Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly sat down with Walt Mossberg today. One of the top topics on the table was tablets. He noted that "the tablets boomed and now are crashing. The volume has really gone down in the last several months." Yet on a positive note, Best Buy's CEO thinks that the laptop has something of a revival because it's becoming more versatile. "So, with the two-in-ones, you have the opportunity to have both a tablet and laptop, and that's appealing to students in particular. So you have an evolution. The boundaries are not as well defined as they used to be."
Mossberg asked Joly, "You said the tablet had "crashed." Do you believe it's going away? Joly's response was clear. "Yeah, "crashed" is a strong word. So, the tablets have been an unbelievable phenomenon. I don't think there's a category that ever took off so quickly and so big in the history of tech." This is a point that Apple's CEO Tim Cook made as well during Apple's financial conference call earlier this month while acknowledging that iPad sales were down (by 9%) last quarter.
Joly later noted that "The issue has then been that, once you have a tablet of a certain generation, it's not clear that you have to move on to the next generation. So, there again, the jury's out in terms of what's going to happen, because it's going to depend on what innovation comes to market." Adding that "you need a reason to replace," them.
On July 22 during Apple's financial conference call Cook noted that "We're very bullish about the future of the tablet market and we're confident that we could continue to bring significant innovation to this category through hardware, software and services." He later added that "The category is in its early days and that there's significant innovation that could be brought to the iPad and we plan on doing that."
The Hybrid is beginning to Catch On
Another reason why tablet sales are now beginning to crash is that alternatives are springing up in the form of hybrid devices like the 2-in-1 laptop that Intel has been pounding the table on for years. In fact, Intel's hoping to turn up the heat for Christmas sales with new hybrids powered by a new 14nm processor designed specifically for hybrids so that they could be lighter than Apple's MacBook Air. That's a market that Microsoft is now focused on their new Surface 3 tablet that's being marketed as a hybrid device between a notebook and tablet.
The thinking is why buy a standalone tablet if you could get the convenience of a notebook with a detachable display to use as a tablet for about the same price or cheaper than a top end tablet? For instance, consumers can now buy an HP hybrid notebook starting at $600 with a larger display than most tablets and still have access to notebook software, power and extended battery life. Many are now beginning to choose hybrids for their clear value.
Best Buy's CEO Hubert Joly agrees with that thinking and made it a point in his interview with Mossberg about convergence. He noted that some consumers today have a phone, tablet and laptop, "but many people can now converge to either a tablet and a phone or a phone and a laptop."
Joly later added that "The tablets boomed and now are crashing. The volume has really gone down in the last several months. But I think the laptop has something of a revival because it's becoming more versatile. So, with the two-in-ones, you have the opportunity to have both a tablet and laptop, and that's appealing to students in particular. So you have an evolution. The boundaries are not as well defined as they used to be."
This is a product category that Patently Apple has been pounding the table on for years. We were pleased to finally report on an Apple patent application back in April 2013 that detailed a possible future hybrid unit.
Is this one option for Apple in the future? Is a hybrid one of the projects that Apple's Tim Cook considered "significant innovation?" While only time will tell if it is, Apple has been leading up to such a development. With Microsoft's Office suite now on iOS natively, and with Apple and IBM announcing a landmark partnership in the enterprise, I'd be surprised if such a device didn't come to market within the next year. For now, you could read more of the re/code report here.