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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.



  1. rob

    01/28/2010 at 8:25 am

    Excellent on all points!

  2. Osiris

    01/28/2010 at 8:54 am

    I think Andriod has the potential to be the biggest Winner here. iPad has got people curious and thinking tablets but they’ve fumbled the ball. MS and its partners are doing nothing new, HP Slate?? Who gives a toss its bringing nothing new to the party that we havent seen before, only thing to hope for here is a cheap price tag and some good battery life.

    The ICD Vega this year should be the Andriod flagship. Yes I agree 15″ is a bit too big but everyone else has gone for smaller models why not go out on the larger end limb of things. This thing looks good, plenty of room for business and on a nice open platform. If Andriod developers can step up and produce some nice software I think it can make a good dent in this “year of the tablet”

    And if MS isnt working on the courier they should fire who ever decided not to develop the project. The courier is the game changer we are all waiting for in this – again – “year of the tablet”

  3. GoodThings2Life

    01/28/2010 at 12:01 pm

    You know, I just realized something… if Amazon realized a color version of eInk display, it might actually be one of the greatest displays ever.

  4. Dave-in-Mi

    01/28/2010 at 2:12 pm

    I have the Kindle app on my desktop. It can be installed on any Windows PC or tablet. Not really a game changer there. Until someone comes up with a -$500 slate with an active digitizer that I can use for artwork, graphic design, digital calligraphy, photo editing, animation, CAD/CAM, music composition, and similiar uses that require the finer precision of a pen, my best option is probably the new HP TM2 (still waiting on pressure sensitiviy specs on that one). If HP offers that with a big enough SSD that I can dual boot to Win7 & Ubuntu, it could be a good combination of desktop replacement and portable device. External HDD & CD/DVD drives with onboard batteries would be nice options.

  5. DRTigerlilly

    01/29/2010 at 7:30 am

    I’m disappointed in Microsoft because it seems they’ve been bested by Apple in finally bringing what they envisioned in Origami & UMPC’s to market. I look at the iPad and all i see is Origami realized.

    Yes the iPad has it’s shortcomings, but there ate things to take away from the device. The fact that a tablet should act as an appliance not as a miniature PC. I do think it should have similar functionality, but you shouldn’t see the PC bits, whereas MS went the route of running a PC OS, with an overlay on top, that ended up feeling wonky.

    The most important thing to take away is that MS needs to cut its dependence on other OEM’s to bring their dreams to market, and to do it themselves, even if that means pushing or creating the technology themselves (IE. Apple’s new Processor). Everytime MS has taken a product through from design to execution (including the software & hardware) we end up w/ an amazing product, everytime they depend on OEM’s to tinker out their dreams it seems to fall flat.

    Here’s hoping that the courier will see the light of day, as it appeared in the concept videos, because if anything Apple has proven it’s doable.

  6. John Ireland

    01/29/2010 at 12:14 pm

    I think MS has an opening, if they push the envelope a little.

    1. Reskin the Windows 7 UI. There is precedent, look at HTC’s reskin of WinMo.
    2. Leave the pen in there. Yeah iPhone like multi-touch is a must, but with good palm rejection a pen can allow for fine digital ink input. You need the multi-touch for most input, but to move beyond the iPad appliance mentality the MS version needs ink (think Courier).
    3. Put Windows 7 on a diet. I want the ability to run Windows 7, but I also want a version that loses all the stuff that isn’t needed in this kind of device… trim the legacy support parts. To compete with Android and iPhone OS Windows 7 needs to retain the ability to run desktop apps, but run them snappy on a netbook types machine.
    4. Output – let the MS version output as much as it wants, as an educator I would love a 8-10″ tablet that runs Journal (would prefer Xournal) and real PowerPoint with inking.
    5. Keep it around $500.

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