Is it the tablet, or the phone?

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2011 is clearly the year of the tablet.  Everyone and their grandmother has one launching in the next several months.  This of course is mainly due to the popularity of the iPad, but clearly this is the direction the market was heading.  HP just announced the Touchpad, LG the G Slate, the Galaxy Tab II is coming soon (albeit with the original Galaxy on its deathbed), Blackberry has been teasing their Playbook for awhile, Toshiba, iPad 2, and so on.  Andreas recently had an article talking about how saturated the market will be, and mainly with similar specs and looks.  So the next deciding factor when all the hardware is relatively equal is the OS.  And that might be where things get interesting.

Let’s be honest here.  There are going to be very few people in the market for a tablet that do not have a smartphone.  It is clearly the early stages of the product life cycle, so the potential buyers will be folks that are already up to date with their own technology.  The Apple fanboys will be touting the iPad 2 as the next best thing, while the Fandroids do the same.  Crackberry fanatics will be tethering their Playbook to their heart’s content.  But what does this all come down to?

In HP’s recent announcement of their Touchpad, they heavily promoted the combination of their new Pre working with the Touchpad.  They will both be completely synced together in the HP ecosystem.  They will also be able to push notifications and content back and forth to each other.  Pretty cool stuff.  The same idea is going along with the Playbook from Blackberry.  Heck, to access some of the information on the Playbook, you must be tethered to your Blackberry.  I see that as a hindrance rather than an advantage, but to each their own.   These manufacturer’s want to draw you into the entire ecosystem and keep you for life.  I don’t blame them, there is plenty of money in that strategy. Ask Apple.

So with all of these choices between operating systems and screen sizes and hardware, is there really even a choice?  Sure sure, Android is a choice.  They have 7″ers and 10″  as well as the G Slate coming in at just under 9.”  But what kind of phone do you have?  Are you a proud owner of that retina display?  The qwerty Blackberry?  Any flavor or combination of Android?  Or one of the left out Pre owners?

It really doesn’t matter what choice we have in the market.  It all comes down to what phone we have.  That was the supreme choice we made.  Whether you have stuck with Android since the G1 or have been that corporate Blackberry user.  That is the deciding factor in the tablet wars.  Let’s think about it.  Can you be an iOS user, and then pick up that Playbook and use it to your hearts content?  You might like it and see the benefit in it, but you’re already in the Apple ecosystem.  You will always be thinking about the iPad that has all of your apps and music in sync.  Why bother with iTunes for your phone, and then a whole other management setup for the Playbook?  That Android tablet will be in complete sync with that Droid from Verizon you’re toting around.  Why even look at the Touchpad when I don’t have a Pre phone to pair it with?

Of course this is all speculation.  I’m sure that there are going to be plenty of Android users toting around iPads even when they have Honeycomb available.  Apple doesn’t only have a loyal following, so those phone users will probably all be checking out the Touchpads and the Playbooks.  Anyone that has stuck with Palm, errr HP will surely not be tied to the new Touchpad, iPad for them.  And tomorrow’s forecast looks to be cloudy with a chance of raining donuts.

Now of course there will be a couple people out there that don’t mind any ecosystem and simply go for the tablet or phone they like at the moment.  But the more these tablets mimic and work with their partnering phones, the more we simply see an extension of the entire ecosystem.  We will be tied with one brand or OS no matter what.  Ask anyone that started with Apple in the early days.  How are those DRM iTunes tracks doing in your library?  Did you pay for the “upgrade” to get the non DRM tracks?  Probably not.  Most stayed with Apple.  And that’s the point.

So when you are checking out all of these options at CES and MWC, don’t worry about it.  Put your hand in your pocket and pull out that shiny device that got you all excited in the first place.  That is what you will get for your next tablet.  As it stands for me, I don’t have a dog in the fight.  I am a recent (and incredibly happy) convert to Windows Phone from being a long time Android owner (G1, N1, G2).  I’m just going to sit back and watch it all shake out. It’s harder for me, but easier for you.

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Allen Schmidt

Allen is a former contributing editor at Nothing But Tablets, which was merged with Pocketables in 2012.

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