Sunday, October 31, 2010

What Tablet PCs Mean to Mobile Providers

For the better part of a decade, mobile phone carriers have made money by enticing users into long term contracts in exchange for subsidized pricing on cutting edge technology. At first it was all mobile phones, then smart phones, and in recent years the burgeoning netbook computer market.

So, it’s no surprise that many mobile carriers are concerned about the recent trend in computing – with iPad sales having a direct impact on netbooks, devices that are traditional sold as a third or even fourth computing option.

If it wasn’t so frustrating to see the tablet space completely dominated by the iPad (for now), it might be amusing to see the flip flopping done by netbook manufacturers like MSI and Acer, who at first were okay with the growth in the tablet market, but now are seeing it affect demand for their products.

Just yesterday, reports surfaced that Acer is concerned about the telecom demand for Tablet PCs. In the last two years especially, netbooks have been a primary way of selling the MiFi and mobile Internet packages which can equal or even exceed the monthly fees charged for just telephone service. Those fees represented the largest single growth opportunity for the telecoms.

But, the iPad has cut into that tremendously. We may never know how much the iPad has actually cannibalized those sales (estimates range from the extreme of Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn claiming 50% of netbook/notebook sales were being devoured, to more reasonable estimates of 15% from industry research groups), but we do know that the rush is on to tap into that market and no industry has a more vested interest than the telecoms who are intent on offering Internet access for mobile devices with their 3G and recently developed 4G/WiMax networks.

What’s interesting in all this is the fact that, in truth, there are not that many devices yet on the platter for telecom release. The Samsung Galaxy Tab is finally hitting store shelves in a few weeks, and Acer plans to have  their Tablet PC available by the end of November, but even Acer is foregoing Android in its first batch in favour Windows– not a bad trade off, but not the ideal solution for consumer devices either.

Right now, I think anything that helps spread tablet computing into the mass market is a good thing, provided that the devices being produced are not rushed just to meet telecom demand. I’m not insinuating that Acer’s first tablet outing will be a poor one, but it feels like they’re a little late out of the gate and I hope it doesn’t sour consumes on the potential of more powerful tablet PCs.

There is room for growth throughout the tablet market, and while there is some room to worry that Apple will continue to dominate the fledgling market, cooler heads and more powerful devices will hopefully prevail – telecom companies will get their contracts and users will have their mobile devices. The question now is how ill provide them.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What’s in a Tablet OS?

Right now, with a slew of new tablet releases making headlines around the globe, including the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the TegaV2, as well as a number of still planned releases from netbook giants Acer and MSI, the bulk of discussion has been about how this new consumer demand will play out over the next five years or so.

And while the hardware being manufactured is increasingly powerful, allowing people to do things never before possible with mobile devices, I’m interested in what an effective tablet OS really looks like. Can a tablet be truly effective for enterprise users, or even advanced household users, if it’s just a ramped up version of an OS developed for mobile phones.

The iOS is a perfect example – a software system that, while deemed restrictive by many iPhone users, still provides a decent user experience, and yet on a tablet seems much more stifling. But, there are more than just “closed OS” issues on the tablet market right now. Recent issues have developed with the open model used by Google for their Android OS.

Since Android is available for licensing and free use for any manufacturer that meets technical requirements with their devices, the OS is appearing on a wide array of devices – including advanced devices like the Galaxy Tab and extremely budget devices like the GenTouch Latte being sold for less than $200.

But, most consumers don’t know the difference between the different versions of Android, leading to issues between Google and manufacturers when devices make it appear that users will have access to the Android Marketplace and clearly do not.

What Should an OS Offer?

So, the big question now is what an OS needs to offer to be effective for a tablet device. What does a tablet need that a smart phone does not? To start with, it should be flexible. It should allow users to type naturally, input data manually (with or without stylus) and access the same software they are used to using on their desktop.

The iOS does not do these things and right now Android is working on it. With Gingerbread recently announced and a handful of tablets on tap from Motorola and Acer this November or December, we will soon see how the 3.0 OS from Google handles more advanced applications. Of course, we must remember that this is still an OS developed first and foremost for phones and while tablets are becoming more common and are likely figuring into the equation, Google knows where the demand is at the moment.

