Did the iPad Wipe out the US Tablet Market? Maybe, maybe not.

Matt Burns at Crunchgear seems to think that there is a real possibility that the iPad may have preemptively killed the US Tablet market. I have to say I agree with him and also disagree. Here’s why.

Flash back to CES2010 and “The Year of the Tablet/Slate.” Everyone and their second cousin was coming out with a Tablet. No one wanted to be left out of the race that Apple was going to kickstart. The same happened at other trade shows throughout the year. I said back in January of 2010, and I still stand by it today, that 2011 was a more likely target. Even so, there was great hope and great promise and then something happened. Apple’s iPad succeeded in the marketplace beyond even Apple’s wildest imaginings. As everybody and their second cousin took stock and thought twice about going forward, Android became the new hope and banners were unfurled promising a slew of Android Tablets due out in Q4 of this year. That still may come to be, but I think we’re headed to more disappointment than joy in the remaining days of 2010 and it all boils down to timing.

Timing is everything. Apple’s iPad announcement and release this year came at just the right point to make a Q4 entry by any other manufacturer a risky proposition. If things aren’t well enough along in the pipeline come March and April, making the trains run on time in the fall becomes a trickier prospect. We heard an awful lot of gear grinding this spring as manufacturers came to abrupt halts and changed directions in a hurry.

Timing will also play a part in what happens after 2010 is in the history books. Delivering a Tablet/Slate of any stripe in December might yield a quick hit and generate sales, but Apple will again dominate the news (either positively or negatively) at CES 2011 and into the first quarter of 2011 the way they have the last several years. No one has figured out how to stop this, and I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Even if it is bad news, Apple wins the PR game. Any new Tablet/Slate has to have a feature set that will compare favorably with what Apple may or may not release in iPad v2. Chances are good here for those who want to get into the game, but they are still chances.

Steve Ballmer let slip last week that Intel’s new processors will be a boost to Microsoft and its partner’s hopes for Tablets and Slates. The only problem there is these are scheduled to roll out until the Q1 of 2011, so devices featuring those new processors won’t hit consumers (or anyone else’s) hands until late Q3 2011 at the earliest. By the time (timing again) that rolls around, Apple will be well into planning for v3 of its iPad. In my opinion, we’re looking at a repeat of what happened to the Wintel empire when Vista rolled out. Intel wasn’t ready, with chips that could really support Vista, but everything rolled on anyway. Vista had its own problems, no doubt, but Vista running on machines that choked and sputtered helped turn that messy situation into a disaster. Microsoft and its partners who hope to work on a Tablet face that same prospect if they roll out a Win 7 Tablet or Slate. But then, we’re hearing dwindling reports of that, now aren’t we.

And then there’s HP sitting with some Tablet envy in the Palm of its hand. Will we see a PalmPad or whatever it will be called this year? Or will it get announced at CES 2011. (That’s my bet.) Again, timing is everything, and it were my money, I’d take the extra time and not rush anything onto the shelves in 2010.

So, as far as 2010 goes, I’d agree with Matt. But looking ahead, I think there is still room for others to get into the game and have an impact beginning in 2011 and into 2012. Apple’s iPad is an incredible device and its adoption rate is an incredible story. But there is still room for competition. We’re seeing that play out in the smart/super phone segment now, and think how much time has passed since the first iPhone was released. So, history could repeat here, but those who want to get into the game have to start with a bar that’s been set pretty high, and a price point that is pretty low if they want to compete.

9 Comments

  1. Mickey Segal

    08/04/2010 at 1:54 pm

    The day Microsoft released the Tablet version of Windows I told one of their most senior folks that the OS was nice but the hardware was wrong. My main suggestions were to be a bit smaller (similar to the future LS800), and if possible thinner, cheaper, and with longer battery life.

    What Apple has done is deliver good hardware at a good price, though I’d have cut the dimensions by ~ 1 inch and pushed the screen closer to the edges. As far as OS, I’d much prefer a real OS, whether Windows or MacOS, and I’d love to have the mixed touch and pen shown at http://www.gottabemobile.com/2010/04/09/microsoft-research-shows-off-pen-and-touch-together.

    I don’t know how long it would take Microsoft and its partners to deliver on such a vision, but I wouldn’t assume Apple has much right in iPad 1.0 except for thinness, battery life and price. Those are important, but the Chinese factories that make such hardware would be glad to do the same to run a different OS.

    Ultimately a more open device will beat the locked down approach, though it is not clear if the winners will use a Microsoft, Google or Apple OS.

    Reply

  2. ChrisRS

    08/04/2010 at 2:35 pm

    Will Intel’s new precessers do anthing but help battery life?

    There was a market for a full OS Win7 tablet when the iPad was announced, even if the battery life was 3 to 4 hours.

    I think this is a case where “The perfect is the enemy of the good”. If the HP Slate were on the market today I would buy a couple, even knowing they were not perfect. Third parties would develop improved touch overlays and MS could even release a UI update after the devices hit the market. (They have done such things in the past, but with XP Tablet PC early adopters, and Vista users in general, MS has required users to pay to upgrade to a new operating system, rather than repairing flase in teh old system.)

    It is unlikley that a 2010 Q3 or Q4 Win 7 based tablet can top the 2011 iPad 2, but the same will be true of a 2011 Q3 or Q4 Win 7 based tablet and the 2012 iPad 3.

