Tablet Makers Running Scared? Or Just Lousy Gamblers.

Watching the Tablet/Slate landscape these days is like watching a classic western where the town folks slowly realize that the new shooter in town might take out the bad guys that they have been bowing to all these years. The script is always the same. You get one or two good citizens who get it early on, and the rest hang back in the shadows afraid to move. Then when the big shootout on main street happens, they all come out with their guns blazing after the new sheriff in town has already decimated the bad guy.

Chris Davies has a very good post on Slashgear wondering if the iPad has killed Tablet innovation. Regardless of the iPad’s insanely unimaginable success, I don’t think its killed innovation, but I think it has probably killed off every other Tablet/Slate maker wanna-be’s gambling instinct. By and large they’ve all been reduced to playing those good town folk, waiting for a new gunslinger to rally around. Or is that behind?

Chris, like everyone else who follows this scene, is sitting aghast at the number of delays, reversals, and mysterious silences we’re hearing and seeing from Tablet/Slate makers after the iPad. As I’ve said many times before, even back during the heady days of CES2010 when the promise of Tablet/Slates seemed to be raining from the sky, 2010 was never going to be the year of Tablets everywhere. 2011 was a much more likely target.

HP, Lenovo, Microsoft, and what seemed like a gazillion other companies, all stepped up to the table, anted up and gambled in Vegas last January. Wary of not having skin in the game they pushed out promises, hoping both that Apple would create the market, and leave an opening for them to jump in. Let Apple forge the path, then come in and follow along. Well, Apple did create a market. It left an opening or two. But, it also had success no one was counting on, including Apple. The gamble failed big time and it failed because, in my opinion, the device concepts proudly shown off in January 2010 couldn’t live up to the iPad in the minds of those making the devices. Were they all bluffing? Proudly so, and hoping that once Apple showed its cards, what they were holding in their own hands would suffice. Then Apple went all in, and the others tossed their cards on the table, folding, hoping for another day.

But now there’s another gamble brewing and most are hoping Google is the new gunslinger to back. Apple and Google, once kissing cousins, are now engaged in all out war on a number of fronts. Both big guns are firing PR shots at each other, and Google appears to be gaining momentum. Apple is on a roll but still manages to shoot itself in the foot occasionally in the minds of early adopters who don’t like its closed off policy and FLASH exclusion. HP is going it alone with WebOS, but the rest are bunched up in a clump behind Google, hoping that Android will do the trick, and praying that Google will continue on with its new found attack mode in its battles with Apple.  The stakes are high.

But keep in mind, Google still hasn’t delivered yet, and won’t until at least the end of this year. The SmartPhone market is the current battleground and all are hoping that Google’s momentum there will spill over into the Tablet/Slate sector. But as I’ve said many times before, making a Tablet/Slate is hard, and I think harder than a SmartPhone. Google is and should be content with its chances. After all they can read their own cards as the hand plays out and any false moves won’t deplete the bank it brings to the table. Google can make its play at the poker table or in a shootout when it is ready. Everyone else though, that’s a different story. If Google comes out of this a winner the others are hoping they can go along for the ride. But all that means is playing bit parts in this ongoing shoot em up.