Tablet Turblence Continues

A funny thing happened on the way to the The Year of the Tablet 2.0. Actually several funny things happened. Of course they aren’t so funny if you’re a Tablet manufacturer or developer hoping for a competitor to the iPad. Things didn’t quite pan out for those Tablets released so far due to problems we’ve talked about before. A lot of the problems are self inflicted wounds brought about by a whirlwind pace that almost feels like desperation. Bloggers and journalists got caught up in this swirl as well.

As we’re getting ready to pass the midpoint of The Year of the Tablet 2.0, with a couple of big releases still to come, we’re seeing a number of those who cover the industry pretty much signing death certificates, or at least writing up fatal predictions, for what were some of the big promises and dreams dating back to this year’s CES. Of course everything in The Year of the Tablet 2.0 gets compared to the iPad. Here’s just a couple of examples:

Surprised? You shouldn’t be. We’ve been quite skeptical from the get-go as this Tablet thing is harder than most seem to think. And let’s face it, given the rush to market that some manufacturers thought was necessary, it’s no wonder talking about new promised Tablets in January is akin to picking possible candidates for the presidential field 18 months out. Nothing said that early in either game actually amounts to a hill of beans when push comes to shove, but hey, folks have to have something to write and blog about. And every possible entry has to have its build up, full of hope, and promise, otherwise you don’t have the possibility of a story when they either succeed or crash and burn. And as long as there are companies and PR reps trying to push promised products, there will be folks to cover them.

But once the dust settles and products are released and users actually get their hands on real devices (as opposed to prototypes and demo units) that’s when things seem to change a bit and lofty promises and hopes even out into a different landscape. The two examples I’ve cited above point out that there is still a long way to go for iPad competitors. James and John are not alone in their thinking. But James and John are staking out some turf that others who play the PR game are tiptoeing around with a little more caution.

I’ve been out on a limb for some time now saying that The Year of Tablet 2.0 wasn’t going to yield any real substantive challenge to Apple’s early iPad lead. From the looks of things currently that limb is still looking pretty strong, although anything can change with new entries into the field of play.

I’m not blaming the PR cycle or those who cover the industry here. Like I said it is a game and if you’re going to compete you have to play. But I’m slowly but surely coming to the realization that Apple’s iPad success and the failure of the others to date is changing more than just the new gadget game. It’s changing the way that game is covered. And at the moment the way the game is covered is just as muddled and insane as the game itself.

Parallel to this I’ve spent some time in my local retail outlets talking off the record with some store managers about Tablets. I’m not betraying any confidences here when I say the ones I’m talking to are all very frustrated. Their frustration comes from the fact that customers are indeed listening to the sales pitches and making purchases, but, as we’ve seen reported elsewhere, are returning Tablets at a higher rate than expected. They are finding it hard to compete with the iPad and its hype machine. And, perhaps more telling, they are hearing customers ask hard questions about what version of Android is on the device and will that version be upgradeable in the future. Perhaps consumers (some at least) are starting to pay attention to the fragmentation issues that those in the tech media have been talking about for some time now. I don’t pretend to base any trends on my conversations here, but I find the comments interesting given that this rural area is usually behind the curve when it comes to these sorts of things.

We’re about to enter the Dog Days of summer when things slow down a bit, before the hype begins to heat up for the fall selling season. We’ve got a few major releases yet to come that could change the today’s picture somewhat. I’d also bet that we see some price cutting going on as we move into the fall. As many have said previously this is a market that is trying hard to sort it self out, with many players aiming for second place, or at least a place at the starting gate. This fall of The Year of the Tablet 2.0 will go along way to telling us who the players will be in Year of the Tablet 3.0.