By Greg Mills
The PC world has strangely stopped worrying -- at least publicly -- so much about the iPad and the tablet market in general. At least for now.
Frankly, the underlying problem for PC tablets is that in addition to being caught completely flatfooted in the smart phone software market, Microsoft has also hopelessly bungled the tablet revolution as well. It appears Microsoft is doomed to ride the PC into the ground while the smartphone and tablet markets take over the consumer computer market.
While the numbers won't come out until next week on the first quarter of Apple iPad sales, the biggest PC microprocessor suppliers Intel and ADM have more or less put tablet support on the back burner. While a number of major players are hoping to get into the tablet market right away, the lack of a viable off the shelf software operating system from Microsoft has left a major hole in tablet development.
The companies who plan to launch tablets have to figure out both the hardware side of the product and then also develop the software. In the past they could concentrate on the hardware and allow Microsoft to provide the malware oops ... I mean operating system software.
Rim is launching the "PlayBook" running their own OS, HP is launching their WebOS tablet using Palm software and Motorola, Samsung and Nokia are also planning tablets running various operating systems adapted for tablets.
While Android from Google is not up to speed yet on a tablet operating system, I wouldn't put it past them to step up to the plate since Microsoft is again so unfashionably late to the party. The advantages of a platform wide OS in PCs was the advantage Microsoft had with Windows. Software that runs on hardware from multiple companies was their bread and butter. Apple has a great head start in tablets and is un-likely to drop the ball in either hardware or software.
The PC world looks at the overall computer sales numbers and concludes the tiny market share iPad is taking, while dramatic, is not sufficient to warrant panic ... yet. AMD's CEO stated that the numbers on iPad sales didn't even warrant R&D research money. Say what? Intel is also not making any public mention of R&D on tablet microprocessors. Both of these companies sell Apple microprocessors or graphics processing units for Macs, but both got left out of the loop when Apple got into the microprocessor business with its own chips for the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV. They are not privy to Apple's chip manufacturing numbers, so they can't gauge anything but the actual sales numbers Apple gives out in quarterly public reports.
What most people don't understand is the development time required to develop, refine and launch new chips or electronic products. Meanwhile, the giant lead in the tablet market is just growing larger as Apple sells iPads around the world and ramps up the marketing in the USA. Christmas sales for iPad are going to be huge. It will be the US$500 "Tickle Me Elmo" out-of-stock item of 2010. No mater how many iPads they are throwing through the doors in China, you had better order one soon if you want one for Christmas.
A lot of people who aren't really familiar with iPad think it is just a PC in another form factor, and that really isn't the extent of what it represents. A tablet that just runs a touchscreen version of Windows is not an iPad. You are still stuck with all that makes blood pressure rise at the very mention of the word "Windows." The public embracing the new form factor of a tablet also allows Apple to capture new converts from the PC world as they realize how elegant Mac software and hardware is.
I carry my iPad around with me most of the time and it's rare that I show it off and someone doesn't say, "I'm going to get one of those." When I use my iPad at lunch, waitresses always comment, "Is that an iPad? Wow, that is cool." In my job as a Faux artist, I use my iPad to show customers my wall art. I also use "Koi Pond HD" to show off the power of the iPad. Everyone is both amused and amazed. When was the last time you were amazed by anything coming out of Redmond (I mean in a good way)?
Incidentally, the news is very much split on Vista Mobile 7 and the new Microsoft phones. A lot of PC fan boys are very critical and recommend waiting to dive into the potential Vista 7 swamp. The new smartphone Vista 7 only scrolls up and down and limitations are coming out that Apple elegantly fulfilled very early in the iOS. The risk of the new platform failing is sort of like buying a HD-DVD player and seeing Blu-Ray stealing the market and obsoleting your HD Disk player.
The risk for both manufactures of Vista Mobile 7 phones and retail customers is major. If you intend to buy a new Vista 7 phone, ask the cell company if they will take it back without charging you a fortune if the platform fails and is discontinued, as was the Kin. I suspect that if you buy an electronic turkey, it is all yours. Anybody got a Kin for sale? By the way, did you know Kin won't run Vista 7?
That's Greg's Bite for today.
(Greg Mills, is a Faux Artist in Kansas City. Formerly a new product R&D man for the paint sundry market, he holds 11 US patents. He's working on a solar energy startup, www.CottageIndustrySolar.com using a patent pending process of turning waste dual pane glass into thermal solar panels used to heat water. Greg writes for intellectual web sites and Mac related issues. See Greg's art web site at www.gregmills.info ; His email is firstname.lastname@example.org