Dear tablet vendors: if you can't announce a price with your tablet, you're dead to us

Dear tablet vendors: if you can't announce a price with your tablet, you're dead to us

Summary: A few PR weenies will decide to try and pull a fast one, figuring that an announcement of a device without price might fuel some buzz. But you're not going to fool us.


A few moments ago, I read an article that proclaimed, CES 2013: AMD-powered Vizio Tablet PC runs Windows 8. I've generally been intrigued by Vizio's product, so I clicked in.

Sadly, the article ended by stating that there was no price or availability information about the product.

So, let's set the record straight, shall we?

We in the press, and we consumers, are fully aware that vendors are going to be introducing tablets in such quantities that they will all blur together. Everyone has read the numbers and knows the consumer PC business has been decimated by iOS and Android.

We also know that all you vendors are going to do what you do best: introduce commodity products that are barely distinguishable from each other, yet work well enough to get the job done.

With CES this week, you're all likely to jump on the tablet bandwagon. No surprise.

We even know what most of you will be offering. It will either be Android-based or Windows-ish based. You'll be introducing something in the 7-inch range and/or the 10-inch range. It'll have yada-yada battery life, yada-yada screen resolution, and some completely uninteresting memory statistic.

A few of you might showcase something that has some pretty industrial design. A few might decide to go wild and offer electromagnetic induction charging. And, give-or-take a few ounces, your tablet will weigh just about the same as everyone else's.

So where will the difference be? Simple: price.

A full Windows 8 tablet at $199 or $299 is news. One at $599, $699, or $999 or above isn't. Most of you will not introduce products under $500, which means your products will only be bought by some business or another who goes through the slow, boring purchasing process.

In other words, your product will fade into obscurity along with all those generic (but fully useful) PCs out there. Your product will simply have no news value.

Many of you employ seasoned PR professionals, who know this sad fact of life. A few PR weenies will decide to try and pull a fast one, figuring that an announcement of a device without price might fuel some buzz -- before the inevitable disappointment sets in once the sad reality becomes once again apparent. But you're not going to fool us.

If we're bored or we don't have anything else to write about for that hour, we might even give you a few paragraphs of virtual ink. But no one -- no one -- will remember it.

Like I said, you'll be dead to us.

Topics: Tablets, Android, Windows 8


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • You know... I was going to criticise your use of the term 'decimate'...

    But it's actually correct.. one of the rare times I've seen the word used correctly.

    Decimate means 'to remove one in ten', although most people take it to mean 'to reduce to 1/10th' or as synonym for 'devastate', and indeed the PC market is down about 11%.

    That being said, it's not just tablets alone which caused that drop, even if it's a major factor. It's also a question what's actually happening. It's clear that a lot of people were buying PCs when in fact, they really didn't need that much horsepower. That's why netbooks took off so madly. In many ways, tablets are gutting the *netbook* market (which is made all the weirder by the fact that most tablets are more expensive than the netbooks they replaced...)

    However, since netbooks were a huge and rapidly expanded market, it's a chain - netbooks changed the distribution of PCs from big iron and laptops to netbooks and then tablets eroded netbooks.

    But the question remains - is the core market for full PCs any different now? Evidence indicates that it's not changed at all.

    So why aren't the new Win8 tablets and convertables taking off? Two reasons.

    Microsoft has utterly bewildered *everyone* with Win8. Metro is nice for tablets, but you keep finding yourself in desktop mode and that's sucky on a tablet - so you need to carry a keyboard and mouse or trackpad with you all the time (thus their smart covers that have those built in). On desktops, to say Metro is painful is being charitable - but that would be ok if at least the desktop worked as expected - but it doesn't. So Win 8 kind of messes everyone up on both sides. Yes, you can get used to it - but people don't buy a replacement system 'to get used to' something new, and the vast majority of new PC sales are replacement systems.

    Then there's the price. Win8 was seen as the driver to get PC prices back up. Problem is, the market is used to netbook pricing and even in tablets, Android pricing. Price and choice is what pushed Android past iOS in the smartphone market, and it's doing the same in tablets. PC makers want to charge premium pricing for tablets - but even *Apple* isn't doing that. There's a reason the iPad mini is only $350.

    In the end, OEMs are trapped trying to keep a foot on both sides of a canyon. Either they have to go cheap and build market (volume, volume, volume) which is a dangerous game - or go large and build amazing, but expensive, devices that grab the consumer's attention.. and that's something most OEMs just don't know how to do.
    • Absolutely excellent analysis

      This is a great example of how well-informed and insightful our community is. Thanks, Wolf!
      David Gewirtz
      • Yes David, I agree.

