Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tablet PCs - And the Winner IS... Apple (For Now)

There was a pretty interesting article in DigiTimes that said that most of the major hardware manufacturers were going to throw in the towel in terms of the tablet PC market, and instead focus on "ultrabooks" (not "netbooks" like they did 2 years ago).


If you don't know what an "ultrabook" is here's a video that explains it. Basically, think of the MacBook Air. It's a thin notebook PC that lacks an optical drive, has an "instant on", and will periodically "poll" the network for RSS updates, etc.

I guess hitting the "refresh" button on your web page was a little too cumbersome for some folks.

Oh yeah, and it has a physical keyboard.


"Ultrabook"? Really?

It's more like: "Hey we know how to build notebooks, but since we can't compete in the tablet market because our operating systems are too bloated with crap - let's just invent a new 'category' of devices because that's something we can control."

It's so funny to me that rather than try to make their mobile operating systems (Android and Mobile Windows 7 or 8) - work well and quickly on the more modest hardware of the tablet - they are just giving up and going back to the old status quo.

Oh sure, it has some brushed aluminum, and it's thinner and lighter than a "traditional" laptop or notebook - it's essentially the same thing.

And it's already be "done" - again, by Apple.

I know that Amazon's Kindle Fire is selling like gangbusters - but have you checked out their own product review page? People are saying - "it's cool - for what it is."


People were really looking for a fast, elegant, responsive - and less expensive iPad. They thought - "Hey, it runs Android, has a browser... will be a perfect gift as a tablet PC for my loved one."

It turns out that most people who bought one (disclosure: I did not!) see it as a disappointing "knock off" that's slow, unresponsive and basically unusable as anything other than a nice eReader.

They were expecting a device that was just like the iPad but cheaper. Unfortunately (for them and for Amazon) all they got was cheaper not better.

Now, to be fair, Amazon says they are going to push out an over-the-air update in the next two weeks - and they're hinting around that there is a Fire 2.0 in the works. However, I think the damage may already be done. You don't really get a second chance to make a first impression (ummm... no physical volume buttons - really?).

Apple gets this.

Amazon doesn't. RIM doesn't. HP doesn't.

Even though the first iPhone had only a handful of apps (as did the iPad on launch); they got the experience correct. The look and feel. The buttery smooth interface animations. The small, light, yet "solid" feel of the hardware. The aesthetics. The simplicity of use.

Those things really resonate with customers - especially the performance and ease-of-use. Once you've used an iPhone or iPad for any length of time - just try puttering around on an Android phone or tablet...

It just feels like a cheap knockoff of the original in terms of both the interface experience (it's slow and jumpy and hard to click the tiny icons) and the hardware (bit kunky with multiple physical buttons at the bottom).

On the other hand, non-Apple devices are less expensive (on the whole).

Alas, it appears as if no company has come up with the have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too tablet...

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