By Greg Mills
From what I read about the upcoming Xoom tablet, it may not be the long anticipated iPad killer the PC crowd has been longing for. As I have mentioned in this space, the Tablet OS situation continues to be a problem for the companies that want a piece of Apple's pie. Motorola, a household name in electronics has scrambled to offer something to compete with iPad. From what is known about Xoom, Apple's iPad is still safe.
Android for smart phones has been tweaked to accommodate a larger screen but will likely have most of the Android underpinnings. I have not read where Android apps can run on Xoom in the smaller mode as in the iOS iPad. Rumors are that Google has cooked up the tablet version of Android and calls it Honeycomb. Motorola has obtained an exclusive right to use Honeycomb for a period of time to allow them to launch Xoom.
The technical specs and price points floated are likely to sink Motorola's boat immediately upon launching. First of all, the Honeycomb OS is completely new, and you know how beta versions of a new OS are. The lack of apps will be another major selling point that is not available to them. The price points floated point to an immediate disconnect as consumers compare Xoom with iPad. You can be sure every new tablet launched will be compared to iPad. What is even scarier for Motorola, they don't know what the iPad 2 will offer that completely blows them out of the water before they can even begin to recoup the cost of bringing the Xoom to market.
Rumors are for a Feb. 17 launch and a price point of US$800. As with the Galaxy Tab from Samsung, Xoom might have to be sold with a discount from a cell phone company that subsidizes the price with a two year contract for data. Since Apple products are generally perceived as top of the line, tying to sell for a higher price is likely to be hard.
Sporting a dual core processor and a 10.1 inch color screen the Xoom will look at first blush a lot like an iPad. It comes with physical Bluetooth keyboards, dock and the like. It's advertised to have a touch screen at 150 DPI with "pinch to zoom" interface, 1220X800 Pixels, 720p video playback, upgradeable to 4G, runs Flash, 1G of internal RAM and front and back cameras. The Xoom compares well with the iPad 1, but you have to know the iPad 2 is likely to set a new and higher set of standards that will relegate the Xoom to being a bit player in the slate market.
Motorola is comparing itself to last year's iPad, and the timing couldn't be worse for them. Rumors are that iPad 2 will go into production soon and has two cameras, a dual core chip and all the more expensive things the Xoom boasts. If Apple can maintain its price points, the Xoom is toast. Also, pinching on a touch screen to change the size of graphics being displayed sounds vaguely familiar.
Look for a Federal lawsuit against Motorola claiming patent infringement within a few months of Xoom coming out. It takes a while for Apple's lawyers to get a new patent infringement case into the system, as they are back logged right now.
Never having to look too hard at Microsoft goings on for a good laugh, it seems Redmond has prepared a PowerPoint presentation to suggest "talking points" to help partners understand why Windows based slates are better for them in business than iPads. It seem the recent financial report from Apple stating that iPad already represents 7% of the global PC market hit a nerve.
Suddenly the little Apple in the rear view mirror seemed much closer. One of the reasons they cited for going with Windows slate computers instead of iPads was due to security issues? Talk about a distortion zone. Windows of any flavor has to rate at the very bottom of the list of operating systems for security issues. Apple need not respond in kind; Windows support techs all know where their bread is buttered. Macs tend to put them out of business.
Kodak struck out in a patent infringement suit against Apple and RIM for using scaled down "thumbnail" icons to represent full images. You click on the icon to open the full image. One of the defenses against a patent infringement suit is that the patent is invalid due to obviousness. A slippery slope in patent law is where what is ground-breaking innovation to some is claimed to be obvious and not patentable by the company being sued.
The US Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that: "Granting patent protection to advances that would occur in the ordinary course without real innovation retards progress and may, in the case of patents combining previously known elements, deprive prior inventions of their value or utility." The court wrote this in a majority decision penned by Justice Anthony Kennedy. Read more: http://news.cnet.com/Supreme-Court-loosens-patent-obviousness-test/2100-1014_3-6180220.html#ixzz1C3Jyvqo2 . Look for the obviousness test to be used by and against Apple in the ongoing patent infringement actions regarding iOS devices.
The Apple iPad is just being launched in Japan, and the country is going iPad mad. The Japanese are the world's greatest early adopters, and sales in Japan may well exceed expectations as iPad is getting rave reviews and everyone wants one. International sales of Apple product is gaining a lot of traction and may reach 50% of total sales soon.
Bloomberg posted a story claiming they were sure Apple is going to put a near-field communications chip in the coming iPhone 5 and iPad 2. This allows users to swipe their iOS devices near a credit card terminal that has a near-field radio reader built in to charge things easily. This is particularly helpful with minor purchases such as a meal at McDonalds.
I have a near-field chip in a little rubber credit card CitiBank send me. I put it under the rubber cover on iPhone and now just swipe it to buy gas or pay for things with that credit card. I have mentioned the possibility that Apple would get into the credit card business themselves, but so far they only contract with a credit card issuer for financing options at the online Apple store.
Rumors give and take away features we can hope for in upcoming Apple devices. The "retinal display" or high definition screens hoped for in iPad 2 may wait until iPad3. Doubling the screen resolution of iPad would give us 2048x1536. From what I read the cost currently for such a display is prohibitive to maintain price points.
Apple tends to pack more into products at the same or a lower price and, while an HD iPad sounds great, will the extra $100 added to the price hurt sales? Yep, it isn't likely to happen. Could the $4 billion Apple has prepaid be to allow some screen manufactures to tool up for an HD screen for future iPads? I think that the most likely part they are investing in.
When RIM engineers were astounded at the battery life on the first iPhone they told management at RIM that Apple mounted a screen and tiny circuit board on a battery, and that is how Apple got the battery life they claimed. Touch screens are the most expensive part of an iPad and having an exclusive supply on an HD touch screen for iPad would certainly lock out the competition for a while longer.
That's Greg's bite for today.
(Greg Mills is currently 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 using a patent pending process of turning waste dual pane glass into thermal solar panels used to heat water. Married, with one daughter still at home, Greg writes for intellectual web sites and Mac related issues. See Greg's web sites at http://www.gregmills.info . He can be emailed at gregmills.mac.)