Bottom Line: This odyssey might just be a step too far

Elizabeth Fournier

DESPITE having been around since 1968, when Arthur C Clarke first envisioned “the newspad” in 2001: A Space Odyssey, tablets still feel pretty fresh.

Apple’s sector-defining iPad may have landed in 2010, nine years late for Clarke, but it’s not taken long for everyone to want a piece of the action – from natural competitors Samsung and Google and Sony to more unexpected contenders including Amazon and Tesco.

So Argos joining the fray sort of makes sense. Sort of.

The high-street stalwart likes to remind the City that it was one of the early pioneers of multi-channel shopping – it introduced click and collect 12 years ago and today mobile sales are around 15 per cent of its total. It even inked a collection deal with eBay last month.

Argos has also built a reputation for itself as an electronics retailers, citing strong demand for tablets as key to sales growth. On paper it makes sense.

So why doesn’t an Argos tablet feel quite right? It is certainly priced and pitched well – at teenagers who want to watch iPlayer, play Angry Birds and, ahem, adhere to pre-loaded parental controls while browsing the internet.

But there is a small problem: it is unnecessary. An Argos app already exists for Android and iOS, allowing instant ordering. Tesco’s Hudl is just £30 more expensive but has a better screen and camera and more storage – all on the same operating system. And at just £99, it’s either not very good or the margins are tight.

Since its early online innovations, Argos has seemed happy to sit back and let competitors catch up, rather than forging ahead. Instead of resting on its laurels it should be focusing on finding the next way to drive customers in-store and online, not jumping on the spaceship with everyone else.