Keyboards As Legacy Devices

One of the common arguments against the tablets as productivity devices, is that writing is an essential part of “content creation” and that long-form writing necessitates a keyboard.

I have strongly questioned the validity of both these assertions. I do not think that writing is an essential part of “content creation”, nor do I think that long-form writing needs a keyboard. Here I will focus on the second assertion and illustrate how the new generation might consider keyboards as legacy I/O.

Japanese students are faster with smartphones than with keyboards

A Japanese article in ITMedia tested how fast 16 Japanese students could enter text with smartphones and with PCs. The author found that many students could type up to 2x faster on smartphones, and that the fastest smartphone typer was faster than the fastest PC typer. They also found that the two students who were faster on a PC were using QWERTY keyboards on smartphone, instead of the flick input.

If we consider the comfortability of long-form text entry to be an essential part of a “content creation” device, then at least for the Japanese youth, smartphones are better than PCs.

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QWERTY is holding back Western languages

One might think that the above only applies to non-Western languages. However, I believe that we can also extend this argument to Western languages as well.

The issue is that Western language users still are using the inefficient and legacy QWERTY keyboard layout instead of something that has been designed for and optimised for smartphones (or even PCs for that matter). If Western users started to use a keyboard layout that was designed for smartphones, then maybe they wouldn’t need hacks like Swype to type faster. It is possible that what is holding tablet text entry behind is not the lack of a physical keyboard, but the lack of new ideas and the unwillingness to try a new input method.

Implications for the future

There is a possibility that the legacy of QWERTY keyboards is holding back innovation. The physical keyboards that Blackberry insisted on, prevented them from pioneering phones that had large touch-screen displays. The insistence on physical keyboards is probably a huge factor in keeping US schools from embracing the tablet form-factor (and is helping float the Chromebook market). If this continues, then it is very likely that innovation in the next wave of “content creation”, if it is to happen on tablets, will not come from QWERTY countries, but from non-Western language ones.

I see physical keyboards as legacy devices. They are slowing down innovation. Instead of discussing whether future “content creation” devices should have keyboards (like the 2-in-1 form factor), the real discussion should be how to create a better keyboard layout that is completely free of the century-old typewriter QWERTY legacy.

Appendix: About Flick Input

Flick input uses a keyboard like the one shown in the image below. There are 12 light grey keys that are used to enter characters. The Japanese phonetic writing system uses roughly 50 characters which is much more than the 12 grey keys. However, when you press one of the grey keys, you are presented with 5 different options. Flicking in the direction of any of these keys allows you to select one of these (no flicking selects the centre one). Therefore, from the 12 light grey keys, you can generate 12 x 6 = 60 different characters. Proficient users will memorise the flick direction, and will not need to wait for the options to appear on the screen. Instead, they will simply put their finger on any of the keys and immediately flick in the appropriate direction.

Since three Japanese characters contains about as much information as a single English word, you can see how efficient Flick input can be. Add the fact that the keys are much larger (fewer mistakes) and can comfortably be accessed with a single hand, and you can understand why Japanese youth are so fast with this.

Similar concepts are available for Western languages like MessagEase. One problem for Western languages may be that QWERTY is bad but not hurting enough to convince people to learn a new keyboard layout.


Is India Really The Next Big Opportunity In Tech

A lot has been made about how important India is to tech, and what a big opportunity the 1.2 billion population is.

While that maybe true, I think it is also important to contemplate the possibility that this may not actually be the case; that despite its huge population, India may not yet be an attractive investment.

Rakuten Ventures had this to say at Tech in Asia Singapore 2016.

While India has a population of 1.2 billion, there are only about 40 million to 50 million people who actually have “real” smartphones – and not those weird Android permutations – and who are at least in the middle class, earning about US$10,000 a year.

If you’re looking at ecommerce alone, you’re talking about a demographic that has been shrunk from 1.2 billion to 40 million or 50 million. That’s basically the addressable market […] For us, when we look at a market, we ask ourselves: ‘Can we get in at the price point we want? Can we actually see a lot of these platforms accrue the value that they want?’ We don’t see that yet.

