The Year of the Tablet

January 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Technology 

Well, apparently the whole world decided that it was about time for everyone to carry a 3rd device: a Tablet. You may know them by their more colloquial name “iPad”, which, as you know represents only 1 of the 100’s (I do mean hundreds) of such devices that will be in the market by the holiday season 2011. I had written before that I didn’t think there was a need for such a gizmo since people are already carrying too much technology with a laptop and a smartphone.  I was obviously wrong and the world does need those devices.  In fact I myself have 2 and are waiting for the third one, hopefully very, very soon.

The question is how many will survive in 2012 and how will they all differentiate among each other?  There are really 2 camps:  Consumer tablets (iPad and Android based), and everyone else.  I know, I know, RIM has one (the Playbook), Cisco (Cius), and Avaya (Flare) have one too, and maybe HP’s WebOS will be like these too.  But, I’m sorry, they fall in the “everyone else” camp.  Let me explain:

iPad and most Android tablets (Dell Streak, Motorola Xoom, Asus Slate, Samsung Galaxy, etc.) are designed primarily  for media consumption.  In other words to watch videos, read books and blogs, listen to music, etc.  The difference between iPad and all Android tablets is the obvious, but the uses are pretty much the same.  The “other three” are for communications.  All three companies have a great history of selling product to the enterprise and want to capitalize on the Tablet buzz. So they are tailoring them to be best for video communications, email, and those kinds of apps for people that are on the go.  BTW, where is Microsoft in all this?

Now, there is also a sub categorization of the consumer devices in iPads, “good” Androids, and 100’s of cheapo devices.  During CES, Motorola Mobility (one of the 2 siblings that came out of the mother ship Motorola, Inc.) introduced the Xoom, whose main allure was the introduction of Google’s new version of Android, Honeycomb.  Reviews were amazing, Honeycomb looks fabulous.  But every non Apple manufacturer in the consumer space will have access to it, so there will be competing head to head, the same way Android Smartphones do today.  But there will be 100’s of cheap ones too, based on Android, but not necessarily good.  When you take away the complexity of the phone, almost every manufacturer can build one, but few will be worthy of the Android seal of approval.  Those are the ones to look for.

By any measure, this is great since it will drive lots of product innovation, lots of choices, in a market with iDevices has been the only true alternative, but it will also drive commoditization.  Good for consumers, bad for the companies that will be competing.  Particularly great for Google who will see it’s new OS proliferate like the corn subproducts.  And more and more users will access the internet using a mobile via either Google’s Android or Apple’s iOS with infinite income potential for both.  And the competition between them will only get more fascinating.

How will everyone differentiate remains to be seen, but with the clever ideas on this post there will be room for plenty.  One more thought: Will this be totally incremental to the 600M smartphones supposed to be sold in 2012 or will it cannibalize it?  Quite frankly who cares?  There is plenty of pie for both.

So, my faithful reader (singular) wait for Honeycomb and run for your tablet or go buy an iPad now.  You will be glad you did.

Enjoy.

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iPad, gPad, or MaxiPad?

May 12, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Business, Technology 

Well, it seems that the world is ponying up for what I call the third device unlike I had posted before.  Verizon appears to be working closely with Google on a better Pad.  At the same time Google has been posting videos of how Chrome OS will run on a tablet (I like tablet or slate better than pad for obvious reasons).  The thing is “with Verizon” not “supporting Verizon”.    My fellow reader (singular) this could really challenge the emperor’s Pad.

Let me tell you why I think that’s the case:  As lame as the whole category is in this blogger’s humble opinion, an unconnected (i.e. no cellular support) tablet is the lame of the lame.  It brings me back to the 90’s when you had to go home or to your office to get internet access.  Sure, the 3G iPad is about to debut, but @ $600+ i really think the market will be limited.  Now, if our friends in Verizon Wireless agree to pardon the Nexus One debacle and decide to subsidize the gPad, imagine what will that do to the price.  Neither Verizon, nor Google have to make money with the hardware, which really does a job to Jobs (sorry, couldn’t help it).  Estimates of the iPad cost put it at $250 – $300 US, add a 3G (or maybe a 4G – ooooh – radio), we could be seeing a street price in the $400’s.  Still hefty for a useless device, but less than $600+ for the emperor’s Pad (ePad?  now I’m pushing it).

But wait, there’s more!  Chrome Os is the word on the street, not Android.  What that may mean is a real processor capable of Flash (not Flash lite) and real browsing.  Yes, my friend, I believe it will be x86 based which means that every website you can go to on Chrome today – which is virtually any website known to mankind and robotkind – is accessible to your gPad.  Not even Palm’s (future HP’s MaxiPad) running WebOs can do that!  Apps anybody?  Yeah, sure, real apps with Java or the like, not fake widgets that look pixelated.  Content?  Did I mention it is Google?

So there it is.  As much as I hate the category, a subsidized x86 based tablet may be the ticket to ride.  BTW, Adsense must be having a ball with this post!  I’m sure the ads are funny albeit unrelated. Do comment.

Enjoy.

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Palm got a hand

April 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Business, Technology 

Well apparently there is some hope for the nearly dead.   One more time I’m wrong and someone did find enough value for Palm, unlike I had predicted before.   Although in this blogger’s humble opinion $1.2B seems a little excessive.  Sure, HPQ has the cash to spare, but a Webkit browser on top of Linux does not take that much money.  Granted Palm has a good device or two, but in this environment it takes more than a good device to unseat the emperor.  I guess they’d figure they’d offer a sign-on bonus to Palm employees ($5.70 / share is a bit too distant to the $17+ back in October 2009) since they would really struggle to assemble a team like that on their own.

Sure there’s some intellectual property and some innovation left in the inventor of the category.  And it is the fastest growing and one of the most profitable markets in the industry but the world does not need that many mobile Operating Systems (OS) to choose from.  I’m sorry.  As I’ve pointed out before, to unseat the iPhone it will take more, a lot more than multitasking, a cool form factor, and a clever UI.  I’m sure HP will make products people want to buy, but the question in my mind is will HP be able to create the ecosystem that will finally challenge Apple?  I quite frankly doubt it.  Not because it is impossible, or because HP doesn’t have the skills, it is because it is not in their DNA and Palm does not bring that to the table.

Other bloggers (the real ones) are talking about tablets and netbooks using WebOS.  Now that is even crazier.  If a stretched out iPhone makes little sense, a bloated Pre (will they call it HP-Pro or the Maxi?) doesn’t make much sense either.  A clever-phone OS will make a tablet look like a dumb keyboardless PC (no offense Steve).  Besides, with no app store, no cult to follow you, no content delivery, no store chain, no Steve (sorry Mark) things don’t look too promising.  Besides, HP is a much more powerful brand than Palm, so it’s not that they’re bringing that to the table.

So, my dear follower (singular).  Let’s just regret having covered our short a day too late and wait for their next move.  An app delivery company? video distribution? or perhaps music delivery?  We’ll see.  But one thing is certain: there will be more of these moves (some may be really big).   Microsoft, Dell, HTC, RIM, and others will be on the M&A news soon.

Enjoy.

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