During today The Android ShowGoogle talked about its recent work in the large-screen device space and its big take on the form factor, including “tablet-first” apps.
The livestream included a brief appearance by Android co-founder and current Google tablet CTO Rich Miner to answer “what’s different about tablets this time around.”
We launched the first Android tablet version in 2011. Tablets actually took off and the usage that drove that adoption was largely consumption. Tablets without too much investment were good for consumption. Media players, YouTubes, and other apps worked great just to scale that video to a bigger screen. It stayed that way for a long time and the growth of tablets kind of stagnated.
However, Google started to see large-screen tablet sales take off in the second half of 2019 even before COVID, with the following year serving as a growth “accelerator”. A quoted data point was that “keyboard attach rates were getting much higher”.
The belief is that tablets began to be much better for things beyond consumption, and were used for creativity and productivity and there was a need for more screens and devices to support this.
What’s most interesting is how Miner squares tablets against laptops. Specifically, how tablets are high performing and “cheaper than a laptop.” He notes how tablet sales in 2020 have approached those of laptop shipments, and thinks that will continue post-COVID.
I actually think there will be a crossover point at some point in the not too distant future where there will be more tablets sold each year than laptops. I think once you get past that point, you’re not going to come back.
In the context of Google’s shelving, Miner was asked what developers should be doing to prepare. The first is to see how an app can take advantage of the extra screen real estate and take a look at Google’s latest Jetpack libraries and other things introduced with Android 12L.
The second, which Miner is more enthusiastic about, aims to encourage developers to create new tablet applications:
If tablets are really going to be this new device for people to be creative and productive, what new apps would take advantage of people who can do things with a stylus right off the bat? What does that mean for the mobility you have with a tablet that you don’t quite even have with a laptop?
He, and by extension Google, believe the tablet form factor will enable new use cases. The analogy he uses is this: in the early days of the smartphone, people simply brought desktop apps to mobile before they realized they had to create new experiences from scratch for the new form factors. .
I actually think there’s going to be another wave of apps here that think tablets first. What can I do with this larger screen that I might not easily be able to do with something that was physically attached to a keyboard?
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