Objectively, the International Monetary Fund puts India’s GDP per capita for 2015 at 6,162 international dollars, which is less than half of China’s at 14,107. While obviously growing quite quickly, it isn’t necessarily growing that much faster compared to other countries with similar absolute levels. Although macro data obviously does not tell the full story, it does support Rakuten Venture’s view to a certain extent.

If we do accept Rakuten Venture’s view that ‘while India has a population of 1.2 billion, there are only about 40 million to 50 million people who actually have “real” smartphones’, then it does seem like other markets which aren’t receiving as much hype, might actually hold larger potential.

I think this is something worth thinking about. It might be more important to look at metrics of usage like Web usage or Twitter usage to understand how many people do have “real smartphones”, or use the ones they have as such.

Understanding Where Tablets Can Go From Here

Before iPad sales started to slow down in 2013, the vast majority of analysts were bullish on tablets, predicting the imminent replacement of mainstream computing (PCs) by tablets. I’ll just pick a few articles to illustrate my point;

  1. John Kirk on Techpinions, Jan. 2014: How The Tablet Made An Ass Of The PC
  2. Ben Bajarin on Techpinions, Jun. 2013: How the Tablet is Killing the PC
  3. Horace Dediu on Asymco, Dec. 2013: When will the migration from PCs be complete?
  4. Ben Thompson on Stratechery, Jan. 2014: WINDOWS 8 AND THE COST OF COMPLEXITY

Although the degree to which each analyst strongly suggested a glowing future for tablets varies, there was a very consistent theme that tablets were in the process of replacing PCs.

In 2014, declining iPad sales (and declining Android tablet sales shortly thereafter) proved that these analysts were completely wrong, or at the very least, overlooking a very important piece of the puzzle.

For the record, I was questioning the conventional wisdom that tablets were replacing PCs back in January and February of 2014, before most pundits noticed that iPad sales were flattening (1, 2, 3), so I think I had a pretty accurate sense that iPad growth wouldn’t be so easy. I even said in Jan 2014;

So what I sense is the possibility that tablets (as computing devices) may have hit a roadblock in adoption, and this is due to the potential market being actually much smaller than envisioned. Much smaller than the PC market.

Now that Ben Bajarin has become openly bearish(subscription required) on tablets, I think we should take a step back and look at the market from a birds-eye perspective. We should question whether we really understand what is happening.

Understanding the complexity of the tablet PC market.

The tablet market is extremely complex. PCs were first hired mainly to do increase office productivity, and later to connect to the Internet. Smartphones, despite being very complex in what they can accomplish, are essentially uniform in the value that they provide to their users. However tablets are very different. They can be very different things to different people. Let me elaborate.

Jobs where the iPad is already a good fit

  1. A corporate executive’s/sales rep’s communication device: By this, I mean a device that is hired to handle simple emails and messaging, leaning on the reading aspect more than writing. You could also add a bit of presentations and accessing corporate web-based dashboards.
  2. A home entertainment device: Current tablets allow users to view a variety of video content and also provide a wide range of video.
  3. A home Internet device: Current tablets, especially the iPad is used for a variety of common consumer Internet tasks like viewing websites, posting on Facebook, replying to messages, etc.

These are the jobs which already existed, and in which the iPad could already be considered mature. Because the value proposition was clear and obvious, these are the jobs which drove the initial tremendous ramp up of iPad sales. In particular, we know that the majority of iPad usage happened in the home and not at work. Hence it is likely that items 2. and 3. were the main drivers.

The problem is, these jobs were equally well served by smartphones as a) better software became available for smartphones (e.g. Facebook moving from HTML5 to native) and b) smartphones got bigger.

Jobs where the current iPad is not yet a good fit

There are also a number of tasks where the iPad is not yet a good fit, more often than not due to the fact that the market itself has not yet been established.

