The incredible shrinking tablet landscape

The incredible shrinking tablet landscape

Summary: The tablet landscape has never been very big, but events this week have seen the number of viable competitors from four to just two.

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HP shook up the technology sector with the bombs it dropped yesterday, and the tablet segment sustained its fill of collateral damage. HP plans to get out of the consumer PC business, which is big, and is also shutting down the webOS device line. The latter impacts phones (Pixi, Pre and Veer) and the TouchPad tablet, only in the market for 49 days. Killing the TouchPad tablet so soon after launch was totally unexpected, and will have ramifications throughout the tablet space.

Today the tablet competition is basically a two horse race, with the iPad still lapping the competition and Android a distant second. It is not clear how well Android tablets are selling so it is hard to gauge what impact (if any) they have on iPad sales. This is significant as there are multiple companies building Android tablets, the most notable being Motorola, Samsung, Acer and ASUS. Even so, you have to lump them all together to give Android a fighting chance in the race.

Earlier this week Google dropped its own bombshell into the phone and tablet spaces by kicking off the process to buy Motorola Mobility outright. The maker of the Droid phone and the XOOM tablet will remain independent from Google. This looks good on paper but the fact is Google will be a hardware company when the deal goes through later this year, and will be competing with all the Android device makers. I wouldn't be surprised if this merger gives players like Samsung the nudge to get out of the Android tablet business if its sales aren't good enough to make a decent argument for staying. Why would anyone want to compete with the platform owner unless the money was good enough?

Currently the major tablet market consists of the iPad from Apple and Android tablets from the OEMs indicated. It is safe to proclaim webOS and the TouchPad are dead and will go away. HP hopes to salvage something from the platform but it may not find any takers willing to pay much. RIM is not really a factor with its PlayBook tablet that has suffered from its own problems, and the company even canceled some future models due to poor sales.

That leaves the iPad and Android, which doesn't give consumers much choice. Google's tablet version of Android, aka Honeycomb, had problems at launch earlier this year and has finally settled down with the current version, 3.2. Google is hard at work on the next major version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich, which is designed to merge the phone and tablet OS for the first time. I would add that Google must use the future version of Android to offer a more compelling user experience than Honeycomb currently does if they expect to make a serious run at the iPad.

I am still not convinced there is a market for non-iPads given the iPad's total domination of the segment. I hope Google makes a good run at the space with Android as we desperately need choice as consumers. The problem with Android tablets is the number of OEMs making them. It is hard for any one company to get enough sales to improve its economies of scale in the supply chain, as Apple can, which limits how low the prices can go. The expected entry of Amazon into the fray may be big enough to give us some healthy competition, but it is unknown when that might happen.

The tablet space has already shrunk from four choices early this year to two currently. If the iPad is indicative of the market, sales aren't shrinking, just the competitors willing to stick out the growth phase of the segment.

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Topics: Laptops, Hardware, Mobility, Tablets

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81 comments
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  • Well

    Look, we always had MP3 players from many different companies, even Dell had the DJ back in 03 and very few people owned a ZUNE but it was always the iPod and iTunes that had a 'market'... that said yes, there will be other tablets and some minor competitors but the iPad is like the iPod, for more evidence of this iPad only market, head down to Bed Bath and Beyond and see how many appliances can sync with the iPad...

    Only you 'expert's fail to see that Apple already won.
    Hasam1991
    • RE: The incredible shrinking tablet landscape

      @Hasam1991
      This is what I'm talking about right here:

      http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/search/search.aspx/ipad/?sstr=ipad&grid=20&dim=1&nty=1&
      Hasam1991
      • RE: The incredible shrinking tablet landscape

        @Hasam1991
        The problem with this reasoning is just one:

        Apple lost smartphone market. Or to put it other way. Apple cant get 100% of smartphone market.

        And they do not intend to.

        In tablets its a bit different, I agree. But still Apple cant deliver tablets for everyone (cause Apple have one tablet at one price point - excluding storage variations).

        Apple can dominate this market, but Apple can not win it in longer run. Simply others OEMs will eventually learn how to make and execute good tablets.

        Also I do not think that Apple can fail.
        przemoli
  • Armageddon- Apple Monopoly - looms?

    The reason monopolies are frowned upon is that they give the holder the freedom to exploit a captive market.

    I can think of nothing worse for consumers and businesses than an Apple monopoly :-(

    Let's hope (pray?) that Android can step up to the plate and provide some decent competition ... or that the Wintel alliance actually produces a decent ultrabook at a tolerable price.
    jacksonjohn
    • RE: The incredible shrinking tablet landscape

      @johnfenjackson@...
      There will be competition, you have Microsoft coming out with Windows 8 and you still have Blackberry... but those companies are focused on enterprise and corporate. Do you really see tablets taking over PC's and laptops in the office? that's where Apple wins, they go after the consumer market. It's the device you use when you get home and sit in the couch.
      Hasam1991
      • RE: The incredible shrinking tablet landscape

        And I dont want to use an iPad when I get home from work. If I was convinced Playbook wasnt going to go the way of the touchpad, I would already own one.

        Looks like I'll be waiting for Windows version
        KenoshaSysAdmin
      • RE: The incredible shrinking tablet landscape

        @KenoshaSysAdmin

        I'm quite happy with my Playbook. It's easy to take with me all day and at home on the sofa is easy to grab and use.
        John Hanks
    • Well then

      @johnfenjackson@...

      Buy some competitors product. Oh wait, folks don't really want "choice" they want "cheap" or at least "cheaper" than Apples offerings.
      oncall
      • What competitors have the iTunes ecosystem?

