It is redundant to say that tablets are hot. Even within such an obvious statement, however, it is important to dig down to see just how hot the category is, and what trends are apparent.
Appelerator and IDC released a survey this week that provides some interesting data points on the rising popularity of tablets among developers, an extremely important constituency in such a crowded landscape. The scene-setter in the release is the statement that no fewer than 85 tablets were introduced at CES.
Among the 2,200 developers worldwide surveyed, the survey found that 74 percent said they were "very interested" in working on apps for the device. This was a gain of 12 percent in three months. Interest by developers in the BlackBerry Playbook rose from 16 percent to 28 percent. The small 3 percent gain by iPad can be explained by the fact that it already was at 84 percent. The HP webOS tablet remained unchanged at 16 percent.
Tablets-or any other device-cannot be fabricated overnight; a sudden explosion in popularity can lead to shortages. GigaOm suggests that the great number of tablets becoming available, the continued success of the iPad and the prospect of iPad 2 in the near future could lead to a scarcity of displays. The bulk of the piece describes what Apple and others are doing-or should be doing to avoid possible problems.
Looking at the increase in tablets in terms of potential shortages is, of course, seeing the glass half empty. The more positive take is that a big new category, and one that will spur a great deal of creativity on the part of both manufacturers and end users, is developing at lightning speed. There is now a mind-numbing array of new devices.
High on the list is the Playbook from Research In Motion. RIM is a high-profile company, and one that is dealing in general with the transition from being highly dominant in the enterprise market to being one of several competitors. The Playbook is a major element of the company's efforts to readjust. From that perspective, there is good news for RIM: Mike Abramsky, an analyst at RBC Capital, said that 4 million units could move between its release-which is expected soon-and the end of the year. He also suggests that 6 million could move in the full year after it is introduced. That is significantly better than earlier estimates, according to Barrons.
The bottom line is that most of the drama in the mobile world now is focused on tablets. There is, of course, a bit of a question on how smartphones will evolve. But, to a great extent, tablets have taken over as the Wild West of the mobile sector, with products being introduced by the dozen and a potential race for raw materials as well as customers.