Going Big Screen

One of the more interesting personal computing micro-trends that I’ve been intrigued with over the past year are tablets that are larger than the current ten inch offerings. The first one I saw was in Shanghai last year (and I wish I had bought it). Drip by drip, more are coming out as time progresses. Archos has one. Hannspree makes one as well. These are in addition to a few larger companies making them like Samsung. Acer is even toying with the idea in an all-in-one computer that’s basically a giant Android tablet.

With more and more consumers using tablets to consume videos and TV shows, this format seems like a no-brainer. Couple this consumer behavior with the ability to leverage a computer company’s current inventory for larger screens and it seems like the size was meant to be from the start.

Sony’s Tap Tablet has a mammoth 20-inch screen.

With the offering of the now touch-capable laptops, the components for 13.3, 14, 15.6 and 17.3inch tablets must be just a storage rack away, and we all know how much large companies love to: “…leverage established supply streams to realize synergies that develop and increase competitive offerings across channels and deliver value to not only company stakeholders but customers as well…”or something similar (sigh).

The slow spot in the plan is getting enough portable power to make these larger screens happen. The aforementioned tablets yield about 4 hours of video playback for their size. I would think that the ideal would be six hours. That should give you about three American-length action movies. An easy answer to this would simply be to parallel-up a number of current tablet batteries until you hit the amp-hours you needed, much like the first off-brand tablets did. It adds weight, but certainly not as expensive as building new battery packs.

For target users, it’s easy to point to media consumption as the market to point these towards. The large screens make them easier to watch and increases the experience, to be sure. There might also be other uses for big screen tablets. If you look carefully at advertisements and even groups in the wild with tablets, there certainly is an undercurrent of thinking that at a certain point in the future, tablets will become collaborative tools rather than the 1-to-1 sorts of devices we think of now.

Now that multi-touch is so prevalent, it makes more than one person operating the same tablet that much easier. The trouble is the fact that their current sizes are not conducive to two humans swiping away, or even sharing the view. Jumping from a 9.7inch screen to a 15.6inch makes complete sense, especially when you’re presenting to a one or more people – which, it seems, people have been dying to do lately.

Editorially, the push back will be in the physical dimensions. Tablets these size will probably be heavier and possibly thicker than current offerings, so I would imagine you’d see a lot of reviewers grouse about these things as if there’s some sort of magic size-wand that wasn’t waved. It won’t matter, though. People who watch videos or want to work with others on a tablet really don’t stand around with them, so the added thickness and weight are an easy trade for scale.

The big screens would be a nice niche to get into for a company like HP that has the product lines to raid, as long as they’re good with probing less mainstream markets. Who knows, maybe this would be the “killer app” to shoehorn yourself into the business tablet world.

For the record, I would certainly be more than happy to help beta/alpha test such devices…


  1. Have you seen the Dell XPS 18? Something like this format. 18.4″ tablet, mounted on its cradle it’s an all-in-one, or you can put it on your lap (much ligther than the Sony 20″ in your example. Estimated 5 hr video life, Windows 8.1, 64 bit. 500gb hard disk with 32gb SSD for fast cacheing operation. Currently (March 24th) £799 inc vat and delivery.


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