So, what is the solution? Honestly, I don’t think anyone knows just yet. For me, having access to advanced applications through Windows is a must on a tablet, and software like Thinix can make it more intuitive on a touch screen. It remains to be seen how the new RIM operating system will handle the PlayBook or how Gingerbread will perform, but we know one thing for sure – tablets are becoming more mainstream and whether these OS developers realize it or not, their software will need to cater to more than just casual users and entertainment apps in the very near future if they want to remain successful. 

Interestingly one solution that is sparking interest comes from Tegatech in the newly released TEGA v2. It is the first Tablet in the world to offer both Windows 7 and Android in one device. It's called “dual-boot” and while it's not quite perfect, it provides a solution for many users. On the Windows side users have access to all their preferred Microsoft Applications, and on the Android side battery life is optimized and the touch experience enhanced through Android. Again I don’t know if this is the perfect choice but it sure opens the TEGA v2 to a breadth of usage scenarios not available prior to its release. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


With cloud computing very much on my mind of late, it’s interesting to take a closer look at what some companies are doing in the enterprise sector. Specifically, it’s companies like Citrix that have shown how cloud computing can be a very viable option for businesses interested in reducing security risks, enhancing connectivity and getting their employees out in the field with mobile devices. Take a look at this video for more about how Citrix and its CTOs are currently pushing this form of anywhere-mobility.

For those not familiar with Citrix, it is a very exciting company working on tools that essentially allow users to take data with them anywhere. Their primary products have been virtual desktop tools like XenDesktop and XenClient (for mobile virtual desktops). Recently, a great deal of focus has been put into mobile access through their tools, however. While Cloud server visualization with XenServer is fantastic, demand is growing for tools that make cloud computing on tablets and other mobile devices safer and more efficient for IT departments, which lead to OpenCloud.

The last thing any company wants to deal with is data security holes or lost devices. So, Citrix has worked closely with a number of product manufacturers to integrate their software and receiver solutions directly into new devices.

Already devices are combining Windows and Android for hybrid use, Thinix for intuitive mobile use, and EyesBoard for quicker and easier keyboard access. With these tools Citrix would make tablet PCs like the TEGAv2 more viable portals to virtual desktops and cloud servers for those companies interested in really securing their data.

Why Citrix for Cloud Computing?

For a while now Citrix has been a company devoted to helping businesses build IT infrastructures that make sense. Right now, cloud computing is what makes sense. It is more dynamic, more efficient, and can adjust to a business’s specific growth needs when necessary.

But, just because cloud computing makes more sense for corporations in theory, doesn’t mean it always works. Citrix developed OpenCloud to deal with those security issues. To me, this is the only company that truly has a handle on what cloud computing needs to look like to be effective in an enterprise setting. That’s why I think it would be such a good fit with many tablet PCs and mobile devices in the enterprise space.

Right now, cloud computing is very exciting – a lot of new ideas are being developed, and while time shall tell how much a part of an IT infrastructure it can become, I personally see it as a stepping stone to more fluid, adaptive technology use in almost any industry. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cloud Computing and Tablet PCs

The other day I wrote about battery life and why it is such a vital component in the development of mobile devices. Without an efficient battery and a CPU designed to use less of its power, a mobile device isn’t very mobile. Because I’ve been discussing hardware and innovations in the manufacturer space, I wanted to move to the other side of the spectrum and how software is helping to advance mobility – specifically through cloud based programs.

If you spend any amount of time using a tablet PC, smart phone, or netbook, you likely use a cloud based service. These services include tools like Dropbox and Evernote which store your files and notes on a non-local server so you can access them from any device. But, file storage is only a small part of cloud computing. The real exciting part of cloud computing is the advancement of web-based apps – programs that can quite literally take the place of OEM software, often for free.

Google’s confluence of web apps has been quite popular for some time now, and Windows has followed up with their own app-based service on Not only can you create free Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents using, you can directly integrate the new Microsoft service with Facebook, allowing you to generate a friend chart, resume, or slideshow with the data provided by your Facebook account.

Create something useful and you can even share it with other users through the Docs Gallery. The basic idea behind cloud computing is fairly simple, but it’s the application that gets me truly excited – the fact that so many more things are possible when millions of people have access to those documents at any point in time.

