Possible Winners and Losers in the Wake of the iPad Announcement

me.jpgIn my view there are quite a few folks who are really happy that yesterday’s iPad announcement is over. Many of these folks are competitors or “me-too” manufacturers on some level. Apple made a big splash and everyone is still drying out from the overwash and sorting through things. Apple may have indeed hit a home run that will win the game in the end, but it wasn’t a grand slam and there are still innings yet to play. Here’s my take on some possible winners and losers.

Other Tablet OEMs, not Microsoft-The early reviews weren’t as spectacular as I’m sure Apple was hoping for. In fact, I think Apple has created the greatest “wait and see” device we’ve probably ever seen. Other Tablet OEMs have a chance to get some skin in the game. Apple set the price for a Tablet at $500 and that will become a standard. But Apple left room for others when it comes to features. Sure, Apple is looking at this as a game changing device, but those who want little things like an SD slot or an on-board camera will be thinking about other options whether Apple wants them to or not.

Microsoft and its Tablet Partners. We’ve been giving Redmond a hard time for its Tablet woes long before the rush of hype for the iPad became an industry. Microsoft and its partners have an opportunity here if they play it correctly. So far they haven’t. Microsoft fell for the hype and rushed out a quick and insufficient Tablet look-see during the CES 2010 keynote. In retrospect, Microsoft got snookered and would have been better off making a bigger splash after Apple unveiled its offering. But then having the device ready to go will be a big key and Microsoft’s partner approach is going to be the key of keys here. It has served well and not so well in the past. Many of those partners are looking at other alternatives. Microsoft has a window opening but they need to change how they play the game in order to take advantage of the view it offers.

Novatel. A recurring theme during all the coverage yesterday was watching folks respond happily to a no contract 3G option, then poo-pooing AT&T as the sole vendor and fearing the worst there. Along side of that theme you kept hearing a chant growing. It was a simple four letters repeated over and over: MiFi, MiFi, MiFi, MiFi. Heck, I’m beginning to wonder if the $130 price differential for the 3G option on the iPad isn’t intended as a turn off to keep folks jumping on AT&T’s problem plagued network. Those 3G radios don’t cost that much now do they?

Amazon. Apple shot an arrow straight at Amazon’s heart with both the device and its color screen and the iBooks store. I’m sure Amazon is worried, but I’m guessing they are breathing a sigh of relief. A color screen on the next Kindle will go a long way, should Amazon deliver. As would adding a browser solution to the Kindle, beyond the experimental version. And unless I’m mistaken, Amazon still has it’s Kindle App on the iPhone/iPod Touch platform. (In fact they have two, as Amazon also owns Stanza.) Unless Apple pulls that Amazon is still in the game. Again, I think Amazon is breathing a sigh of relief today.

NVidia. The Tegra platform has a chance to make some inroads if NVidia plays it right and gets some OEMs to go along. Early impressions of the Tegra platform seem positive. But devices need to get to market.

Google. Google is a big winner here in my opinion. Android has been gaining momentum as a platform on a number of mobile devices. If any of those promised Android Tablets can take off and avoid the mistake that Archos is making by not doing the full Android experience, Google could compete on the Tablet front like they are doing on the phone front. Rumors of replacing Google’s search with Microsoft’s Bing on the iPad seem premature at the moment but it is still early on that front. And we already know there are tit-for-tat wars going on over Apps like Maps with Apple rumored to be doing its own. I see the Google vs Apple fissures only widening and spurring competition that will make this not only fun to watch but probably create some good things for consumers.

Pixel Qi. There’s no question that Pixel Qi screens captured a lot of attention at CES2010. There are big expectations now attached to devices that promise to deliver those screens. As stated earlier, Apple sees the iPad as an eBook reader and is going heavy into that market with a device that has more to offer. Apple’s device is promising 10 hours of battery life and the jury is out there, but the Pixel Qi’s screen solution looks to give devices more battery life to play with.

Inkers. You could make the case that the hopes for Digital Inking as a method of input have been dealt a blow. I look at it another way. There is still an opportunity for a good Digital Inking solution. I’ve seen several posts and comments similar to Robert Scoble’s where someone mentions the lack of Inking. In that post Scoble’s kid says students won’t like this because they can’t take notes. Quite a few medical professionals have weighed in on this as well. Is anyone working on Tablets paying attention to that or are they just too busy wiping fingerprints and grease off of all those touch screens. Microsoft? Anyone?

Notebook and Netbook OEMs. Some have boldly said that the iPad means the death of the computer as we know it. Certainly that was a part of the expectation set. I don’t believe what got announced yesterday is enough to change those realities just yet. It may be the very beginning of a sea change, but for at least the next few years, we’ll still see Notebooks and Netbooks dominate airports and business meetings. Apple hedged its bets with the iPad by offering a keyboard dock, telling me that they aren’t convinced that a touch only solution is going to gain the industry changing momentum their vision aims for. But, then sometimes big change comes in incremental steps. The hope of Tablet lovers everywhere was that Apple would finally be able to make consumers see the wisdom of using these devices over more traditional alternatives. That case is still to be made.