  1. A field worker’s device: This is something that Ben Bajarin has noted in several articles. In the field, many workers still carry around paper documents and fill in paper forms. There is non-consumption of IT in these workflows. Tablets will inevitably be the instruments that bring IT to these areas, but it will have to be accompanied by customised software solutions designed for the task.
  2. Organised education: Although there is a lot of educational software for tablets which parents use to help develop their children’s skills, iPads are still just starting to be used in schools. I’m sure that the US is the leader in this area, but I’m sure there are still a large number of children who are not able to use personal iPads or other computer devices at school. The situation is even worse in other countries like Japan. The hurdle here is not in the tablets themselves, but in finding the best way to utilise tablets in teaching and training teachers to use them, and obtaining budget. There is also a lack of good teaching material for the teachers to use. This is an emerging market for which tablets are very well suited, but it requires much more than just tech. We have to wait for a lot of other infrastructure to catch up.
  3. Hardware as a service: Tablets can serve as the gateway for a service. For example, a cable TV company can include a tablet in your contract which you can use to view TV anywhere in your house, or save locally to view during your boring train commute. This has also been discussed many times, but the point is, this requires cable TV companies and/or other content distributors to get on board. This kind of negotiation will always take a long time to happen.
  4. A full replacement for PCs: In the long-term, it seems totally obvious to me that we will not be using PCs. Back in the 1990s, we were using computers that could not multitask efficiently and would crash many times during the day. In the 2010s, we are still using computers that can suddenly be infested with malware and have to protect by installing 3rd party software, and which degrade in performance over time requiring a fresh install. Although current operating systems have come a long way in addressing these issues, it is clear to me that a new approach to PC security and consistency is long overdue, and that the sandboxing approach taken by mobile OSes will eventually turn out to be the better path. Just like how we transitioned from cooperative multitasking systems without adequate memory management (Windows 95 and classic MacOS) towards full multitasking and memory protection (Windows XP and MacOS X), it seems inevitable that we will move towards fully sandboxed OSes for the vast majority of users. However, the capabilities of iOS are not yet sufficient to fully replace PCs. This will take time, but we have already seen Apple slowly address issues, first with iOS 8 extensions and now with many features in iOS 9. Given the current rate of improvement, by iOS 15 or so, it is totally reasonable to expect iOS to be able to fully replace PCs.
  5. New jobs: When you look at the impact that smartphones have had on our lives, one can clearly observe that it has hugely increased our consumption of computing. We browse the Internet in situations where it was previously unpractical. We all put our schedules into electronic devices. We share huge amounts of photos. Tech is not about device A replacing device B. Instead, it is about technology being used in new ways. It is about the situations where we couldn’t use tech, being converted to those where tech makes a significant contribution. In the same way, we should not try to find areas where tablets may replace current devices; we should try to find the remaining areas where people are not using technology. These are the areas where tablets can shine. There is no shortage of these areas, but we have to keep in mind that there is often a good reason why they have not been penetrated by tech. We have to keep in mind that in many cases, non-tech issues will have to be solved before tech can come in. A prime example of such out-of-the-box thinking is the recent collaboration between Japan Post, Apple and IBM to bring iPads to Japanese senior citizens.

What this complexity means

Because the tablet market is so complex and has many independent jobs-to-be-done, the sales data that we are seeing is simply an aggregate value that tells you very little about what is actually happening. The decline in tablet sales does not necessarily mean that the long-term prospects are dim because these data do not expose nascent growth segments. It is very likely that we initially saw rapid adoption due to jobs in the first category (jobs where the iPad was already a good fit), but this market levelled out as smartphones evolved. On the other hand, I expect the jobs in the second category (jobs where the iPad is not yet a good fit) are just getting started. However, jobs in the second category were not previously associated with IT and hence there is often little infrastructure in place and no budget allocated. This means that it will take time for the second category to gain significant traction. At the same time, it is hard to gauge the market size of the second category.

What we can expect is that in the mid- to long-term, jobs in the second category will definitely start to gain traction. Furthermore, as long as Apple keeps the faith, tablets will improve to the point where they can fully replace laptops in not only the common tasks, but in virtually all tasks. What we do not know yet is what the size of the tablet market will be at this point in the future.

Content Creation on Smartphone, Tablets and Watches

It surprises me that some people still say that smartphones and tablets are only good for content consumption, and not content creation.

