Books written by Ray Sullivan

Monday, 9 January 2012

2012 – The Year Of The Tablet

I’ve reported previously that the Kindle Fire is looking to be launched in the UK, possibly this month. There’s still unconfirmed rumours that the Barnes and Noble Nook tablet may be hitting these shores within the first or second quarter – my guess is that whatever alliance they need to tee up, perhaps Waterstones or some other suitable UK retailer, will take time; so perhaps mid year is more realistic. And of course the Kobo Vox is here and selling.

So to predict that this is going to be the year of the tablet, given that the king of tablets, the iPad 2, is selling like the proverbial hot cakes, is a tad disingenuous. But there’s more, according to the rumour mill (there would be, wouldn’t there?)

Apple, it would seem, have been a little wrong-footed by the success of the Amazon Kindle Fire in the US, released just before the Christmas present buying season to quite mixed and often critical reviews. It appears that the buying public have taken these reviews on advisement, and apparently discounted them. Critically, I suspect the consumer has spotted that the reviewers were comparing the Kindle Fire directly with the iPad, a device twice the price, and have decided that they were content to accept a lower specification as a trade off for $200 discount. And of course, they weren’t buying for themselves in the main.

But the impact of the Kindle Fire and other tablets appears to have deflected Apple’s strategy – and the consumer is likely to be the winner here. For starters, it’s rumoured that Apple are considering maintaining production of the iPad 2 long after the release of the iPad 3, believed to be coming in March. Critically they are considering dropping the price of the iPad 2 to near Kindle Fire prices – I’d expect the underpowered 16GB version to be around there with the 32GB version to sell at the $300 point. Now, who’s going to buy an iPad 2 between now and March if they can afford to wait?

And the market gets more interesting as Google rumour they are going into the tablet market themselves, to take on all the manufacturers they’ve been selling Android to as well as tackling Apple.  Their takeover of Motorola should be sorted pretty soon and that gives them an established hardware backbone, so we're talking about a highly capable mix here.  Again we’re talking mid year in the US for this, but the ramifications will be the impact on next Christmas if it comes off. We are already starting the year with a strong backbone of tablet users out there, creating the pull. As those who haven’t seen the need for a tablet watch family, friends and work colleagues stream music, watch live TV, carry around massive photo albums along with a complete library of books in one seven inch tablet, small enough to slip inside a generous jacket pocket or pretty much any ladies handbag, then they will start to want a piece of that action before the end of the year.

Although the Google approach may be devisive to all the other manufacturers, it may actually gel them into action, as I suggested a few days ago (I don't think that blog has influenced Google though, not this time).

The main point is that the tablet market is going to become very interesting, very soon.  Hopefully prices will drop and there will be standards established that will enable after market companies to produce the one hundred and one accessories needed to make the most of these devices while bringing diversity to the products.  And if Google can sort its cloud out to compete with Apple then we are looking at tablets moving from niche to absolute mainstream in under a year.


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