As further evidence of this trend, other analysts have bet that the forthcoming iPad mini 2 will outsell the iPad 5 by a factor of 2:1, while Gartner itself recently said that most tablet buyers now prioritize price over brand name.
Gartner expects this trend to stay true over the holiday season, even if some tablet vendors are desperately hoping that hybrid tablets like Microsoft’s Surface and Lenovo’s Thinkpad Yoga, catch the public’s attention.
“While consumers will be bombarded with ads for the new ultra mobile devices, we expect their attention to be grabbed but not necessarily their money,” said Gartner research VP Carolina Milanesi.
The computer industry (and I include in this makers of smartphones, tablets, and traditional computers in whatever form factor) is currently agonizing over the commodification of the personal computer. By this I mean that while geeks and fanbois drool over esoteric pixel counts and multi-core processors, normal buyers (which means 95%-plus of them) just want something that works for them at the lowest price they can find consistent with a reasonable level of quality.
Good enough is…good enough. The Microsoft Surface products, for instance, will fall on their faces. The Surface RT will still be Dead. On. Arrival. , and the Surface Pro, with its astronomical pricing structure, won’t do a hell of a lot better.
In the meantime, despite all the whining, smartphones will get bigger and tablets smaller, until they meld into a single appliance at an attractive price point that does most, or all, of what the buyer wants.
So why is the industry so worried? Because commodification means that customers look at an overall range of products regarded as being of similar quality (brand names, primarily), and then buy the cheapest ones. Oh, sure, there will still be luxury niche markets, but the bulk of sales will occur in the low to very low profit margin arena.
And that means crushing hits to bottom lines. Even mighty Apple, with the biggest profit margins in recent memory, will feel the pressure – and, in fact, already is, with the failure of the Apple iPhone 5C, an overpriced plastic re-do of last year’s phone.
So, keep it in mind: When it comes to consumer technology, “good enough” is the new hotness. And “cheap enough” is even hotter.