Creativity is fantastic, but manufacturers, businesses, and consumers alike are attracted to cloud computing for one reason above all else – it allows expansion of what those devices are capable of. Right now, processor power in tablet PCs and other mobile devices is still less than ideal. Devices capable of the battery life we seek are forced to sacrifice multi-tasking and advanced feature sets to get it, while other devices are left with weaker batteries due to tech provided. Cloud computing allows devices to access more resources without expansion of local storage or processing power.

And then there is the issue of security. Right now, security on mobile devices is one of the primary concerns of enterprise users. If you lose your tablet PC and it has confidential figures for your next sales presentation on it, what can you do? Someone has instant access to data they should never see. However, by storing those figures in the cloud and accessing them only when necessary through a secure connection, they are never at risk.

The Tablet can essentially contain no vital files and be protected at all times. Of course, implementation is important here. Corporations cannot simply open a giant Dropbox account and store all their important files there. Careful creation and moderation of a cloud system is required – it’s one of the major points of focus in enterprise development for tablet PCs at the moment, and one of the major issues with the iPad – its minimal support for those expanded platforms.

As mobile computing becomes an increasingly important part of the business landscape, so too will the cloud. Whether you prefer local apps or enjoy the web-based programs being developed by Google and Microsoft, I can practically guarantee that at least part of your daily work will be done in or with the use of the cloud in the years to come. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Chipmaking Future for Tablet PCs

Everywhere I turn lately, there are analysts forecasting an explosion in the sales of tablet PCs. For sure, most of that growth is based off the surge in popularity of the iPad. Much like the iPhone and iPod before it, the iPad represents the first mainstream product in a growing market and it’s not surprising that consumers like it – tablet PCs are great products and soon enough they’ll find out how great as true iPad competitors emerge.

What interests me most in this surge is not the potential for sales in the future. It will be interesting to see if some forecasts, such as a recent Gartner report stating that tablet sales will reach more than 200 million by 2015 while Forrester’s more conservative reports still peg the growing market at roughly 20 million tablets by the same year, will come to fruition.

But, I’m interested in the surge of news coming from chip manufacturers as they shift focus to the mobile trend in tablet computing.

Right now, many devices on the market are running on the A8 Cortex platform. This includes the iPad, which runs the A4 processor, and the Samsung Galaxy Tablet which is running the ARM A8 Cortex. The same chip base is also used in the Nokia 770.

But, despite how versatile the A8 has been in the last two years, manufacturers are aware of the need for faster, more power-efficient chips. It’s why MSI decided to delay its Windpad 100.Instead of rushing a tablet to market with aging technology (in their case an Intel Atom Z530), MSI is waiting for something more efficient and powerful.

The New Chips on the Horizon

While MSI will release at least one version of their Windpad before 2011 with the newer Cortex A9 from Texas Instruments, there are a lot more options in development as well. To start with, Texas Instruments has already licensed a new architecture from ARM – likely to go into new devices in about a year.

Intel is also upping their investment in mobile processing. They have already started appearing in some new devices like the Asus EP121, the Cisco Cius and possibly the HP Slate 500 (still rumors right now).But, we all know that Intel is pushing for more releases in the next two years to ramp up battery life without sacrificing power.

Then there’s AMD – a company that does not yet have a tablet chip on the market. Already, Dirk Meyer has been quoted as saying they won’t invest specifically in tablet computing until “the market’s big enough to justify the investment”. Of course, that doesn’t mean AMD isn’t in the tablet game at all. Their newest Ontario chipset is a combined processor/graphics chip that supposedly draws less power and that they see as being viable in tablets.

AMD is already a little behind in the netbook and mobile field, so this isn’t exactly surprising, but they can’t get away with not discussing it. Investors and analysts alike are tracking tablets because this is a massive growth market.

