For a while I have been saying that either the UK is technophobic - we don't want or have an interest in the latest technology developments - or that it is viewed as conservative by OEMs etc. who think that the market doesn't exist for their latest products.
So which is it? In my opinion it's a bit of both - and them some - with no party willing to take the lead.
Historically, computer related prices could be calculated on a "pounds for dollars" scale - something costing $1000 in the US would generally be about £1000 in the UK, so instantly about 1.5x more expensive depending on the prevailing exchange rate. Now, however, the UK equivalent prices are growing (just look at the relative price of the Toshiba M400 I posted about recently).
So, why it this?
A number of Tablet manufacturers don't have a UK presence and even those who do often sell through resellers rather than directly. This will obviously bump up prices straight away as the middle man takes his cut. Manufacturers will also complain about the levels of import tax in to the UK.
I fail to see, however, how even both of these combined will account for an extra 50% on top of US prices. Price HAS to be a contributory factor.
Does the UK WANT Tablets? A lot of the time I don't think so. Even amongst technologists there is often very little Tablet PC related talk and not many UK blogs that have a Tablet-centric focus. This apparent lack of interest will no doubt be a contributory factor preventing market growth.
To my knowledge, the UK still only has one Tablet PC available 'off the shelf' in a retail outlet. Please correct me if I'm wrong. PLEASE! People are not going to be exposed to the benefits a Tablet can offer if they can't get their hands on one and are not likely to.
We hear stories all the time about the impact that Tablets are having in medicine and education - just not in the UK. As far as medicine goes this may be down to the NHS.
Unlike the US, everyday medical care is conducted under the NHS (National Health Service) which is publicly funded rather than being a private system. Because of this, budgets are a key factor - our local hospital recently announced that it was moving some non-urgent operations to April so that they would fall under the next financial year allowing them to balance the books for 2005/6. When you are up against such pressures when even health care is deferred, then looking at trialling an alternative IT solution just won't get a look in.
Education faces a similar problem. Local Education Authorities are also struggling to balance the books, even to the point of selling off playing fields just to try to raise some much needed cash.
Overall, the economic climate in the UK does not seem conducive to expansion in to areas of new technology. There is consequently no demand for things like Tablet PCs in the normal areas.
In order to increase the Tablet PC market in the UK should a different approach be taken? Rather than the vertical markets should the consumer be targeted? The ever increasing sales of iPods, PDAs, Mobile Phones etc. shows that the UK consumer embraces new devices and technologies even if business doesn't. Consumer are forever upgrading to the latest and greatest. Maybe some of this purchasing power should be attracted towards Tablets.
OEMs and retailers will need to take the lead and get the devices out there for the consumer to see and hold. The public must be educated in the technology so that they will WANT these devices. If you can create sufficient buzz about an item then the sales will take care of themselves and prices can drop due to increased demand and sales.
I can't see any easy route to increasing Tablet awareness, interest and sales in the UK other than by creating a greater exposure. We need some to lead by example so that any success stories in relation to implementing Tablet PCs in any field, or any good initiatives on the part of OEMs or retailers should be highlighted.
Let me know if your business or organisation, school or college etc. has taken a positive step in this area. The benefits that Tablet can afford must be drawn to the attention of a wider audience.