There's Keystone in every Great invention

Tablet Technology Trends

January 20, 2021

There’s a Keystone in every great invention.

Language, and more specifically alphabetic writing, marked a momentous achievement in human development. Humans have used tablets for centuries to impart wisdom, culture and history with others. Written on a variety of materials, from expensive metals and paper to more widely available wax and clay, tablets have been a part of human communication since the beginning. Our ancestors surely could not have envisioned the technology advancements that would lead to modern day electronic tablets.

Tablets have an interesting trajectory in terms of market acceptance and popularity. Originally developed as an educational / consumer device, tablets did not take off immediately and were used primarily by military personal and other professionals in the field. With technology innovations expanding capabilities, and more importantly reducing costs, tablets saw a rise in the 2000s. Since then, tablets have steadily made their way into the workplace over the last decade. This is made no more apparent than on Sundays as we watch NFL quarterbacks walk back to the bench after an unsuccessful drive to start swiping through a tablet and getter a better look at the defense. So how did we get here?

Although portrayed in many science fiction books, TV shows and movies for decades before hand, the first tablet computer was not introduced to the market until 1986. The 8086-based Hindsight tablet from Letterbug was developed for the educational market. Thus started the rapid development of more sophisticated tablets enabled by two primary technology advancements: the MOSFET transistor (Moore’s Law) and the rechargeable lithium ion battery.

The first tablet computer for the consumer market was the “Linus Write Top” made in 1987. Retailed at $2795, the tablet was very expensive and did not have great commercial success.

In 1989, Palm Computing founder Jeff Hawkins launched what some call the first tablet computer. The GridPad ran on MS-DOS and was pricey and heavy compared to lap tops of the same era. The military bought into the GridPad, however the consumer market did not due to cost, size and weight.

In 1993, Apple got into the table game with its Apple Newton Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). The PDA was not intended to replace the personal computer, but rather offer a digital solution for analog tasks such as keeping a calendar, to-do lists, and more. The Apple Newton offered a new capability called Stylus that recognized the user’s handwriting. Meaning that with Stylus, users could write on the pad with a special pen and the PDA would take down what was written. Unfortunately, the program was not without flaws. Overall, the Newton PDA was a success and Apple continued to launch new versions throughout the 1990s.

Jeff Hawkins was back with PalmPilot in 1997, the first truly affordable PDA. Later versions would feature touchscreens, which was  popular with consumers. Many attribute the success of the PalmPilot to proving out the tablet computer business model.

In 2000, it was Microsoft’s turn to enter the market with the first self-proclaimed Tablet PC. Windows XP operating system came two years later. Windows XP enabled other manufacturers to get into the tablet game using the Microsoft operating system.

By mid-2000’s, there were many tablets to choose from, however only the PalmPilot had seen success in the consumer market.

Enter the Apple iPad in 2010. The most successful selling tablet of all time, the Apple iPad combined the touchscreen technology people craved with an easy to use interface at a reduced cost. With the commercial success, Android tablets flooded the market in the next two years.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab was the premium brand (high cost) while the Amazon Kindle Fire was the affordable version. Recognizing that tablets were a threat to its PC empire, Microsoft retooled and launched the Surface tablet in 2012.

Tablets Put to Work

In the 2010s, tablets were one of the fastest growing technology trends in both consumer and workplace markets. As prices continued to drop and functionality continued to increase, businesses across a myriad of industries found tablets a convenient way to boost productivity, efficiency and global communication.

More rugged tablets were soon designed for use in industrial and harsh environment applications. This included tablets to withstand harsh temperatures, spraying water, shock/vibrations, and more.

Tablets saw the biggest sales year in 2014. The global tablet PC market recorded 239 million units shipped in 2014. Reports from analysts and industry insiders portrayed tablets to perhaps one day surpass the traditional laptop and desktop computer.

However, the demise of desktop and laptop computers was greatly exaggerated. Since 2014, sales of tablet computers have plateaued or even decreased for manufacturers as smartphones dominated the consumer portable electronics market. Several reports state that tablets only make up around 2 to 4% of the desktop (around 41%), mobile (around 55%) and tablet computer market.

Tablets Today

The COVID-19 pandemic has given a boost to several markets including portable electronics. Tablets saw a significant resurgence in 2020, a trend continuing into 2021. Sales growth benefitted every major tablet manufacturer during a period when shipments of desktop computers declined.

According to market research firm Canalys, tablet shipments increased by some 26% during the second quarter of 2020, reaching just over 37.5 million units industry-wide. According to preliminary data from the International Data Corporation, the worldwide tablet market delivered solid results in the third quarter as well with 24.9% year-over-year growth and shipments totaling 47.6 million units.

Today’s tablets have found a niche in the, albeit smaller, market. With bigger touch screens and better graphics, tablets offer numerous benefits to workers on and off the field.

A wide range of Keystone products can be found in portable electronic devices. From tablets to smartphones to laptops, Keystone products including Battery Clips, Contacts & Holders, PCB Test Points &Terminals; Panel & Computer Hardware and PCB Pins, Plugs, Jacks & Sockets support portable electronics.