What’s Hot: Hybrids, Phablets and Cheap Smartphones

Carl Weinschenk
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Mobility: How It's Changing Our Lives

In the ebb and flow in the popularity of consumer computing devices, it seems that the waters are particularly choppy at this point.

Yesterday, I wrote about IDC’s downward reassessment of the tablet space. Initially, the firm said that shipments will rise 12.1 percent this year. The retrenched figure is 6.5 percent.

Other significant changes: PCs are making a comeback. Like a rock band getting back together after a decade away, PCs won’t reach previous heights, but still have quite a following. The people who make PCs are smart, and have updated the concept and figured out which niches the devices best fit.


Hybrid devices – part tablet and part laptop – are the new hottest items. Phone/tablet “phablets” also are gaining traction.

Another major transition is within the smartphone segment. It is profound: The category is growing, but in developing economies in which far less expensive devices dominate. This landscape favors Android and puts pressure on margins, changes manufacturing approaches and generally upends other processes.

Mike Feibus, the principal analyst at TechKnowledge Strategies, uses a post at InformationWeek to provide insight into why the device landscape is changing:

What's happening here is that we're returning to what I call personal device equilibrium -- one in the pocket and one in the bag -- which is something I predicted would happen from the get-go. Consumers are finding that they just don't need tablets anymore, because ever-more capable smartphones and 2-in-1 notebooks are squeezing them out of their personal quivers.

Stories are published every day that fit the new world of computing devices. CNET reports today, for instance, that Acer has introduced a hybrid device, the Aspire R13 series. The hybrid devices are coming fast and furious. The same story says that the vendor is promising a smartphone for less than $50 in 2015.  Few details, such as where the phone will be marketed, are given. Clearly, however, Acer perceives smartphones as commodity items.

The downward pressure will be considerable. Bloomberg late last month looked at Mozilla and its introduction of a $33 (1,999 rupee) smartphone in India. The Cloud FX phone will run the Firefox operating system. It is being manufactured by Intex Technologies (India) Ltd. and sold on the Snapdeal.com site. Intex plans to sell 500,000 in the next three months.

The bottom line is that the device segment is experiencing great and rapid change. At this point, that change will be at the expense of companies tied to tablets and higher-priced smartphones. But the lesson is clear: The winners and losers will change over time.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Intenet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.



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