I still don’t know that numbers like Gartner’s are feasible – 200 million tablets is a lot of devices for a 5 year period. But, I also think we’re looking at the beginning of a massive surge in an industry that’s been on the cusp for 10 years. Chipmakers are going to start shifting resources to where the money is. No, desktop and laptop PCs aren’t going anywhere ( more than 250 million sales a year won’t just disappear), but if we see even a fraction of that in Tablets, the computing industry is going to change a lot in the next 5 years. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Advanced Software Options for Tablet PCs

Right now, I feel like one of the major concerns users have with tablet PCs is that functionality will be hobbled with a touch screen. Most users are accustomed to the standard keyboard and mouse layout and using a traditional operating system like Windows 7 without those input devices seems like an awkward solution.

It might explain the popularity of the iPad and the increased demand for Android devices – those operating systems are designed exclusively for touch. And yet, especially in the case of the iOS software, simplicity in use of the touch screen has severely weakened the functionality of the device. Single tasking, the app interface, and limited expansion are all major gripes with the dedicated touch screen OS.

For enterprise users and personal users more demanding of their tech, the solution to me still remains Windows 7 or a Windows 7/ Android hybrid (as in the TegaV2). But, even with the added functionality and extreme permeability of both Windows and Android, there is a strong need for enhanced software that is 100% native to touch screens and yet takes full advantage of all the amazing things modern technology can do.

There are industries where tablet PCs could instantly increase productivity – such as in health care, education, and hospitality. But to make that dream a reality, there needs to be software that overlays the standard Windows 7 interface and makes it easier to complete tasks without watering down the device (as in the case of the iPad).

One of the best examples I can point to is Thinix Touch. Thinix Touch provides a more intuitive touch screen interface for a Windows based computer without sacrificing the features that we know and love about Windows. Multi-tasking, Windows software and easy access to your file systems are all still there, but with a touch oriented interface that is reminiscent of iOS or Android.

And the folks at Thinix are well aware of how expandable their software is. In September they released their Thinix Touch VDI software – allowing users to access virtual desktops in the same comfortable Thinix interface on a tablet PC. There are dozens of real world applications here, from health care to education, and business travel.

Another piece of software I feel represents the growing trend for power application on touch screen computers is Eyesboard. This software tool allows users to access a customizable on-screen keyboard that works with stylus or finger input, and can adjusted, changed in size, shifted to other languages, and much more.

Again, people like the interface that devices like the iPad offer, but beyond the aesthetically pleasing layout, the functionality is very limiting. So, having advanced software tools in place like Thinix or Eyesboard will allow users to enjoy that on-the-go, instant touch interface while still using a powerful device that can do everything they need of it.

I’m sure that’s why Tegatech included both pieces of software on the TegaV2 – they’re important and will help anyone get much more out of their tablet PC.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Battery Life and the Future of the Tablet PC

Despite all the new tablets rushing to the market these days, to me there remain only a handful of features that truly are “must-have”. One of those is a decent battery life.

Battery life in particular is a big point of contention for any new product on the market because it can define the usefulness of that device. When Apple released the iPad earlier this year, it was no surprise that it touted nearly 10 hours of battery life under heavy use. Apple has long been focused on making sure their gadgets last longer for their users (to the detriment of functionality in many cases).

Yet, while many people like to compare the world of tablet PCs to Apple, keep in mind that Apple has long been highly controlling of their devices. If a battery fails in an iPad or iPhone, you can't swap it out for a new one – you must send it to Apple and wait for a replacement.

This is one of the harsh truths about tablet computing – for the device to be small and light enough to be truly functional outside of the office it often has a sealed compartment, making expansion with a new battery nearly impossible.

Some devices have gone against the grain of compartmentalizing, allowing third parties to release larger batteries to power them longer. The Dell Streak, for example, never had the greatest battery life, yet because the batteries can be swapped with relative ease, Mugen Power is able to offer 1800mAh and 4800mAh options as replacements. But, for many new devices, it’s just not a viable option.

As the “tablet wars” heat up, I think it's important to note just how vital the battery issue is going to become. Most of this will lie in the development of battery technology. Right now, it feels like we’re approaching a brick wall – one where battery power can only be improved with larger, heavier batteries.

That’s not to say there hasn’t been much talk of fuel powered batteries or solar power use in  consumer devices, but it hasn’t progressed nearly far enough to make up for the advancement of other technologies.

