The Coming Tablet Wars


In the early 1990’s Apple released the Newton Message Pad at a dark time when the ousted Steve Jobs was not guiding the Apple franchise.  The Apple Newton was the first business and consumer tablet platform, and considered the grandfather of the current Apple iPad.  With almost twenty years of technology innovation since the release of the Newton, it seems apparent that Apple finally got it right.  The natural extension of the super successful iPhone helped bust open sales of the iPad beyond early projections.  But soon the tablet marketplace will become very crowded with a number of strong contenders.  Can Apple maintain its lead and edge in this space?

Over the next six to nine months, major players such as Dell, HP, BlackBerry, and Microsoft are poised to shakeup and accelerate the market adoption of tablet devices.  The iPad release earlier this year from Apple has exploded the demand for this form factor.  Utilizing the operating system from the iPhone, they essentially created an oversized iPad Touch with WiFi and 3G capabilities.  This early iPad release from Apple has built the market for the form factor, but will Apple be able to compete when consumers start turning to improved affordability and more features? 

Challenges will undoubtedly plague the new competitors in the space as well.  Microsoft, Blackberry, Dell, and others will have to face the challenge of building an application store as well as luring the application development community if they are to pose any threat to Apple’s dominance

How some of the new tables line up:

Apple – Rumored for fourth quarter this year with 3 size versions (5.6 inch, 7 inch, and the current 9.7 inch).  The 5.6 and 7 inch are rumored to target the growing eBook reader market.  A great deal of speculation is available for the next release, but details from Apple are scarce.

Dell TabletDell – The upcoming release is experiencing a large volume of pre-orders on the company website.  Dell will be courting user in the marketplace between the netbook and the Smartphone.

  • Initial release will be a hybrid tablet-Smartphone (Ability to make phone calls)
  • Medium form factor of only 6” wide x 3.1” high x .4” thin, and sports a 5” screen
  • Integrated social media, Google maps with navigation with turn by turn, and damage-resistant Gorilla glass screen
  • Google Android Multitasking Operating System will run the device
  • Dell to offer a Mobile Application Store with Dell Streak applications

 

HP – With the recent acquisition of Palm, the HP tablet releases are more difficult to predict.  The current press releases discuss two tablets, a Windows 7 device for business, and a second tablet running the Palm Operating System (webOS) for the consumer market.

  • Initial press leaks suggest a Fall 2010 release for the Windows 7 slate device, targeted for business users
  • It will utilize an 8.9” screen, camera for video and photos, and support for an electronic pen (capabilities to write similar to a sheet of paper)

 

 

 

 

Blackberry – Research in Motion (Maker of the Blackberry phones) is fully focused on the current release of its new phone lineup to compete with Apple.  The rumors have RIM launching a new tablet device in December 2010 or early 2011.

  • Will support flash with hardware based flash accelerator (Apple iPad, no support for flash)
  • The screen will be similar to the iPad (9.7 inches)
  • Connectivity will be Wi-fi, and Bluetooth wireless.  Bluetooth will also allow connectivity through the Blackberry device.  No direct connection to the carrier network.

 

 

Microsoft – The next release of the tablet or slate for Microsoft is fuzzy at best, and the initial device will most likely be the HP slate device.  Other potential Microsoft devices to be released by the end of the year running Windows 7 Operating System include; Samsung, ASUS, Toshiba, and Sony.  Business capable tablets will be produced by a hardware partner, and the operating system will be a variant of Windows 7.  The rumor is that they will also deliver a consumer tablet version based on the new Windows Phone 7 Operating Systems, which will be similar in design to the Apple iPad.

India - Another interesting new entry comes from the government of India.  The Indian Institute of Technology along with the Indian government developed the first $35 touch screen tablet computer.  Their ultimate goal is to drive the price down closer to $10 per unit.  The prototype device runs the open-source Linux Operation System, does not utilize a hard drive and can run on solar power.  It will support web browsing, word processing, and other applications built for the device.  The Indian government is undertaking a new education initiative for students, and plans to subsidize the device to increase adoption.  This new tablet could change the way children learn, and increase literacy rates worldwide.

Regardless of how you may lean as a consumer today, you will have many choices coming in the near future.  Time will tell who will be the victor in the end of “The Tablet Wars”.