        @oncall
        What competitors have favorable prices from the supplier?

        None of them?

        Correct.

        We constantly hear that iPad is better because it has 100,000 apps and iTunes. And that is correct. It is why I have an iPad and it is a fantastic device. Hardware is the best. Software is the best. Ecosystem is the best.

        As I was thinking about what tablet to buy though (and immediately realized that the iPad is the only intelligent choice) I was struck by how that argument mirrors the old "buy Windows" argument. No other OS could run the millions of programs that millions of businesses had invested billions of dollars into. No other OS could play in the Active Directory playground or properly access Windows network shares. Eventually the government stepped in and said "enough". MS was forced to open up its proprietary, closed ecosystem so that other OSs could have a chance. MS was forced to add artificial barriers to the user experience until the OS couldn't even ship with a browser and an email program.

        The tablet market is just as sick. No other competitor has a chance to succeed in the iPad market. Will the government step in in this case? Probably not. I am struck however that the same people who decried one market where MS ruled the roost are now happy that this market, the tablet market, is just as sick.

        We all lose.
        toddybottom
      • but in post PC arena the Apple's competitors are NOT cheaper...

        @oncall ..competing tablets are the same or higher priced than iPads and "Ultrabooks" are projected to be same or higher priced than Macbook Airs.. and current Macbook Air are higher performing than the current MacBook Pros.. i.e. you have no point.. you are talking about a reality that existed 5-10yrs ago but not today..
        doctorSpoc
        • in military terms Apple has done a flanking maneuver..

          @toddybottom.. can't really break the MS - Intel jugernaught.. but figured out what people will be using 5-10years out and worked on that... as the Wintel crowd was just doing incremental changes.. new colors and textures Apple throws disruptive game changers in the ring.. look at HP.. Apotheker say's the writing is on the wall mobile is changing everything in the PC bus. and we can't keep up.. we're out.. let's dump our PC bus. on some poor sucker..
          doctorSpoc
      • I buy most of what you say

        @toddybottom

        Except the government intervention part. Because however you look at the iTunes ecosystem, it is only represents a tiny, but profitable, fraction of the entire computing world ecosystem. I don't think consumers best interests, at this point, are served by prying open the iTunes ecosystem so everyone can build iPads without having to sink any money into the effort. Thus taking away any financial impetus to "try something different". How does that serve consumers? It doesn't. So we'll have 50 different variations of iPads churned out by 20 different computer assemblers (not even computer companies), but they will still all be iPads based upon the iTunes ecosystem. Government intervention did not stop Microsoft from continuing it's near compete monopoly on desktop and office operating systems. Consumers best interests are served by companies building devices that distinguish themselves are separate and different enough to warrant purchasing.
        oncall
      • doctorSpoc: I agree with you 100% re flanking maneuver

        Couldn't have said it any better myself.
        toddybottom
      • oncall: I agree, no govt intervention is currently warranted

        @oncall
        Then again, I disagreed with govt intervention in the Microsoft case. Would the iPad and iPhone still have been created had there been no intervention with Microsoft? My belief is "yes". Like doctorspoc wrote: Apple flanked the "competition" by not competing. OS X is still not available for sale on non Macs and Linux is still a failure on the desktop. In my opinion, government intervention actually did very little other than transfer billions of dollars of wealth from MS into government coffers (through fines) and it also damaged the user experience that users get with Windows. It did NOT lead to more competition in the licensed PC OS market. If it worked, it worked only to distract MS so that they couldn't put those resources into improving things like tablet PCs. Even then, I think that effect was minor.

        While I did bring up government intervention a couple times in this blog, I don't do it because I support it. I only do it because it is a possible reality.
        toddybottom
      • You missed my point

        @doctorSpoc

        It's probably my fault. My point it there are many MANY alternative choices to buying Apple products right now. But people don't want "alternate choices" when they scream about Apple having a monopoly, what they want are CHEAP Apple products. You know so we can have Dell, HP, Acer. Lenovo versions of the same darn thing like we have in PC's today.
        oncall
      • RE: The incredible shrinking tablet landscape

        @toddybottom
        You obviously have no idea what was involved when Microsoft was taken to court under anti-trust. I suggest you do a lot of research before spouting off about government interference.

        In my opinion, Microsoft should have been broken into two completely separate companies, as Judge Jackson suggested, but was overruled. So, the monopoly continues on.

        Do the research, it's fascinating.
        linux for me
      • linux: shutup you idiot

        You have no idea what I do or do not know regarding the Microsoft case.
        toddybottom
      • RE: The incredible shrinking tablet landscape

        @doctorSpoc<br><i>.competing tablets are the same or higher priced than iPads </i><br><br>Not true....<br>There are a number of good Android tablets at a price point lower than an iPad equivalent and they are trending lower.<br><br>The challenge for Apple is going to be maintaining a stable price-point moving forward. They are challenged by escalating functionality from Android (they are being out engineered) and they no longer have the supply chain wrapped up at the end of this year.<br><br>I for one am looking forward to a discontinuation of these nonsensical patent litigation's and get everyone back to developing.<br><br>Personally, I don't see Google / MMI having any real hardware impact until late 2012 if that soon.<br><img border="0" src="http://www.cnet.com/i/mb/emoticons/wink.gif" alt="wink">
        rhonin
  • RE: The incredible shrinking tablet landscape

    I say let the tablet market shrink until its no longer in existence.
    LoverockDavidson_-24231404894599612871915491754222
    • RE: The incredible shrinking tablet landscape

      @LoverockDavidson_ Hey look everyone! The troll is back!
      samalie