Saturday, December 11, 2010

Notion Ink Adam Problems - What's Really Going On?

The tech industry has never been an easy one to get into. There are high barriers of entry in funding, ideas, and distribution, and then there are the pundits. Every product created gets dissected, analysed, and reviewed over and over again, sometimes to the joy of a new company and sometimes to its downfall.

So, it’s always interesting and occasionally painful to watch someone attempt a feat like Notion Ink – the India based tablet manufacturer who burst onto the scene at CES last January with a whole lot of promises in their Adam tablet.  

Yet, even before their first tablet, the Adam, hits store shelves, Notion Ink is having a horrific time with their presale. Visitors to their site are finding limited information about the tablet, high shipping fees (or low depending on where you live), limited payment method options, requests for personal data they should never need, hiccups with shipping addresses, and a very short return window. Some are yelling “Scam” while others are simply waiting to see the device in question.

The tablet itself has not been shown outside of very limited tech demos that don’t showcase many of its announced features and as a result is severely lacking in the kind of hands-on buzz needed to alleviate these growing pains. Of course, Notion Ink has promised a reveal on January 6th at CES, but why then are they preselling so early if no one has actually used the device, and in some cases regulatory approval hasn’t even been acquired.  

We don’t know for a fact if this is a case of an unscrupulous company or a very messy preorder process gone horribly awry, but the whole debacle got me thinking about the barrier to entry in this industry. Right now, there are roughly two dozen companies attempting to follow the path that Apple blazed last spring with major tablet launches. Some of them will succeed and many will not. But, most of them are major tech companies with diverse product offerings that can afford to test a new niche.

However, in my eyes, the really good ideas tend to come from the smaller manufacturers – the guys with something to prove and creativity to spare. If you want to succeed out of nowhere, you need to bring something over the top and brand new with you, not just another iPad or Tab replicate. So, I get excited when companies like Notion Ink come along. And a lot of people are with me on this. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean those companies will follow through with good devices, or even with a functional device.

I’m willing to wait out the preorder problems and accusations to see what the actual device looks like, though I do recommend you hold off on ordering until these issues are worked out. However you look at it, though, small manufacturers bring big ideas to this industry and as a tech enthusiast, I want to see each of them succeed.

If this is just a case of poor planning and Notion Ink bit off a little more than they can chew with a global launch on their first product, I will keep an eye on this thing in January because you never know when the little guy will come through with something impressive. If, on the other hand the Adam is DOA or simply never arrives, it will be a blow for small manufacturers everywhere who work hard to gain the public’s trust with their first product. Let’s hope it’s the latter.

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