That is only true if you totally ignore all the status updates on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. and declare that content on these social networks is too trivial and unimportant to be considered content.

One has to understand that the meaning of “content” has changed a lot with the development of technology. The content that was inscribed on the walls of the pyramids, for example, is very different from the random BuzzFeed article about Justin Beiber. Similarly, the content in the mobile age will be very different from the long-form blog-ish content of the Web 2.0 era. It will be more short form, more photos, and more multimedia. And for this type of content, smartphones generally trump PCs as content creation devices.

This will also be true of smartwatches. Whether or not smartwatches will become content creation devices depends not so much on whether they are good for writing long emails or blogs, but more on how communication forms evolve. And we can make a sure bet that the communication forms will evolve towards the most popular devices, hence if smartwatches become popular, then content will evolve to be better suited for these, which means shorter and more textual or emoji. With the huge strides being made in speech recognition, it is very likely that smartwatches will easily gain the capability to create these kinds of content.

What is important is that one has to recognise that both sides of the coin will evolve in concert. Saying that smartphones and tablets are not good for content creation basically shows how outdated your view of content is.

Funny Phablets

Phablets are a very funny product category. Nobody, at least in the west, seems to quite understand what they are.

I don’t either. I’m just observing that the information that we have is difficult to understand, and the common theories aren’t logically consistent.

Here is an example of a bullish prediction for phablets.

“Are Phablets Signaling a Butterfly Effect for Mobile Devices?”

While I have a large issue with how “butterfly effect” is being used in this article, that is beside the point. The point of the article is to illustrate how phablets might lead to significant changes in the mobile space.

In this article, the benefits of a larger screen are given as follows;

  1. “Bigger screens are becoming essential for browsing. They make it a lot more attractive – you can fit more information into a single screen.”
  2. “Email gets easier on a big screen too.”

Now compare this with a report by Opera Mediaworks “Phablets are no passing phad”.

What they find in terms of phablet usage is;

  1. Social networking is by far the top category (53.8% of total impressions served), far outpacing social site usage from phones and tablets.
  2. Phablet users are far less likely to use News & Information sites than phone users and fall well short of tablet users in their interest in Gaming, and Music, Video & Media.

So it seems that phablet users are less prone to browsing the web, and are more inclined to use their device for social networking.

What kind of social networking?

We can’t be sure, but if it is a lot of WhatsApp, then we can be sure that large screens aren’t making too much of a different. The same can be said for Twitter.

This doesn’t match the phablet benefits given above.

My feeling is that nobody really seems to know what the real appeal of Phablets are on purchase and how they are actually being used. Much less whether their success will be confined to Asia or whether they will penetrate other markets.

Jobs-to-be-done in India

Just happened to read an article on The New York Times with a very interesting quote;

“Micromax is giving India what it wants: more bang for the buck,” Rahul Sharma, its co-founder and chief executive, said in a phone interview. “Most Indians don’t walk into a store asking for a smartphone; they go, “Bhaiyya, isme chat chalega?” (“Brother, will the chat apps work on this phone?”)

I suspect that this is not only relevant to the Indian market, but also key to getting “late-majority” and “laggards” to switch from feature phones to smartphones, even in countries like Japan with its ferocious appetite for high-end iPhones.

This is the ultimate jobs-to-be-done for smartphones. The specs or OS or ecosystems of smartphones don’t really matter.

2013 Smartphone Sales Decreased in Japan

MM Research Institute (MMRI) recently published a couple of reports (1), stating that in Japan in 2013, smartphone shipments decreased by 3.7%. This was due to a combination of the following factors;

  1. Total mobile phone shipments decrease by 10.2%.
  2. Smartphone penetration is nearing saturation at roughly 45% of total mobile phone subscriptions.

Smartphone saturation

Observer the following graph from MMRI. This shows the number of subscribers. Blue is for smartphones and pink is for feature phones. The last bar is for Dec. 2013.

You can see how smartphone penetration is saturating. The current smartphone penetration is 44.5% and it looks like it might stop at 50%.


