NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, February 27th, 2016

No, tablets aren’t dead

Every so often, AOL-owned tech­nol­o­gy blog TechCrunch pub­lish­es a piece writ­ten by a con­trib­u­tor that bizarrely declares some­thing that remains in wide­spread usage to be dead. MG Siegler infa­mous­ly pro­claimed the mouse to be dead in 2010, and lat­er that same year, in the span of a sin­gle week, TechCrunch writ­ers aston­ish­ing­ly pro­claimed that the phone call, email, RSS, and the MP3 were all “dead”.

Of course, none of those things were dead then, and they aren’t dead now, six years lat­er. Sad­ly, TechCrunch con­trib­u­tors con­tin­ue to call things dead, as Romain Dil­let did yes­ter­day with this post, titled “Tablets are dead”. Its premise:

In 2010, tablets were sup­posed to be the new hot thing. Apple released the first iPad, Sam­sung was work­ing on the Galaxy Tab and count­less oth­ers were about to flood the mar­ket with Android tablets. Six years lat­er, there weren’t any tablets at Mobile World Con­gress in Barcelona. Com­pa­nies and con­sumers have moved on.

Tablets are dead.

Yes, in 2010, tablets were the hot new thing. Per­haps the iPad-inspired tablet craze was a fad. But just because sales of tablets have slowed and com­pa­nies are no longer rac­ing to put out so many new mod­els does­n’t mean tablets are dead.

Even Dil­let admits as much in his post:

First, tablets are now a com­mod­i­ty. You can find dozens of per­fect­ly fine tablets for less than $200. And there’s no dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing fac­tor between Android tablets. As a result, com­pa­nies are not mak­ing a prof­it on them. Sec­ond, chances are you already have a tablet at home and it’s work­ing fine. There’s no rea­son why you should upgrade it — it prob­a­bly runs Net­flix, Face­book and the Kin­dle app. It has a brows­er and your emails. Long replace­ment cycles mean you don’t need to pay atten­tion to the new and shiny tablets.

If peo­ple are hap­py with the tablets they have, that could help explain why there are few­er tablet prod­uct launch­es than there used to be. But tablets aren’t sud­den­ly dead just because they have ceased to be a hot new thing.

Yet that is what Dil­let seems to be saying:

So it’s time to face the truth. Tablets had a good run, but won’t be around for much longer. The iPad is still sell­ing well, but Apple is try­ing hard to dif­fer­en­ti­ate the iPad from the iPhone, cre­at­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of laptops.

Tablets aren’t going any­where, just as lap­tops, desk­tops, mice, phone calls, RSS, email, and the MP3 aren’t going any­where. All of these things will con­tin­ue to exist. There will still be a mar­ket for tablets, and com­pa­nies will still make them, just as there con­tin­ues to be mar­kets for paper books, vinyl records, and com­pact discs.

Hilar­i­ous­ly, even after declar­ing tablets dead, Dil­let end­ed his post with this:

Tablets can still make a come­back. They need to become good lap­top replace­ments, or a dig­i­tal can­vas for artists, or some­thing else. But some­thing needs to change and soon. Cur­rent tablets prove that you should nev­er bet against the smartphone.

How can tablets make a come­back if they’re dead, Romain? Way to hedge.

I hon­est­ly don’t under­stand why TechCrunch’s writ­ers have a fix­a­tion with pro­nounc­ing things to be dead. It’s weird. It would have been easy enough to pub­lish a post sug­gest­ing that tablet sales are in decline, and thought­ful­ly pon­der the future of that prod­uct seg­ment. But instead of offer­ing thought­ful analy­sis backed with a nuanced head­line, Dil­let opt­ed to gen­er­ate clickbait.

Too bad. TechCrunch is capa­ble of aim­ing high­er, and when it does, it’s a wor­thy com­peti­tor to Ars Tech­ni­ca and oth­er tech­nol­o­gy sites.

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