The Kindle Fire and the Nexus 7 are supposed to be big challengers to the world of tablet computing - and my that I mean the iPad. While I think they might make some good sales, I don’t think that the paradigm of 7” tablets is one in which I have any interest. And I don’t think it has a sustainable future.
The issue for me is one of ‘why’? While a 7” screen might be good for reading, the devices are still too heavy to provide enough benefit over a dedicated, lightweight e-reader such as the kindle. Some might say that the greater versatility of a tablet might trump an e-reader, there is very little that a tablet at this size can do that can’t be done on a 4” smartphone. If you are taking your smartphone with you anyway, you might as well get a cheaper, lighter, more easy to read from e-reader rather than carry something that overlaps in functionality with something you already have with you. It is only when you get to the 10” range that added functionality starts to make the extra effort of transporting it worth while.
And by added functionality, I mean the device starts to do more of what we expect a ‘main’ device to do. Movies and games might be better on a bigger screen, but word processing and other everyday creative tasks NEED the bigger screen to provide proper functionality. The 7” just doesn’t have the space to do more complicated tasks comfortably. You need to be at the 10” size or bigger. However, as you move past the 10” size, the device becomes a more significant thing to transport around. If you need a bigger screen, then you are moving past the portable device stage. These larger screens are not easily portable, so trying to make them so is counter intuitive. Unless it folds up much smaller, it would be better to have anything past 10” as something you would rarely move, like a TV. Nobody buys a portable 21” TV, so why do it with computers?
Instead, these larger devices should be stationary - linked via the cloud to all your files, or simply acting as a screen to your smaller device. Allowing other people to easily connect to this screen would be more beneficial than having it duplicate any functionality of the 10” device (on condition that the 10” device fulfils its role as a main device and not a secondary device to another computer - why have two when one will do?), as this would mean others need only bring and connect their portable devices (or just sign in via the cloud), rather than lug a larger device around when wishing to share things. We end up with three devices - one which is supremely portable, like a phone or super-watch-thing (and very personal); one which is a portable workstation or hub (which would be easier to share with others as you wouldn’t always want it on your person); and one which is a bigger screen for sustained interaction (and more open to sharing than the other two). There is no need for a 7” anywhere in this - it always overlaps with something you might already have that has greater advantages. It’s best place is as an e-reader - but then you might as well get a dedicated e-reader which would serve that role better anyway.
Eventually, as the supremely portable device becomes more powerful, or at least offsets some of the power demands made upon it by outsourcing them to the cloud, the middle device becomes less needed - on the condition that there is easy access to the larger devices for reasons of functionality explained previously. Developing some kind of augmented reality (personal or projected) into the supremely portable device eventually renders both other devices obsolete as the ‘screen’ becomes ‘virtual’, not physical. But there is still no place for a 7” in any of this.
So, have fun with it while you can; because as far as I can see, the only point in having a 7” in your home is if it vibrates and you hide it away when your in-laws visit.