Single Use Tablets: Thinking Differently About Under $100 Tablets

By Rob Enderle December 08, 2014

With even Windows tablets dropping below the $100 price point now, I’m beginning to wonder how long before we realize we can use these as dedicated devices and not as replacements for iPads.   Tablets can be great interfaces for watching TV and movies, they can control alarm and home automation systems, they can be shared notepads (replacing the sticky notes on refrigerators) and that can be pretty decent screens for in car entertainment for folks riding in the back seat.   Let’s talk about why you may eventually have a bunch of tablets around your home dedicated to doing one thing each this week. 

Universal Control

If you’ve ever seen a high end home automation or entertainment system, typically at its heart is a very expensive low resolution display which controls the systems features.  This can cost upwards of $2K alone and often is why these systems are only for the rich and famous. 

The first controller for my Sonos system, for instance, had a nice iPod sized display and cost nearly $300.   My ADT Pulse Alarm system came with a really crappy GE touch tablet that won’t even run off batteries (it needs to be plugged in all the time) and is almost never used. 

What made these things way too expensive is that they were custom designed to do just one thing.  Now they have been replaced by apps but the apps can be a pain because they can get in the way of the other things you do with your tablet or phone.  I still have my Sonos controllers because it is just easier to grab the dedicated controller because it is already in the app.  I don’t have to locate the app, remember my password, or stop whatever I’m doing on the phone or with the tablet in order to change or adjust the music.  

Even more annoying is when someone else wants to use the control.  I have no issue letting someone mess with the remote for the Sonos but I don’t want them messing with my primary tablet or smartphone.  My email is on those things and, particularly with kids, there is a very real risk they’ll either do something that will embarrass me, create hardship (like mass deleting my inbox), or break the device and the phones and tablets I carry are expensive. 

Price Is the Key

But if I can get a tablet for under $100, which is far less than the dedicated controllers I now have, and turn it into a dedicated controller.  I can wall mount it for a custom home appearance, I can leave it on the coffee tablet like any other remote and have a couple around the house that I, or more importantly a guest, can grab to control the things I’m ok with them touching rather than putting all of my stuff at risk. 

I thought there would be issues with finding wall mount kits for tablets but there really aren’t.   CTA Digital has what looks like a nice under cabinet mount for your tablet if you want it in the kitchen for under $40, Aduro has a refrigerator mount  for your refrigerator for $23 (running the power cord could be interesting), Koala and Dockem have “damage free” wall mounts for under $15 each, there are actually tons of these things.  One of the most interesting is the Jackscool Armbot Bed/Desk/Car/Wall mount that morphs for each use though it’ll cost you nearly as much as the tablet at $65.  But if you want to make believe you are a Tesla driver and have your tablet right in front of you when you drive it appears to be the easiest way to do that and you don’t have to drill into your car.  

Wrapping Up:  Lock Down

Key to a great user experience though will be the ability to lock the tablet down to its chosen key use.  While in the kitchen you may want more of a full tablet experience, in the other areas having each tablet dedicated to its chosen function would provide that instant on capability I’m talking about.  You pick up the tablet and immediately you are in the dedicated app and doing what you want to get done. 

Until then though you can still just use the one or two apps you want for the tablet and have it mounted and handy for use in your kitchen, on your refrigerator or wall, or even permanently next to your bed as a dedicated alarm clock.  In fact, shortly, as these things get cheaper, I expect we’ll be increasingly up to our necks in dedicated tablets.   

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group

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