If I had to put my money on a tablet device, I think I would not buy a 3G embedded device, but I would go for a WiFi only device. Sure, I will need some sort of mobile broadband connectivity and for that reason I think I would put on the tablet side a MiFi device.
A MiFi device is a slimmed down version of a WiFi/3G router.
I had the opportunity to play with a few of these devices in the past and I think they are great products. In the recent eight months the User Interface and the usability of these kind of products become better and better, and they are much easier to set up and use than most current WiFi/3G routers. Most of those devices will offer connection to something like 5 WiFi devices that will share a mobile broadband connection.
1 – For my personal use I think I would use the tablet more in a home environment.
Yes, that's my personal judgement. In the near future I will definitely buy one of these devices. When I am at home today I already find myself using the iPhone to check my social networks, browse the net, check news, and read newspapers (well, at least those who are still free). Often I do not even fire up my laptop at home since I find that for consuming content at home an iPhone is almost enough. And a table would be even better.
I think of the tablet sitting on a cradle in my living room and I pick it up as soon as I need to check something.
For those occasions where I will need to bring the tablet with me while hitting the road I think I may find more efficient a MiFi device instead of a 3G embedded device.
2 – It will be cheaper
Let's take a look at the iPad. Well, ok, I am going to talk about Apple, again, but for the time being it is the only device with public pricing.
The WiFi only version will cost 499 USD for the 16Gb version, 599 USD for the 32 Gb version, and 699 for the 64 Gb version. If you want embedded 3G you will have to add 130 USD.
Since Apple is probably going to use the AUSD (Apple United States Dollar) currency instead of USD (United States Dollar) prices may translate into 499, 599, 699 EUR in my country, Italy. And I will need to add another 130 EUR to each for the 3g embedded version.
For 130 EUR I will be able to buy a very good MiFi device such as the Novatel Wireless MiFi 2532 or the Huawei E5 maybe spending a lot less if I will buy it from an operator with an attached contract.
3 – It will be a more flexible solution
Having a MiFi device will help me to connect all of my WiFi devices when I will need mobile broadband connectivity. IPod touch, Nintendo DS, Playstation Portable, and even my MacBook Pro that does not have a 3G embedded card.
Today I make use of a 3G USB dongle for my pc, and it has a contract attached. The same would happen with an embedded 3G tablet device. Yes, another USIM, another contract, and additional money to be put on the table.
With a MiFi device I will have one contract for all my WiFi devices that I will need to connect to the internet. Easier and cheaper.
4 – MiFi will preserve my investment
If I will change the tablet in the future I will not be forced to review my broadband contract. Maybe some operators will lock the USIM with the device to preserve their subsidy investment on the customer. I do not want this.
If I have a MiFi device I will still keep my contract and just change the device itself. Nothing will change.
5 – I will be able to change the device easily
Let's say I will buy a 3G embedded iPad. We have read that it is going to use Micro USIMs.
If I will change the iPad with another device, possibly using a standard USIM, I will need to go and visit my operator store, change the iPad MicroSIM with a standard one and, probably, spend some money in the process.
With the MiFi solution I will not have to do anything. Just change the device and go.
Moreover I think this may also be a great strategy for the operator.
Offering a MiFi device instead of the 3G embedded tablet will allow the operator to focus on the data plan itself instead of finding a way to subsidize and expensive device, and making me pay the cost of that.
Are there disadvantages in the MiFi approach?
Yes there are and the most important is that you will have to bring with you yet another power supply to charge your MiFi device, even if most of the devices I have seen can be charged using a standard USB cable connected to your PC. Battery life may be another concern. Nowadays these device can hardly last more than 5/6 hours and that may be an issue.
As I said I do no see myself using a tablet device on the go for more than 5/6 hours so a MiFi device will perfectly fit my requirements.
Standard disclaimer applies here: this is my personal opinion and is not endorsed or recommended in any way by the Company where I am working. This does not reflect the strategy, vision or mission of my Company either.