January 19, 2011

Time to Pop a Tab?

January 19, 2011 Posted by Vijay 1 comment
The new year is here, and has ushered in another flurry of technological frenzy. The just concluded CES event at Las Vegas was home to hordes of tablets. Of course Apple was conspicuous by its absence. This only led to more excitement and attention being drawn to the other tablets at CES. Motorola Xoom was launched as the first tablet with Google's official Android Platform, Honeycomb. And then there was the impressive Blackberry Playbook, Toshiba's upcoming tablet, Viewsonic, Archos, Asus and the list just goes on.

The first decade of this century may have belonged to Apple and its technology innovations. But towards the end of the decade, Google had quietly sneaked in on Apple and suddenly is as prepared and equally innovative as Apple is today. This doesn't augur well for Apple's products, particularly with Android handsets marching on ahead of the iPhone. Of course, one should not compare a zillion Android smartphones to one iPhone. Perhaps, therein lies Apple's problems. The sameness in its line of products will eventually drag it down, because the consumers have choices galore with Android.

When the iPod was a big hit, anyone who purchased a non-iPod mp3 player would be asked - "Oh, you got an iPod"? Oh well, an iPod is an iPod, which is an mp3 player. But the synonymous reference was more an appreciation and acknowledgement of Apple's innovative technology, than the lack of other mp3 player options. And a decade ago, the press coverage and the technology awareness among the public at large was much less. This decade is different. The consumers know they have choices, and its not just an iPhone or an iPod out there. There are the Droids, the Evos, the Incredibles.

The simplest way to gauge the change in mindset is that, today, an iPad is just an iPad which is a tablet. While a Samsung Tab or a Motorola Xoom is an Android tablet which is a tablet, and won't be called by someone as an iPad. Much unlike the iPod analogy. That marks a huge step in the way choices have emerged. Apple showed the way with the iPod, but the consumer was not aware of other non-Apple brands during the mp3 player era (which I refer the last decade as). Today the awareness of an Android tablet is as huge if not bigger than the iPad. Once again Apple showed the way with the iPad, but this time everyone was ready to unleash their products.

Its funny to notice that hardly anyone discusses an mp3 player option these days. Consumers have moved on to bigger things - smartphones and tablets. And understandably the number of mp3 players have dramatically come down and Apples own mp3 player revenue and sales have dipped in the past few quarters. This is directly related to the increase in sales of smartphones and the recent tablet invasion. Both a smartphone and a smartphone offer mp3 player rich features, which may not necessarily satisfy an avid music fan.But they are portable and do the same and more than a normal mp3 player. It will be safe to say that mp3 players will be passe' by the time we enter the middle phase of this decade.

Does that mean tablets will rule the roost? I would say it would be a mixed bag for tablets. Unless one wants to refer a Portable Media Player (PMP) as a tablet. Which can be true in many cases. Tablets can never replace laptops which will continue to co-exist because of the need for high productivity everyday tasks. But tablets can come in different shapes and sizes. Some refer to the Samsung Tab as a big phone, and Motorola referred to the iPad as a big iPhone. So there is still a lingering confusion on the definition of a tablet. A tablet is more for casual browsing and entertainment options. With basic editing features and nothing more. If it goes into high computing , then it is more a netbook.That said, the difference between a tablet and a netbook is even more blurred today.

I would think that netbooks and tablets would converge as technological innovations. There would exist just one device, which could well be termed the tablet. The smartphone will remain, as the most portable option for the consumer. While normal television with cable will give way to Internet TV. There has been a spurt of Internet TV devices as well of late. Google TV is still in its nascency, but could break new ground. Once cloud computing gains more usage, and Internet TV is the way for television, there could just be 3 devices necessary for a family. A television, a laptop and a tablet. Mind you, a tablet would still be just an option  and not a necessity. Of course, internet is a given for all these to work seamlessly.

For this year though, it would be more of the tablet market maturing and if/how Apple can stay in the race. With Jobs on medical leave and a series of new Android challenges, Apple has its work cut out. And it is not likely Apple will see the same kind of brand loyalty as the last decade. Smartphones are still evolving, and are pushing screen sizes of 4.5'' or more. No wonder mp3 players are passe'.  Lets sit back and enjoy the tablet wars until they mature and force us into convincing to own one. Oh well, I did get convinced and bought the Archos 70 Android tablet. I am still confused to be honest on how it is different from a big media player though. Well, I hope time answers my confusion.


Anonymous said...

Well I just purchased the Google TV and it's something else. I work a DISH Network so I had the chance to use the Google TV before I bought it and I was amazed at the apps and the features. I like the VOD Amazon and that it has Netflix and the list just goes on. This also has made life easier now I don’t have to go back and forth from the TV and the computer to see shows and answer email and things. I would recommend this product to anyone.