Additional information from the report;

  1. 52.4% of feature phone owners answered that their next purchase would be a feature phone. Only 34.4% said that their next purchase would be a smartphone.
  2. Reasons for not purchasing a smartphone include a) pricey data plans, b) no need for the additional features, c) difficulty of use.
  3. Smartphone users average 6,826 JPY per month whereas feature phone users average 3,746 JPY per month.

In interpreting this data, you have to understand that Japanese feature phones are pretty capable. They can do email (even email to/from PCs), surf mobile web sites (and there are many of these in Japan), play music, watch TV, take photos, play games and make NFC enabled purchases. You can even use LINE, the explosively popular messaging app although features are limited.

Also, virtually all smartphone data plans in Japan are unlimited data. There are some pay-as-you-go schemes but you quickly reach the ceiling after which your plan actually becomes the same as an unlimited data plan. Pre-paid plans are rare.

On the other hand, feature phone typically do not need data plans to access email or watch TV. A cheap voice plan is sufficient. You can subscribe to a data plan if you want to surf the mobile web or do more complex stuff, but I suspect that most of these users are now using smartphones.

Smartphone sales decline

MMRI data for 2013.

  1. Total mobile phone sales decreased by 10.2%.
  2. Smartphone sales decreased by 3.7%
  3. Apple garnered 32.5% (+9.2 points vs. 2012) mobile phone share, or 43.6% of smartphone share.
  4. Other vendors are Sharp (14.6% share), Sony (12.6% share), Fujitsu (9.7% share), Kyocera (8.8% share), Samsung (5.9% share)
  5. Percent of smartphones sold vs. total mobile was 74.1%.

Combining the subscriber base (44.5% on smartphones) to the annual sales (74.1% smartphones), it is clear that feature phone users are clinging on to their old models. This is probably because R&D on feature phones has ceased and no new features are being added. Additionally, carriers are not promoting feature phones.

Implications for countries outside of Japan

What this data means is that around 50% of Japanese mobile phone subscribers do not need the high-end features of smartphones, and would be satisfied with email and voice. They don’t need Facebook or LINE on their phones (although they could if they paid for a data plan). They just need a convenient way to communicate.

Now assuming that we can apply this 50% number to other countries. Since these countries do not have the feature-rich feature phones that the Japanese have enjoyed for more than a decade, we can assume that low-end Android phones on pre-paid plans are being purchased instead.

What I am trying to say is that although U.S. smartphone penetration is now at 64%, which is significantly higher than the Japanese 44.5%, a large proportion of this number probably includes subscribers on cheap pay-as-you-go or pre-paid plans. These subscribers may be using their smartphones in a manner that is similar to Japanese feature phone users, hence including them in smartphone market share is potentially misleading.

In other words, U.S. smartphone penetration may be significantly higher than Japan but the way that people are using mobile phones in general might be much more similar.

Smartphone penetration is not the right metric

Instead of looking at smartphone penetration, I propose that we should be looking at data consumption. We should be looking at what percentage of the subscribers use their smartphones to use services over the Internet thereby consuming lots of data, and what percentage use it only for voice and simple messaging. Instead of looking at the hardware, we should be looking at how people use them. If data consumption data is hard to obtain, we should be using their data-plan (unlimited, postpaid, prepaid) as a proxy.

Similarly, we should be looking at how many iPhone users consumer lots of data and how many Android users consume lots of data.

In other words, at the low-end, Android is not a smartphone platform. It is a platform upon which vendors build a feature phone.



  1. 9月26日にパナソニックが個人向けスマートフォン開発からの撤退を発表
  2. 7月31日にNEC (NEC・カシオ・日立) がスマートフォンの開発と生産から撤退を発表
  3. 残るはシャープ、ソニー、富士通、京セラ (情報通信総合研究所)
  4. ドコモがiPhoneの取り扱いを開始した




  1. 日本の携帯電話のうち、スマートフォンから撤退する会社が後2つぐらいは出るかも知れません。
  2. ただしスマートフォンから撤退しても、パナソニックのようにガラケーを売り続けるかもしれません。
  3. スマートフォンの市場は飽和し、スマートフォンとガラケー共存の時代になるかも知れません。