    Release somthing now and let the games begin!

    Reply

  3. Tim

    08/04/2010 at 3:44 pm

    It’s been long figured out- stop the competition’s PR overhype, with superior strategies and products. Google’s ads reach the masses through gorgeous large screen, powerful Androids made by different manufacturers in multiple carriers. The news that dominated the iPhone 4 release was Antennagate. The place in the game that Apple PR won is 3rd place, as Android passed iPhone.

    In the much time that passed since the first iPhone was released and even with the Apple PR overhype machine, Apple once again blew its chance in dominating another product market- smartphone, like it did when it lost in desktop. So, there’s definitely still room for competition in tablets.

    But also, a nagging feeling that maybe the reason why an awful lot of gear grinding happened this spring as manufacturers came to abrupt halts on their tablet efforts, is that the tablet market, in between the 4 inch smartphones and the netbook, just isn’t big enough for manufacturers to bother with. Unlike, for example, in smartphones- Motorola alone, is set to release 20 Android handsets in 2010, and netbooks- 30 million sold in 2009, 60 million to be sold in 2010.

    Reply

  4. Steve S

    08/04/2010 at 6:04 pm

    Just as there are people who use laptop PCs in preference to MacBooks, there will always be people who will buy a tablet with a full (or more capable) OS in preference to an iPad.

    HOWEVER, what Apple has probably done is absorbed the “independents,” the potential buyers who might have gone either way; the folks who didn’t have such stressing uses that they absolutely needed something better than OS4. And unfortunately, I think that those were the “swing buyers” that might have made a Win7 or an Android tablet a solid success rather than (probably now) a mediocre seller.

    In this, HP is probably the biggest loser, and they have no one to blame but themselves. As Warner said, it was all about timeliness to market, but you can’t be timely if you drop the ball…

    Reply

    • Jake

      08/05/2010 at 10:24 am

      You make it sound as if Apple is the default option and anyone not buying their products is just a hater. Need I remind you that OS X has an insignificantly tiny share of the PC market and 3 million iPads a tablet market?

      Reply

      • Steve S

        08/05/2010 at 4:17 pm

        Maybe you haven’t noticed, but iPad IS the default option, now! Also, dstrauss makes an excellent point (below); the Apple ecosystem may have its restrictions, but the developer base is coming on strong to add everything that users want and the iPad currently lacks.

        And we’re not talking about (laptop) PCs, here; we’re talking about tablets. There’s no question in my mind that Apple’s large (and growing) iPad sales have formed a beachhead that’s going to seriously eat into the potential of future tabletPC sales…

        Reply

        • Nameless

          08/06/2010 at 2:24 pm

          “And we’re not talking about (laptop) PCs, here; we’re talking about tablets.”

          This quote makes me think for a bit. When you see an HP TC1100 with its trademark keyboard attached, the Acer TravelMate C200 with its screen slid out, or the countless traditional convertibles with swivel hinges, do you see them as laptop PCs that just happen to have a slate mode and a Wacom pen digitizer, or Tablet PCs?

          In any case, all I really want is an iPad with a Wacom digitizer in addition to everything else for perfect inking. The Courier could’ve offered just that, but MS didn’t feel like following up on those concept videos. There’s the Kno, but dual 14″ screens are a bit much for me to manage.

          Reply

  5. dstrauss

    08/05/2010 at 6:29 am

    “Timing is everything!” and failure to get out of the gate has doomed Windows compatible slates through 2011. Why? Because EVERY day some enterprising developer plugs another hole in the initially one-dimensional iPad (designed as a 90% media consumption device). For example – Pages & Numbers offer weak MS Office compatibility – along come DocsToGo and Quickoffice. No inking, no problem – suddenly we have Penultimate, Note Taker HD, and Noterize. No file explorer – pishaw – Filebrowser lets me browse our office network files and preview them, or open in the previously named programs. Need PDF annotation – you could pay $149 for Bluebeam on your MS Tablet or less than $10 for iAnnotate PDF or Noterizer (double duty) on your iPad.

    As Walter Cronkite would say “And that’s the way it is.” Microsoft is still trapped in the “made by XXXX (big developer” mentality, and PC manufacturers, as ChrisRS rightly points out, can’t afford to wait for “perfect.” I can only imagine what these iPad developers, with the likes of Dan Bricklin of Visicalc fame leading the charge, will do with the iPad from now until iPad 2 in Feb/Mar 2011. Just imagine multi-tasking this October. And if the iPhone is any indication, we’ll get even more battery life, Facetime, and a few other goodies on the iPad 2, and Apple will again leap ahead of the MS/Android/WebOS pack because of those enterprising developers (who have already opened the iPad to the Enterprise!).

    Reply

  6. grwisher

    08/07/2010 at 7:06 am

    The party’s over
    It’s time to call it a day
    They’ve burst your pretty balloon
    And taken the moon away
    It’s time to wind up the masquerade
    Just make your mind up the piper must be paid

    The party’s over
    The candles flicker and dim
    You danced and dreamed through the night
    It seemed to be right just being with him
    Now you must wake up, all dreams must end
    Take off your makeup, the party’s over
    It’s all over, my friend

    Reply

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