It worries me that despite superior technical abilities and enterprise focus, a device without superior battery power might suffer on the market. The point of a tablet PC is mobility – and yet to get that mobility, devices like the iPad are being hobbled severely for their users. The iPad specifically cuts out external ports, limits OS features and only allows single task processing because anything more would severely cut down on that magic battery life number. Other devices want to offer more, and as a result, they suffer.

Don't get me wrong – I’m hoping that in a few years, this argument won’t matter as much – the same way that hard disk storage and camera megapixels eventually grew so powerful consumers could look to other features. But, the technology has a ways to go yet. The hunt is on for a better battery – one that can transform mobile computing into a powerful, long term replacement for the plugged in desktop. Here’s hoping it’s soon.

If you’re interested in this topic, which has been of great interest to me for many years, I’m working on a Report that will outline some practical tips on battery life optimisation. I should also have some documents finished soon that will outline what you can truly expect from a tablet PC in terms of battery life. I’m hoping to share these with everyone soon!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

The Budget Tablet

Yesterday Augen – the company that had a run in with Google over the summer when their $150 Kmart tablet had unlicensed copies of the Google App Marketplace running on it – announced that they will be releasing a series of six Android Tablets with varying screen sizes.

The tablets in question will be broken down into Latte and Espresso Series. The Latte Series will feature Android 2.2, 2 GB of flash memory, and HDMI out. The memory may be limited, but an SD slot supporting 16 GB of external storage offers some room for expansion. The part of real interest? The Latte will only cost $200 – a super budget option that severely undercuts the advances being made by some other devices.

Additionally, the Gentouch line of tablets will offer some upgraded models, including a $250 Latte Grande with a higher resolution touch screen, and the Espresso line with the Cortex A9 1GHz processor selling for $350.

While the Gentouch line is not yet slated for a specific release date (probably Q4 this year or Q1 next year), it did get me thinking about the position that budget tablets could potential take up in the coming months.

Tablet computing is definitely catching on. Users with subsidized smartphones are getting used to having a powerful device in their pockets that cost them less than $200. Unfortunately, this means that manufacturers are driving to cut prices severely and offer budget items with less features and scaled back functionality – it hinders ingenuity in a lot of ways.

Millions will see the sleek design and mobile possibilities of tablets like the iPad or Galaxy and will wonder how they can get their hands on a similar product. A budget option sold through retailers like Kmart or Walmart stands to be a potentially popular alternative to the devices that right now sell for more than most subsidized phones, game consoles and even television sets, but this only hurts the industry.

A computer, even a tablet device, is a rare purchase. It is a piece of technology that will provide value for months or even years to come. By investing in a device that doesn’t do quite as much to save a few dollars, manufacturers using shortcuts are rewarded and encouraged to continue reducing quality to make more money.

For sure, there is a market for budget tablets, but can a budget tablet offer enough features to be more than just a fancy toy? Android is likely the solution as an open source platform, with scalability through the Android App Marketplace. Storage expansion is also a must. An SD slot allows manufacturers to skip the cost of internal storage and focus instead on providing an intuitive, graphically pleasing display.

There is a definite future for tablets that can effectively replace a desktop PC – providing a range of powerful tools and features. But, what does the casual tablet user need? It’s important that consumers do their research and make informed decisions such that they can inform the market of the tools and features they need without supporting an undercut in quality by manufacturers.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

What Impact will Samsung's New Tablet Have?

There has been quite a bit of news in recent weeks about the Samsung Galaxy tablet, set for release in Europe next week, probable release in Australia in November, and confirmed release in the United States on November 1st via partnerships with AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon. If you’ve read the blog recently, you’ll know I’ve been following the development the Galaxy closely because there is quite a bit of momentum building in the industry and this is one of the big “buzz” devices as a potential iPad competitor.

The release date is well timed with the iPad’s next iteration likely at least 6 months away and RIM’s PlayBook slated for next spring. To top it off, the Galaxy has been making inroads on a number of categories in regards to its potential enterprise use. I’ve made no secret of my opinion of the iPad and its usefulness for businesses – there just are not many ways it truly stands up to daily computing, especially not as a desktop replacement.

