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Greg’s bite: Xoom Fades to Black

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By Greg Mills

Remember all those tablet computer “iPad killers” showcased at recent electronics shows? As many as 100 tablets were shown in various states of development. Since then, only a handful of tablets have actually been launched, and the iPad is absolutely creaming them in the market.  

The Motorola’s Xoom tablet seems to have met an early end. The Xoom was really ill-fated coming out just before iPad 2 hit the market. It seems Motorola has just scaled back the parts on order required to assemble more Xooms. They killed all the parts orders that were not already in the supply chain. It appears Apple’s hammerlock on the tablet market and poor Xoom sales caused them to pull back. Ouch, that is sure to hurt the bottom line and Motorola stock prices.

This does not bode well for Motorola’s stab at entering the tablet computer market or for the Android HoneyComb OS. From what I hear the new Android HoneyComb OS crashes a lot.  People who are used to PCs expect that sort of “Microsoft moment” several times a day, so there ought to be some level of acceptance. They think it is par for the course. It isn’t what happens if you are running an iPad. I have had my iPad since they first came out and can count the number of system crashes over almost a year on the fingers of one hand. Sometimes apps crash, but I think that has taken down the iOS only two or three times.

Samsung’s Galaxy Tab is also completely underwhelming.  I actually saw a Tab in the wild last week. Someone I know says he “hates Apple,” and so he is punishing himself by attempting to get a Tab working dependably.  Not only buggy, the Tab has less than half the screen of an iPad. He thought he’d show off putting his narrow Tab in the inside jacket pocket of his suit coat. I was not impressed, I can do that with an iPhone.

Just today the skinny Tab I saw is being supported by a couple of larger format Tabs. This will make a total of three sizes of Tabs in the product line. It will be interesting to see how the price points for retail work out. Keep in mind that tablet computers sold in store carry profit for the stores as well as any profit for the company that manufactures them. The teardown and estimate of cost to manufacture the new tablets will be interesting as to match Apple’s price points doesn’t leave much for the stores and manufacturers to share.

Finally, RIM decided to launch it’s PretendBook, I mean PlayBook and match Apple’s price points, more or less. It is hard to read through all the advertising fluff RIM puts on its website about the PlayBook and uncover the actual technical weaknesses. Keep in mind that from what I hear it requires a BlackBerry to operate on the web over cellular. Imagine Apple requiring you to tether iPad with an iPhone to operate when there is no WiFi? No wonder the top marketing man for RIM quit before RIM embarrassed him by launching such a flawed product.  Just today more specs are being released by RIM including the price points.

PlayBook is also poorly targeted from a marketing focus point.  While they tout it as a business tool, even their website pushes it as a social network device and also sells it for games, music, pictures, etc. The apps are pathetically scarce and basic. I predict the PlayBook may last only marginally longer than the Xoom before RIM throws in the towel.  

RIM may well be losing money on each PlayBook they sell, as there was speculation they would be much higher when they actually set prices. I am looking forward to hearing what a teardown estimate of PlayBook production cost is. Apple is so vertical, they are making money hand over fist with iPad and RIM isn’t Apple.

I went to the RIM “app store” called “BlackBerry App World” and was greeted by a warning that my MacBook Pro (Mac OS) was not supported and thus some features wouldn’t work as the site was designed for Microsoft Windows. That’s a very bad sign, right up front. In this day and age not having cross platform websites is just plain stupid. When I found a list of app categories, “Business” was listed first and I thought, oh, PlayBook is for business … until I realized the list was alphabetical and included everything but the kitchen sink.  

I read somewhere that there is the prospect of a color Kindle or Nook or the like getting ramped up to compete with iPad running Android. Yeah, right. The book reader devices aren’t even close to matching iPad’s touch screen hardware, and Android HoneyComb isn’t ready to compare with the Apple iOS. Time will tell, but as the lack of a true iPad killer reaching the market continues to leave Apple with the lion’s share of tablet sales, the prospects for any significant erosion of iPad’s marketing head start seems unlikely.     

That’s Greg’s Bite for today.

(Greg Mills is currently a graphic and Faux Wall Artist in Kansas City. Formerly a new product R&D man for the paint sundry market, he holds 11 US patents. Greg is an Extra Class Ham Radio Operator, AB6SF, iOS developer and web site designer. He’s also working on a solar energy startup using a patent pending process for turning waste dual pane glass window units into thermal solar panels used to heat water see: www.CottageIndustySolar.com Married, with one daughter, Greg writes for intellectual property web sites and on Mac/Tech related issues. See Greg’s art web site at http://www.gregmills.info He can be emailed at gregmills@mac.com)

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