ViewSonic: Retreat From 'Chaotic' Tablet Market Good News For Partners

ViewSonic is confident its withdrawal from the consumer tablet market and new focus on building tablets specifically aimed at vertical markets is a move that will benefits its partners, arming them with differentiated products that can help them stay competitive in today's low-profit and "chaotic" tablet market.

According to Michael Holstein, ViewSonic's vice president of business development, solution providers are struggling to make a profit selling tablets in the ultra-competitive and over-crowded consumer market, finding little to no opportunity for the sale of value-added services.

"As you know, and as we see every day, the tablet market is becoming more and more competitive and also somewhat chaotic," Holstein said. "The reason I say that is, you know, you start to see suppliers or your technology partners starting to compete in the marketplace, and you got some very interesting and aggressive business models in the marketplace, as well."

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"I think in the channel, it's been very difficult for channel partners to have a profitable business, as well," Holstein continued. "ViewSonic has always been focused on channels and bringing products and solutions to our channel partners that provide good value to our end customers, as well as profit opportunities to our partners."

Rick Jordan, director of mobility sales and strategic alliances at Tenet Computer Group, a Toronto, Ontario-based solution provider and ViewSonic partner, agreed that the consumer tablet market has become flooded with options, making it hard for any one vendor or product to really stand out.

"[The tablet market] is a very confusing state right now because there's just so much variety, and so many operating systems," Jordan said. "So I think if they [ViewSonic] are focusing on a vertical and they do it right, and they have marketing, and people are adapting to it ... I think it’s a good idea."

The one tablet that does stand out is Apple's iPad, which captured a whopping 70 percent of the global tablet market in the second quarter and has shown little sign of its dominance waning anytime soon.

"To tell you the truth, for them [ViewSonic] to focus on a consumer market, I mean, iPad really owns that market," Jordan said.

NEXT: ViewSonic Tablets, Displays Get A Refresh

ViewSonic's Holstein declined to disclose recent sales figures for the company's consumer-focused ViewPad tablets. But, he stressed that future ViewSonic tablets will be designed only with specific verticals in mind, many requiring the integration of certain industry-specific apps or solutions. In the transportation market, for instance, ViewSonic is exploring tablets that come with digitizers and apps specifically built for signature-capture. ViewSonic has also seen demand for tablets that can act as digital menus for the quick-service restaurant (QSR) market, along with tablets catered toward retail.

Tablets designed for enterprise users will also remain on ViewSonic's radar, Holstein said.

"We believe that, at this time, the consumer space was a little bit over-crowded and that we needed to redirect our attention and focus more on the commercial space," Holstein told CRN. "So I think moving forward ... as solutions start to materialize, you will likely see products coming from ViewSonic that have additional value-added features for particular vertical markets."

ViewSonic is also trying to breathe new life into its traditional PC displays, another initiative it believes can help its partners stay competitive. Specifically, ViewSonic is looking to take the always-on, always-connected experience users have grown accustomed to from their smartphones and tablets, and apply it to PCs. One example of this, Holstein said, is ViewSonic's new VSD220 Smart Display, a 22-inch, cloud-based monitor that runs Google's Android OS.

The new Smart Display can be positioned as both a traditional PC monitor or as a small-scale digital signage solution, allowing partners to target two markets with a single product.

"I think the Smart Display is a good example of the direction that we're going. That type of product does have a consumer side of it, but it also has a commercial side to it, as well, for vertical market applications," Holstein said. "And I think you'll see products coming in the very near future that are more in line with that and our overall strategy for cloud computing."

As for ViewSonic's consumer-focused ViewPad tablets, they're not completely extinct yet. Holstein said ViewSonic will continue to sell the remaining inventory -- a stock he said was fairly small -- and possibly explore opportunities for selling ViewPads in emerging markets.