So, in the Galaxy Tab we’re seeing talk about how effective this device could end up being. While it has a slightly smaller screen than the iPad at 7 inches, users will find a 1GHz Cortext A8 Processor, 512 MB of RAM, 16 GB of built-in storage (with a Micro SD slot for expansion) and two cameras (one of them front facing and already touting support for Fring or Qik) under the hood.

Unlike the upcoming RIM tablet which will run on a brand new operating system being developed by recent RIM acquisition QNX Software Systems, the Galaxy sports Android 2.2, providing it with the second largest App store on the market and ample opportunity for expansion. It’s especially nice because they’re shipping the Galaxy with the newest version of Android – one of the easiest to use tablet interfaces yet. The only major issue I see here is that the Android Marketplace has not been vetted for tablets yet. Most apps are built for the small resolution of smart phones. In time this will be remedied, but for early adopters, things won’t look too pretty. Real business users may find that Windows is still a far more diverse operating system in terms of the software it supports (hence the Tega V2 supporting both Windows and Android).

Of course, as I and most readers out there will agree, easy to use is only a small part of the puzzle. What does the Galaxy do for enterprise users? Already, we know that Android is a more enterprise friendly OS. It allows more freedom in how apps are developed and supports Flash technology in web pages – two very big plusses for business users.

A statement released today further supports the Galaxy as a more enterprise minded device. Citrix, known for its Receiver software, has announced a partnership with Samsung to offer their software on the Galaxy tablets and smartphones, allowing users to access their virtual desktop as well as a number of other powerful business apps such as databases, all with cloud storage so internal space isn’t eaten up (and to ensure security of the device should it be lost).

Combined with recent partnerships with Sybase, Blackboard Mobile Learn and Epocrates Rx, Samsung is trying hard to incorporate as many business tools into their new tablet platform as possible. With the device still a little ways off and public opinion very much up in the air about long term tablet viability, I’m very interested to see how Samsung’s varying approach to tablet computing will hold up.

The real point of all this is that the market seems to be coming to terms with the future of the tablet PC – a viable, mobile option for on the go computing. That means better support from major firms, more enterprise apps and a variety of connectivity options. There’s still a lot to be done but honestly, with this many new tablets on the horizon, I’m feeling very excited about the future of tablet computing.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

RIM’s PlayBook – Can it Work?

After a lot of question marks popped up in mid-September following a Wall Street Journal article, Research in Motion (RIM) announced their first foray into the tablet field last week. I won’t say I’m not surprised – BlackBerry has been trying to tap into the Apple zeitgeist for the better part of two years now – since they launched their first touch screen phone, the Storm back in 2008.
This announcement, however, dovetailed nicely with my post earlier this week about the surge in tablet computing – from Best Buy’s frantic exaggerations to Apple’s industry dominance (for now). As we know, RIM isn’t alone in their rush to get a piece of the soon to be $40 billion dollar a year industry. Samsung’s Galaxy is in the works as we speak. Dell will soon release their Streak tablet and we all know Apple’s working on their second generation iPad that will likely increase storage and improve on a handful of common concerns for owners of the first generation device.
RIM’s new tablet is set to be a 7-inch device using Marvell Technology Group chips and the newest version of a QNX Software Systems OS (not the long maligned BlackBerry OS that is slowly starting to phase out of RIM’s products). Of course, how that QNX operating system will work on a tablet PC remains to be seen. While QNX has done fantastic work in car-dashboard OS and industrial applications, they haven’t worked in the consumer tech field before, and many people including myself are unsure of RIM’s move to dump the BlackBerry OS 6 so quickly.
The App Issue
Another major issue I can’t help but point out is the lack of App support. For better or worse, the mobile computing industry is now reliant on the App store structure established by Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. The BlackBerry OS is already at a major disadvantage in this category – how will it perform when looking down the barrel of hundreds of thousands of apps on rival devices with a second OS to support?
In fact, the App issue is the reason most of the new devices we’ve been hearing about are coming fully loaded with Android (or in the case of the Tega V2, both Android and Windows). Personally, I don’t like this move by RIM. The BlackBerry platform, while lagging in consumer markets, is still the number one smartphone platform in the world due to enterprise users – changing it and knowingly splitting developers in an already hungry atmosphere is questionable.
When a company undermines its dominance because they’re afraid of what another product is doing, bad things happen. Apple has done something special in the design and presentation of their iPhone and iPad devices. However, one thing they haven’t done is produce a quality enterprise platform. RIM has long dominated in this field because their phones are developed with business users in mind, providing advanced security options, immediate support and training programs around the globe for IT professionals – can their new tablet do the same in the midst of an OS transition, without 3G support and with extremely limited options for expansion through Apps?
It makes me wonder – what should a tablet developer be focused on right now if they want to produce a successful device? Does a device need to have Android installed to be financially viable, or can a third party OS succeed, even without all those fun add-ons to choose from?
This is a burgeoning market, but in the next 6-9 months I think we’re going to get a very clear idea of where it is headed and who will take the lead. Apple has by no means locked up the title of tablet King – not with so many missing features for power users, but to overcome their sizable head start, manufacturers will need to produce something that reaches not only those who need tablet tools, but those who are attracted to the sleek new form of the mobile PC.

