.
Tablet makers are not ready to throw in the towel just yet. There have been talks of Apple releasing a supersized 12-inch iPad and Samsung seems to be exploring curved screen tablets. But that's it! These days innovations are limited to alterations to the form factor.
And this limitation seems to be the biggest problem for present-day tablet manufacturers are faced with. It's high time that tablet makers innovate not just on industrial design but rather on usability and other features.