        But I am disturbed that you fail to mention that Microsoft was/is a grand partner is the scheme to announce new products with no price or availability (including Surface).

        Does that mean I can jump up and down because Microsoft is dead to you? They sure are dead to my wallet.
    • Dear tablet vendors: if you can't announce a price with your tablet, you're

      in the same token, k-mart failed to position itself whether to become a walmart on the downscale market or a macys on the upscale market, and went down in flames. the pc market is cannibalizing itself in the last few years trying to reinvent itself. nobody knows by then what the eventual form factor will be acceptable to consumers and businesses, and so manufacturers kind of started flinging everything on the wall and hope some would stick. in the process they tested several pricing models that eventually became their achilles heels ...
    • Re: There's a reason the iPad mini is only $350.

      Unfortunately, since the coming of the Nexus 7, $350 IS premium pricing.
      • Still too Expensive for what you get.

        The mini is rather late on the scene in trying to compete with the flood of cheaper Chinese tablets some of which have more/better features yet half that price.
        • The problem with cheap Chinese tablets

          is that they only compete on price. Their build quality, support, warranty
          service are sorely lacking. So the 1st tier makers still dominate. The best
          thing I can say about the cheap Chinese tablets is that they are disposable.
    • Decimation and Windows 8

      I'm with you on decimate. Centurions, not to mention more senior officers would line up the troops - perhaps the conquered enemy (whose numbers were generally legion) and count off, subsequently topping every 10th man. No one I've ever spoken to has known this.

      Also with you on Windows *. My plan to buy a laptop at a big box store died the day they switched to Win8 (even though Microsoft is OK with stores selling Win7 for another couple of years. So I'll have to buy that laptop from a computer specialty store where they value tradition:)


      Carl Edgar
    • The future, not the present, will tell if MS was right

      Microsoft can read the tea leaves as well as anyone: touch devices in particular were the hot new technology taking the world by storm. Their legacy OS was not up to providing a compelling user experience on such devices...we know this because Windows-based touch devices preceded iPads by a long margin but drew little to no interest. Windows 8 is a necessary, intermediate step to the new paradigm. It starts breaking links to the past, links that must be broken to move forward in the future world. Until Microsoft built Windows 8, there was no reason for OEMs to release hardware to support this paradigm, so now we wait for hardware vendors to catch up. Enterprises typically adopt ever other version of windows, and there is no driving factor to move to it until the user base is sufficiently familiar with it by using their own devices, or when hardware making use of it is plentiful and cheap. I will give them credit for providing some benefit, my 6 year old desktop at home is running like a young buck again. But I really don't think you'll see the true wisdom (or can judge ultimate failure) of Microsoft's decision until well into the Windows 9 era.
  • Who was the tablet maker again?

    I already forgot.
    • Microsoft. But I understand...

      ...most of their stuff is forgettable even though many have to use it!
  • Fully agree

    After having read an announcement I mostly forget about the product itself because often enough it takes months until the product becomes available. This is so ridiculous. The market is spinning so fast that products come and go at an ever increasing rate.

    I bet had Microsoft released WinRT and Win8 in 2013 together with a bunch of devices including both MS surface tablets (all at the same time in a big bang) sales figures would look much better after 3 months.
    Surface RT is already vanishing my memories because it's still not available in quantities and Surface Pro is what ... ?

    Oh my god ... wasn't there a Nokia flagship phone announced somewhere in 2012 ... damn it, it's still not available where I live. But in the meantime I don't care anymore cuz a dozen new handsets have hit the shelfs.
  • Decimated?

    "Everyone has read the numbers and knows the consumer PC business has been decimated by iOS and Android."


    Okay, show me the numbers.
    • As TheWerewolf noted above...

      'decimate' actually means remove 1 in 10. Are PC sales down by 10%? Yes, and more (and by 'PC' I'm including Macs).
      • The numbers, please

        Apparently "Everyone has read the numbers," so I'd like to see them, please.
        • This is true

          Agreed CobraA1, where are the numbers, I am sick of articles which have no official stats of what is going on in the market, stats people, it is all about stats.
  • That's Exactly What Microsoft Did With Surface

    If you remember, Microsoft was very coy about price and performance figures for its Surface products until just about the last minute. Yet I got heavily downvoted for pointing out that this very likely meant they would be overpriced, underpowered products. Which turned out to be exactly what they were.

    So Windows products continue to follow exactly the same pattern, why is that so surprising? At this point, only the most fanatical Microsoft fanbois are still taking Windows seriously in the post-PC era.
  • +1

    Well said.