Friday, October 01, 2010

TEGA v2 Tablet live on Australian Television

TEGA v2 on Kerri Anne Show in Australia

Growing iPad Sales and the Future of the Tablet Market

A few weeks ago, Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying iPad sales were cannibalizing PC notebook sales by as much as 50%. I thought it seemed high, and as ARN reported earlier this week, analysts are in disagreement about those very numbers.

As it turns out, NPD data analysis has shown those numbers to be slightly lower – in the mid-teens to as much as 25% range. But, regardless of where the numbers fall, that’s still a hefty chunk of consumers suggesting they don’t need a new netbook or notebook PC – that an iPad, as limiting as the device can be, is the perfect alternative for mid-level browsing and email.

It got me to thinking about where we’re at in the evolution of tablet PCs. I’ve been in this industry for almost a decade back when manufacturers were geeking out about their first wave of Windows based tablets. Tablets of that era were often clunky and heavy, but I fell in love with them immediately and have been a passionate advocate of the platform ever since.

So, it’s hard to step back and look at these trends without intense scrutiny, especially when you consider I’ve had the luxury of owning almost every new device on the market. The truth, which makes perfect sense when you look at those numbers more carefully, is that people are not necessarily replacing notebook PCs with tablets, and they’re definitely not supplanting their power computing with an iPad.

What we’re really seeing is a world where most people own more than one computer – the big powerful machine at home for heavy duty work, the smart phone for on-the-go transactions, and the in-between machine for getting work done at the airport or web surfing on the train. And the iPad is filling that final hole for a lot of early adopters.

Building on Momentum

I’ve made no bones about my impression of the iPad. This thing just can’t get the job done in a business environment. ARN also called my attention to a recent Technology Business Research survey showing 32% of iPad owners using the device as a PC replacement and 44% of them using the device as their number one computing device (by raw hours). When I see these numbers, I get warm fuzzy feelings inside, because I know it means big things are coming for tablets in general, not just iPads.

As you all know, Android has been making quite a stir on the tablet scene in the last few months. Since the first Android tablet hit the market in 2009 (before the iPad I might add), analysts have been wondering what the breakthrough device would be. Smartphones had the Motorola Droid – what will bring Android tablets into the mainstream discussion alongside the iPad?

Some people think Samsung is on the right track with their Galaxy line. Others are looking for big things out of PC manufacturers. Personally, I think it will be a combination of devices, perhaps like the TEGA v2 which will support dual-boot Android/Windows. After all, that’s what has made Android the fastest growing phone OS on the planet, quickly gaining on the iPhone. Apple has their iOS on two phones. Google has theirs on dozens. People can transition between multiple devices, all while using their Google Services accounts to keep track of Apps, data, and everything else that you need when backing up a phone.

And now we have people going gaga for tablets. They’re going for tablets because they’re cool, intuitive and lightweight and they make a great in-between device for someone who needs more power than a smart phone but doesn’t want to lug around a PC.

Apple did something good here – they got the Tablet into the mainstream. It took more than 10 years to do it, but now we’re seeing people switching over at record pace, and just like they did for the smartphone, I see Android devices squeaking in to offer something more powerful, diverse and generally useful than Apple – business users keep your eyes open because it won’t be long before Android tablets litter classrooms, boardrooms, and living rooms everywhere.