Tablets May Face Retail Problems - Analyst

Market Observer Finds Hard to Sell a Slate

by Anton Shilov
02/03/2011 | 07:48 PM

While the skies for tablet PCs are clearly blue, there is is a question, who is going to sell them: network carriers or retailers. Network owners are interested in traffic usage and are barely interested in support; retailers are interested in selling devices in mass quantities without necessity to demonstrate them to clients.


Richard Shim, a senior analyst with DisplaySearch market tracking firm, said in a blog post that while the experience with Android 3.0 "Honeycomb"-based Motorola Xoom was "compelling" and the device generally enables a greater graphical usage experience and more opportunity for media-based multitasking than Android-based phones. But while the devices are "ready for prime time", it is unclear, who exactly will sell them to end-users. In fact, the this will be an essential element in the ultimate success of Android tablets.

Richard Shim, a senior analyst at DisplaySearch, notes that the tablet is arguably a hybrid of a phone and a PC. It turns on quickly and lasts as long as a smartphone, but it has a more robust operating system and greater horsepower than a smartphone, plus some similarities to a PC. But who should sell them? Traditional retailers or carriers?

"As the industry learned from the netbook category, carriers are not good at selling computing devices. There are questions around technical support and contact with the customer. [...] Carrier tech support is essentially trained to tell the user to turn off the device and turn it back on as a fix. [...] We have also learned that PC makers and traditional PC channels are not ideal for smartphones. The list of PC makers that tried to create and sell smart phones includes big names that have already failed. It does not help that retail channels, where PCs are often sold, do not seem to offer the best customer experience when it comes to selling smartphones, particularly because the retailer is generally not receiving ongoing revenue from the voice/data plans that smart phones need," said Mr. Shim.

The question is obvious: if tablets are closer to smartphones, perhaps the carrier is the best channel, but if they are more like PCs, perhaps CE retail is better. The fact that tablets do not fit neatly into either classification makes this choice unclear.

"We have already started to see some of this tablet channel confusion with the Samsung Galaxy Tab. The company said it had shipped around two million tablets since the product’s introduction in November, but actual sell-through seems to be less brisk. Currently, Apple’s iPad is selling well in retail - its own retail - but no one else is replicating the Apple store experience," claimed the analyst.