The tablet world has a newcomer in the form of Apple’s new iPad Air 2, which includes a fingerprint sensor to provide increased personal security. It is just 6.1mm thick, the thinnest tablet Apple has yet produced – although its predecessor wasn’t exactly beefy at 7.5mm. The iPad Air 2 has a new anti-glare screen, a second generation 64-bit chip, an iSight camera and a renewed FaceTime HD camera, so you’ll be able to see your mother’s new curtains a little better than before. The sales pitch continues with Apple saying it offers faster Wifi and LTE wireless connectivity. All that is going to set you back about 400 euros. However, it’s not clear how it will fare in an increasingly crowded tablet-phone-handheld-computer-thingy market, which according to tech research fund Gartner will only grow 11 per cent this year, compared to a heady 55 per cent last year.
Is this a turning point for tablets? Are they going to morph into phones, or tiny laptops? We put the question to Paolo Ottolina, the technology expert from the newspaper “Corriere della Sera” which is one of the oldest and most prestigious daily newspapers in Italy. He thinks that the choice is already on the table: “You may remember that, a few years ago, after the launch of the first iPad, Steve Jobs said that we have entered the post PC era, raising the possibility that personal computers could soon disappear from our lives, to be replaced by something different. But last year, even Apple, with its iPad, saw sales drop, despite more, and smaller, models available. This is probably because business users, amongst others, find that although a tablet is useful for surfing websites, writing short emails, watching films and listening to music, it is not so useful for producing content, writing long texts, and doing other office activities. Which is why last year, traditional tablets sold less, and PCs did a little better.” Ottolina goes on to stress that in the meantime some tablets have evolved, and now feature clickable keyboards that mean you can turn them into a real small laptop or even use it for presentations.”
He now sees the larger-screened smartphones as competitors to tablets: “A smartphone which has a 5.7 inch nearly 6 inch screen, isn’t used for tasks that differ much from using a small tablet, say a 7-inch one, so that has revitalized the tablet market a bit. And people often – also because of the economic crisis – prefer to buy a single device which acts both as smartphone and a bit as a small tablet, rather than having two different devices.”