Has the Tablet Wave Passed?

There was much anticipation in the tech world in the days leading up to Apple Computer’s January 27, 2010 launch event. What would they announce? Much hype had been stirred in the press in anticipation of either a tablet computer or netbook. Whichever it would be, this new device would fill a “third place” between the iPhone and the MacBook. This new device should have a larger screen than the iPhone, yet be lighter and more portable than the MacBook. So, what would it be? …a tablet? …a netbook? …would it be neither?

In his address on that day, CEO Steve Jobs spoke about this “third place” and how, whatever would fill that space would have to do some things better than either the smart phone, or the laptop. He caused the audience laughter as he commented on the netbook. “The problem is; netbooks aren’t better at anything.” Then, he went on to launch the first iPad and the rest is history.

Apple set the bar pretty high with the iPad, which runs on their iOS operating system. The iPad was not the first tablet computer, but it was the first one to catch on in the public eye. This is due in part to Apple’s amazing marketing and in part to the excellence of the tablet that they offered in the iPad.

In the months that followed, other companies answered by introducing their own tablet computers. While there were a few different operating systems presented, none proved so worthy a competitor as the Android OS. It’s growing Android Market (https://market.android.com), while nowhere near as large as Apple’s App Store, is a worthy opponent.

There have been some very good tablet computers introduced over the past year-and-a-half. But, for whatever reason, no one competitor has caught on and moved into the stellar market share claimed by the iPad, although the new Kindle Fire is showing some promise (never mind the fact that it has a “lite” version of the Android OS). Why is that? It’s not for lack of features. In fact, many prefer the competing tablets over the iPad for reasons such as; Apple’s lack of USB ports on the iPad, which the competitors do offer or; Apple’s ongoing disdain for Flash video, which other tablets play seamlessly. Why then, do the competitors just not take hold as the iPad has? My own speculation would be for the following two reasons:

  1. Apple has generated through advertising and savvy, an image of offering quality products that appeal to a hip demographic;
  2. Apple was the first serious offering, and they set a high bar. iPad’s competitors are many, which seems to have a watered-down effect, diffusing any one rising star to dethrone the mighty iPad.

In recent months, we have seen some of the iPad’s competitors starting to fail. Blackberry’s PlayBook has really fallen off and any other non-Android tablets do not seem to stand a chance.

Has the tablet wave passed? No. The ongoing success of the iPad has proven that the tablet computer is here to stay. So, where is a worthy competitor? All I can say to that is; keep your eye on Microsoft in 2012. While Microsoft has taken a lot of heat in the past for inferior products (anyone remember Windows Vista?), they are an innovative giant that should not be dismissed. I believe that we will see rise of a major threat from MS in the second half of 2012 when their Windows 8 (or whatever name it may take on by then) makes its public debut, with an app outlet riding its coattails.

What are your thoughts and predictions for the tablet computer market? I welcome your questions and comments.

~ Randy Kightlinger

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