Although personal computers in tablet form-factors are generally big personal digital media players and nobody can say for sure whether the devices will become as popular as other types of PCs, it is clear that they indeed are a new product category. Due to the fact that tablets combine certain functionality of netbooks, players, mobile phones and e-book readers and all of those will continue to evolve, it is logical to expect rapid evolution of slates and mobile operating systems.
The rise of the tablet parallels the growing importance of the mobile operating system (OS) in a large number of consumer electronics devices where previously there was no OS, or it was not really important. This presents a lot of risks for current market players, who will have to redesign their roadmaps in accordance with unpredictable market situation, but will also give a lot of chances to innovate on the slate and smartphone markets. What is significant is that over time mobile and desktop operating systems will become relatively similar in terms of capabilities. For example, Microsoft Windows 8 will be aimed at desktops, notebooks and tablets.
“The convergence of consumer electronics devices and industries are now coming together at a fast pace, with the tablet form factor serving a tangible representation of that convergence, since it is part smart phone and part notebook. [...] Companies increasingly must face the reality that the rise of the mobile OS means distinct product categories now are blurring together. Note the similarity both in external functionality and internal electronics between Apple's tablet, smart phone, MP3 player and set top box product lines. Not only do they run the same OS, but all these devices are internally similar, plus or minus a screen and touch interface," said William Kidd, director and principal analyst, financial services for iSuppli.
Mobile OSes provide a framework for consumers to cheaply and effortlessly create custom use cases for devices by using apps that greatly exceed the utility of an Internet browser alone, according to the analyst. For developers, mobile OSes allow the creation and monetization of apps. Thanks to mobile platforms, content providers can distribute their wares and consumers can access content at any time. Finally, mobile OSes enable interconnectivity between connected devices, and thus generate even more new use cases. As a result, mobile operating systems will migrate to new consumer electronics devices, such as players, televisions, set-top-boxes, media centers and so on, iSuppli believes.
Over the long term, tablets are likely to reshape the computer market as well. iSuppli’s current outlook for tablet shipments foresees that these devices will remain content consumption devices, similar to the iPad. However, growth in the tablet segment starting in 2012 could be much higher than now anticipated as these devices take on the kind content creation capabilities now offered by notebook and netbook PCs.
The transformation of tablets into media creation devices would require the development of OSes that are more evolved that Apple’s iOS is today. Even with Microsoft’s stumbles to date in tablets, iSuppli believes that Microsoft will figure out how to design a functional tablet operating system. Apple also is likely to determine how to evolve iOS and an iPad into a creation platform that is 100% compatible with the Widows-dominated PC universe. Obviously, Apple could combine iOS and Mac OS at some point, which iSuppli believes is logical as well.