Friday, September 16, 2011

OP ED: The Tablet Space - An Emerging Market?

In what some regard as an "emerging market," the tablet war continues but seemingly at the end of a long, hard-fought campaign against a powerful enemy. The tablet space isn't anything new. Its been around for much longer than many us know. It just so happened that the popular Apple company decided to make a larger, stripped-down version of their iPhone and dubbed it the iPad that sold like hot bread. Regardless of my many criticisms, the move was genius by Apple which led them to add more features and improve their hardware for the iPad 2.

Apple did not create the smartphone. They just happened to make a truly "smart" phone. With that they made nearly every cell phone manufacturer go into a frenzy trying to produce the "iPhone killer." The only one that's gotten close to the benchmark has been a device running Android OS. 

With the launch of the iPad, every other manufacturer essentially felt it was deja-vu. 

Samsung launched a larger version of their popular Galaxy line Android phone series and called it the Samsung Galaxy Tab. It sold well but when compared to the millions of shipments and sales Apple was making, the Galaxy didn't look that hot.

Motorola - the other company using Android as their OS - launched the much hyped Xoom running the tablet-optimized Honeycomb software to much fanfare. The device was a major flop.
Besides the above-average sales of the Samsung Galaxy Tablet line, the only other tablet maker running Android OS to enjoy a moderate level of success was Asus especially with their popular Eee Pad Transformer. The device could be docked and used basically like a netbook.

Other contenders entered the fray like the much-hyped but long-delayed BlackBerry PlayBook running RIM's next generation software: QNX. Dismal reviews and missing core features made the device's April launch sluggish. Since then the news hasn't been pretty with major features promised "within 60 days" of release to "end of summer" to "soon" after BlackBerry DevCon with is in mid-October.

The latest announcement to enter the fray (expected too) is Microsoft partnering up with Samsung. How well can Windows 8 do as a tablet? In my opinion, it can do well - if they got the apps for that!

The truth is the "Tablet Market" isn't really a market. Its an iPad market. The options people conjure up when deciding to get a tablet is "Should I get an iPad?" What? Is that the only option? Well, yes. Its iPad then there's "the others." The end user is constantly bombarded with new devices in an ever-evolving tech world. Its too much to keep up. Give us something simple and easy to use. You got a customer!

Here are some numbers from the International Data Corporation (IDC) released September 14, 2011:
- Second Quarter tablet shipments were 303.8% over the same quarter last year!
- Second Quarter grew 88.9% over the first quarter of the year
- 68.3% of the tablets shipped around the world were iPads (9.6 million!)
- 26.8% of the tablets shipped around the world were Android.
- 4.9% of the tablets shipped around the world were other OS platforms such as the QNX-powered BlackBerry Playbook

The only case that would contradict this declaration is the fire-sale event at major retail stores online and across the country on August 22, 2011. HP dropped the price of their -literally - non-selling TouchPad WebOS tablet from $499 to $99. Less than 24 hours and all stores were sold out of their inventory. Like the BlackBerry PlayBook, the TouchPad didn't launch with core features though it did get updated to add them pretty quick. Still, the device didn't sell - until HP decided to cancel hardware development and cut the device's MSRP to the bone. Lines of shoppers formed outside stores for a chance to get a bargain iPad without the app-sphere.

So is there a Tablet Market? Yes, if the price is right (like, $99 for iPad-like device!). Just wait until Amazon releases their tablets this fall at "hundreds less than an iPad." If you're a tablet manufacturer planning to sell your device at $499 or more, pray that you're Samsung otherwise you won't have a shot. There's no market for a $500 phone without a radio and contract. Unless you're Apple.

It'll be interesting to see the market take shape this Christmas shopping season. Very interesting for sure!

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