A product announced (but not shipped) during the Consumer Electronics Show 2015 year gives us a preview of a transformative category of products that will dominate the next few CES sessions starting next year—the giant touch screen tablet/TV.
The company, called Fuhu, exhibited a big Android tablet for children and families. How big?
It’s not 13 inches, as a future rumored Apple iPad is supposed to be. It’s not 15 inches, as are the screens of many laptops. The “tablet” is 65-inches diagonally.
The Fuhu Nabi Big Tab XL also functions as a TV. (But so does my iPad.) It’s powered by Nvidia’s new Tegra X1 processor supported by 4GB of RAM. Fuhu’s Blue Morpho user interface runs on top of Android 5. The UI enables separate child and parent modes.
Fuhu is also planning smaller sized living room touch tablets, as well, and we can expect to see them in the 2015 fourth quarter.
I believe the Fuhu Nabi Big Tab XL gives us a glimpse not only of the living room of the future, but the boardroom, office and home office of the future. I think big-screen touch devices will largely replace high-end desktop computers in the years ahead.
Microsoft has thus far been the undisputed leader in what Fox News calls BATs (big-ass displays). Microsoft started work on their giant tablet computer way back in 2001.
The original Surface computer was made by Microsoft and shipped to vertical customers in 2008. Microsoft partnered with Samsung to create the systems. Before launching their tablet computing platform, they moved the Surface branding over to the tablet and renamed the big-screen touch platform PixelSense.
Microsoft bought a company called Perceptive Pixel in 2012, which sold 80-inch displays for about $80,000 each. Perceptive Pixel makes most of the big-screen touch displays you see on TV news. The biggest challenge for Microsoft to mainstream big-screen touch tablets—sell them in large quantities to both consumers and enterprises—is cost. But costs have already dropped massively.
The 55-inch Perceptive Pixel computer costs $7,500, but Microsoft promises to bring the price down. Devices chief Stephen Elop said that Microsoft would mass-produce them.
When the cost drops below $3,000, I believe “BATs” will become a mainstream platform for home, business and enterprise computing.
Ultimately, there are four reasons why touch displays will take over.
1. TV makers need to sell high-resolution TVs
Companies that make hardware need to keep pushing the envelope in order to drive new sales. TVs have to get better. PCs have to get better.
Let’s start with TVs. There’s really no such thing as a TV anymore. The only living room product being hyped at CES were big, beautiful screens called TVs, but in fact they’re app-running, Internet-connected tablet computers that currently lack screen-touch control.
CES ushered in better-than-4K displays, which includes displays up to 8K in resolution. The trouble is that, from the couch, 4K is really all the resolution the human eye can discern. However, up close at touch range 8K looks vastly superior to 4K.
Meanwhile, we’re still a long way from wide availability of even 4K content; 8K content is many years into the future.
The only way manufacturers are going to sell 8K TVs is by making them compelling to use up close in addition to watching TV.
Meanwhile, PCs will get better by emulating the touch-control, app stores and other features of smartphones and tablets, but with more processing power and bigger screens.
This is the Apple strategy, articulated by the late founder and CEO Steve Jobs: “Trucks” (OS X devices) will always exist, but only for some people. Most people will use “Cars” (iOS devices). The iOS platform will run Apple’s mainstream desktop computers of the future and they will be large.
Why the Convergence of Touch-Screen TVs, Tablets is Inevitable
This is also true for Android.
In short, there will be a convergence of TVs and touch tablets that will replace today’s PC paradigm. And good riddance to the PC for the following reason.
2. WIMP is dead
No one under the age of 20 will ever want to use a WIMP PC (windows, icons, menus and pointing devices). And, in 10 years, no one under the same will be true for anyone under the age of 30. The paradigm is now 45 years old. Today’s kids are growing up on smartphones and tablets. They will naturally gravitate to the superiority of multi-touch displays.
Companies are scrambling to replace the components of WIMP computers, especially mice, which are clearly obsolete. Apple gravitates to desktop PC trackpads as a mouse replacement. Users embrace laptops, which also have trackpads.
HP even came out with an extremely compelling device called the HP Sprout, which uses cameras to see where the hands are for gesture control along with a projector.
Ultimately, the most elegant replacement for WIMP computers will be all-glass touch screens because touching things directly will always be more intuitive than touching something over ‘here’ that affects a screen over ‘there.’
3. Falling prices will make the touch displays cost very little
Today, touch displays cost a lot more than non-touch displays. The difference started out huge, and now it’s shrinking. Following the trend lines, the addition of touch capability will become so inexpensive that every screen will be a touch display no matter what the application. This is true for desktops, laptops and TVs.
Once TVs become touch displays and also run apps, the app developer will do for the living room what the Apple app store did for the iPhone. They’ll transform it into a device of a million uses.
This will be especially true in enterprises, where executives need to use their computers not only for business applications, but also for communication. Projectors are a low-quality, low-res experience for the most part. These will be replaced by huge touch screens.
Enterprise users will get personal systems the size of today’s big-screen TVs. And conference rooms will get screens like the one shown in this YouTube video.
The two biggest objections to big-screen touch computers are first that they cause “gorilla arm” as the user reaches out like Frankenstein to touch a wall-mounted display. People imagine a fixed, vertical position that would be uncomfortable to use all day. The second is that people are addicted to and cannot imagine life without, their physical keyboards.
But these objections will melt away. The main reason is that, in addition to a slow touch display revolution, we’re also undergoing a slow voice revolution. The combination of ever-improving voice interaction along with advances in voice assistants like Siri, Google Now and Cortana, will have us typing a lot less and talking a lot more.
In addition, most giant touch computers will rotate from vertical to angled like a drafting table or to flat like a table depending on how it will be used.
The other reason is that physical keyboards will always be usable with giant touch displays, if you want to use them.
I don’t know if the Fuhu Nabi Big Tab XL will be a hit with consumers. In fact, I doubt it will, but it does provide a glimpse at mainstream home, business and enterprise computing because it’s really a giant touch tablet that runs apps.
Microsoft is in the lead in this market. Apple may dominate the category as well. And the companies that today make both Android tablets and TVs (Samsung, LG, Sony, etc.) may also compete as leading makers.
Regardless, I see the trend lines of user preference changes, hardware cost and technology evolution all converging on this inevitable form factor.