It’s that time of year again - the countdown to Christmas is on for the supermarkets. The big four have started vying for our custom this festive season with deals and offers galore on all manner of goods – from the food variety right through to toys and technology. And we’re certainly no strangers to supermarkets expanding beyond groceries and provisions, to introduce fashion lines, home ware, white goods and financial services to their stores. But this year, Tesco has become the first supermarket to launch an own-brand tablet computer.
The Hudl is a 7 inch android tablet, with HD screen, an impressive 9 hours of video battery life, 3MP camera, quad-core 1.5GHz processor and 16GB of storage (this can be boosted significantly with an SD card); which coupled with a surprisingly high-end look and feel, has earned it great praise in the media. Tesco’s Hudl retails at the low price of £119 (with various offers bringing the cost down even lower), in sharp contrast with the £249 commanded by the first generation iPad Mini (also 7 inch), and the £359 you’ll need to fork out for the more powerful iPad Air.
Of course, Hudl isn’t out to compete with top-end tablets such as the iPad Air in terms of the audience it’s intended to appeal to. Hudl is however, a high quality device which offers ample support for entertainment, web browsing, email and a multitude of apps via Google Play, in addition to user friendly parental control features; gearing it firmly towards the family market - ideal for the digital native through to the savvy silver surfer. With 4 million tablets expected to be sold from November through to Christmas, and household budgets squeezed, Tesco is well placed to cash in on seasonal demand.
Hudl isn’t the first discount tablet to come to market, however. Since the launch of the first tablet less than three years ago - the iPad - then costing around £400; high consumer demand has seen the release of a wide range of budget-end tablets. Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD, Lenovo’s IdeaTab, the Argos My Tablet, and Barnes & Noble’s Nook HD, all sitting around a similar price point to the Hudl.
With Hudl, Tesco has taken the discount tablet concept one step further, by using the device as a channel for its extensive range of products and services. Hudl’s built-in Tesco app, always available on the menu bar and home screen, makes it extremely simple to order your weekly groceries, order from Tesco Direct, stream movies from Tesco’s blinkbox, make Tesco Mobile your network provider, and even manage your finances with Tesco Banking. By extending its reach to a device rather than just an app, Tesco will maximise its revenue streams long after the initial sale of the tablet, potentially enabling it to make up for the near cost price of the device at retail.
With sophisticated tablets like the Hudl available at such low prices, the business case for deploying such technology to the workforce has been well and truly shaken up. Before, the cost of handing out expensive tablets for PIM functions has been prohibitive, but this is no longer the case. Many employees today, and particularly ‘Generation Y’ workers, expect to be able to work anywhere, anytime. Issuing personnel with a tablet to complete tasks and manage emails, improves productivity, caters to flexible working requirements and boosts morale. By using a customised business app on those devices, as illustrated by Tesco’s Hudl, businesses retain control and an element of visibility as well as being able to provide secure access to company information. With low-cost tablets like the Hudl widely available, the business benefits on offer more than justify the outlay.
Business isn’t the only place where deploying low-cost tablets can make sense. In the public sector, there are a long list of services where harnessing inexpensive devices can drive efficiencies, whilst saving money. For example, it would be more cost effective to give local authority or social housing tenants tablets with pre-installed customer care software, than to hand out printed welcome packs and a helpline number. Through their local authority app, tenants could easily manage their council tax bills, make rent payments, view the tenant’s handbook, learn about local public services or events, report nuisance behaviour, schedule repairs and maintenance jobs, access their records and so on. It follows that by using technology in this way, local authorities could see a wide range of benefits; from reductions in arrears to better support for vulnerable people in their homes, but the overriding effect would be to minimise the administrative and call centre burden.
Before we can unlock the potential of consumer technology - especially tablets - in the public sector, we need a change in perceptions. Much of the media has taken a dim view of public sector bodies rolling out tablets, without first scrutinising the business case. If efficiency and financial savings can be made by using tablets innovatively, then they must be considered as part of the solution to current economic challenges. With the use of tablets becoming increasingly prevalent, much like laptops, they will be viewed as an intrinsic part of our daily lives, rather than an entertainment gadget.