By Greg Mills
Another day, another iPad killer launched. The iPad is safe for the time being. Sony launched a pair of tablets that depart from the hardbody, slab format of the Apple tablet. Sony put two smaller screens on either side of a hinge to allow that model to fold iin half for stowing it away. Clever, but won't that double the connectors and create a potential for failure down the line?
Typical of iPad killers, the new tablets are priced upon launch exactly as Apple prices its tablet. Within a few weeks of launch, most of the competitors have begun to cut prices to move their hardware. Sony is using a flavor of Android that is designed for tablets but there seems to be little compelling a person to buy one, other than it isn't Apple. Some people try to avoid Apple products due to some sort of subconscious desire to be beaten about the head and shoulders by their technology. (See http://www.zdnet.com/blog/gadgetreviews/meeting-sonys-tablet-s-and-p-fir... .)
Sony has a proud past as an innovator and was the default standard of excellence; that is what you think of when you think of Apple products. We have a number of old Sony Trinitron TV sets that are mostly unused since they are cathode ray tube TVs. I will have to say they all work, but we use flatscreen TVs now due to the HD factor. Sony has lost a lot of its original luster and has seen its stock prices fall in recent years. Will a hot selling tablet computer save the day?
The shape of the new tablets are something of a departure from the Apple slab design. The larger single screen version has a wedge shaped contour to it. The triangular shape is enough to notice but isn't enough to prop it up for easy reading on a table top. The thicker top edge makes the tablet look clunky, in my opinion. If you go to the linked story at "ZDNet" that I provided above, you will see what I mean. "ZNet" reviewers think the Sony tablets are poorly built as you can wiggle parts that ought to be solid.
With HP having just pulled the plug on its move into the mobile computer market, the real question is posed: is there really an iPad killer out there? Even when there isn't anything wrong with the hardware, no one but Apple has put all the parts of the platform together. The Palm OS and HP hardware represented a strong potential for an alternative to Apple's iOS and iPad. The HP platform lacked apps and the well developed software for a robust developer community. Had HP continued to develop the Palm platform it might have had a chance.
Apple, Google and Microsoft are all providing the software and support to develop apps for their platform. Microsoft was shocked when 500 Palm developers who got burned by the HP/Palm OS fiasco took Ballmer up on the offer of a free Windows Mobile phone and software to write for the Windows Mobile OS. Still light years behind Google and Apple, Microsoft knows it will take apps and a developer community to compete and create a meaningful mobile platform.
Samsung has actually fired a shot across the bow of the good ship Android by recently launching three new smartphones running Samsung's Bada OS. Android is beginning to fragment and we may see current apps and even current handsets that are made obsolete by Apple's legal actions. If you can't import Andoid handsets that violate Apple patents, what good are they? Android is in trouble, and Google buying Motorola has only added to the potential for handset makers to abandon Android and leave the market open for Apple to absorb more market share.
Of all the tablets out there, Apple has, by far, the largest profit margin and, thus, Apple can afford to even cut iPad prices and still make a profit. Apple has also monopolized the production of high quality screen and will likely launch the iPad 3 sooner than later. The annual launch cycle of both smartphones and tablets from Apple may be reduced to 8-10 months to keep ahead of the competition. I also expect a larger and smaller version of iPad either this coming launch window or the next one. A larger iPad in the US$800 range would sell very well to business and industrial users. More built-in ports are also likely.
We still haven't seen a drag and drop consumer grade app building program from Apple. Imagine something like iWeb designed to allow primitive apps to be created and launched on a division of the Apple App store. This was announced by Google for Android apps, but I haven't heard much about it lately.
I also expect Apple to launch an iOS sandbox runtime application to be able to sell iOS apps to people who own Macs. This only makes sense and you know developers can run iOS apps on their Macs so there is no technical reason to not sell iOS apps to everyone. Developers will like that and Apple isn't known for leaving money on the table.
That is Greg's Bite for today.