スマートフォン or ガラケー ではない


  1. ガラケーの方が月額料金が安い
  2. ガラケーの方が電池が持つ
  3. ガラケーの操作性に慣れている







一方でスマートフォンは開発競争が激しいせいか、それとも部品が少なくて製造しやすいせいか、世界ではかなり安価なものがSIMロックフリーで販売されています。性能的も特にWindows PhoneのLumia 520などは好評です。Lumia 520はSIMロックフリーで2万円以下で売られ、今では1万円ぐらいまで値下がりしています。




実はGoSmart MobileというT-Mobileのサービスの一つが、無料のFacebook接続プランというのを1月から提供する予定です。通話料のみのプラン(25 USD)を利用している顧客でも、Facebookだけは追加料金無しでアクセスできるサービスです。
















情報元はStatCounterが出したレポート(StatCounter Internet Wars Report)です。

Top 10 Mobile Vendors from June 2012 to June 2013 StatCounter Global Stats



Top 10 Mobile Vendors in North America from June 2012 to June 2013 StatCounter Global Stats




Top 10 Mobile Vendors in Europe from June 2012 to June 2013 StatCounter Global Stats


アジアを見ると、今度はNokiaが大幅にシェアを落としていることがわかります。その分をSamsungと”unknown” (おそらく中国などのメーカー)が補っている形です。

Top 10 Mobile Vendors in Asia from June 2012 to June 2013 StatCounter Global Stats



Top 10 Mobile Vendors in South America from June 2012 to June 2013 StatCounter Global Stats



Top 10 Mobile Vendors in Africa from June 2012 to June 2013 StatCounter Global Stats


  1. SamsungはAppleとのガチンコ対決で勝利しているのではありません。先進国市場においてはAppleの方がまだまだ強くて、Samsungは追いつけていません。
  2. SamsungはAppleがほとんどプレゼンスを持たない途上国市場で、以前までのリーダーであったNokiaやRIMからシェアを奪って成長しています。
  3. 上記から、Samsungがシェア拡大をできたのは主として途上国で売られているローエンド機の貢献度が大きく、「古いNokiaよりは良いから買った」というのが主な購買動機だろうと想像されます。


StatCounterのアクセスログ解析を提供する会社で、300万以上のウェブサイトにインストールされているそうです。そのデータを元に分析をしています。データはraw dataに近いものだといわれています。カウントされるのはページビューです。

同じようなサイトとしてNetMarketShareがあります。こっちも同じようなデータで分析を行っています。StatCounterとの大きな違いは a) ビジター数をカウントしていること、b) 国ごとに重み付けをしているということです。国ごとの重み付けの必要性は、NetMarketShareのデータ点が世界に均等に散らばっているわけではないことに由来します。例えばイギリスのウェブサイトからのデータが多ければ、当然イギリス人からのアクセスが多くなります。そのバイアスを無くそうとしています。






なお2013年5月時点のフィーチャーフォンユーザは56.7%と推定されています。したがって単純に63.0% x 56.7% = 35.7%と計算すると、携帯電話ユーザの35.7%がスマートフォンの必要性を感じていないということになります。

そうなると 100% – 35.7% = 64.3%ですので、70%あたりでスマートフォンユーザ比率が頭打ちになることが予想されます。



  1. そもそもフィーチャーフォンが売られなくなる可能性。
  2. スマートフォンの電池の持ちが良くなり、障害とならなくなる可能性。
  3. データ通信をあまり使わない人のための、安いデータプランが登場してくる可能性。















Late Majorityの消費性向

市場が飽和してくると購買者層が変化していきます。Early AdopterやEarly MajorityからLate Majority、Laggardsへのシフトです。飽和が見えてきた現時点ではLate Majorityの消費性向が重要になります。

問題は差別化がはっきりしているスマートフォン市場において、Late Majorityがどのような動きをするかです。特に価格競争が起きていない状況です。

顧客満足度が高く、使いやすいと定評のある製品にLate Majorityが流れるのは必然ではないでしょうか。Early Majorityなら冒険心のある顧客が多かったと思いますが、Late Majorityではそういう人はもういません。