According to AT&T’s president of emerging devices, Glenn Lurie, the falling cost of cellular radio hardware will encourage tablet manufacturers to move toward equipping all of their devices such that they are 3G or 4G capable. The consequence of this move would mean the end of tablets that are only equipped with WiFi capabilities for network connections which is the configuration that currently dominates the tablet market (only half of the iPads currently sold are equipped with cellular functionality).
Lurie feels that “the ecosystem was a little out of balance,” and while he insists that companiesl ike AT&T are satisfied by the number of cellular-enabled units sold and activated on data plans, “all devices should have all capabilities built in from the beginning.” I think most consumers would agree, with many people purchasing the 3G and 4G models of the iPad ‘just in case’ they ever want to get it activated (though plenty of those individuals never do). Others still would rather save the money (even if it only represented a difference in cost ranging from USD $30 to USD $70 to get the upgraded models) because they have no intentions of ever taking advantage of the extra connectivity (and data plan cost).
One important point that Lurie makes is that by reducing the number of units an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) has to produce, market and support will result in a significant cost savings (and be a lot less hassle in general). It also means that second-hand sales in the after-market also become significantly less confusing and lessen the divide between different models, which means devices will hold their value a little better.
This kind of streamlining is usually especially attractive to Apple, who likes granular control over their product line giving increased ease of maintenance (be it for apps, operating system or hardware)… as long as those benefits aren’t outweighed by significant profit margin potential (with as much as a USD $130 difference when moving to a 3G or 4G capable iPad instead of Wifi only).
If you currently own a WiFi-only iPad, and the technologies did merge such that for the next version of the device there was cellular capability in all of them so you had the ability, would you be more likely to activate your tablet on a data plan with your mobile provider? Was the cost of the iPad the prohibiting factor for you going 3G or 4G this time, or was it something else?
The important thing in my view is how mobile data providers evolve their promised “new data plans” such that we can affordably and easily activate multiple devices on a single account.
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