GigaOM‘s Darrell Etherington believes that the way for Apple to sustain its dominance in the tablet market in response to challenges from the Kindle Fire is to offer a smaller, cheaper tablet. The case he makes – that a cheap tablet with a tightly integrated “content ecosystem” is the best response – is not a bad one, but it misses the wider point.
The issue with tablets going forward will not be large versus small or high-end versus low-end, but general versus specialized. The iPad, the Motorola XOOM, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab are examples of high-end, tablet format computing devices that are designed to perform an array of tasks. The Kindle Fire, despite the other things you can do with it, is designed to offer a quality book, music, and possibly movie experience. At doing other things, even browsing the web, it is somewhat weaker.
And this is not a bad thing. Not everybody wants a tablet to act like a laptop without a keyboard, and in fact the great untapped opportunity is in finding ways to target the format for specific experiences or vertical markets where the iPad or XOOM would be too much machine for the job.