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This Week in Tablets: OnLive gets busted, media matters, and Apple's iPad stunner

Last year, I could have wrapped up This Week in Tablets in about 60 seconds. Back then, Apple would have been the only thing that would have mattered in the the four-week iPad launch period we're currently operating in.

Announcement: March 7. Release: March 16. Rampant speculation for a week before the public debut. Rampant reactions for a week after the iPad ships.

It's a sure sign of the tablet market's vibrancy and growth that in March 2012, there's a whole lot more to talk about in terms of tablets and business.

This Week in Tablets has a lot of ground to cover. We'll get to Apple in a bit.

When virtual Windows desktops attack!

OnLive, a company known for its no-lag virtual gaming service, has made waves with some fairly brash proclamations about the performance of its virtual Windows Desktop and Desktop Plus products for iPad and Android tablets. These boasts have attracted considerable attention from the media.

Citrix, a company that has been making virtual Windows environments for years, was usually on the butt-end of most of these remarks.

OnLive CEO and founder Steve Perlman consistently and derogatorily pointed out how much faster the Windows experience was on OnLive Desktop than Citrix's Receiver app.

At the end of the week, however, an NBA-sized sneaker fell out of the sky directly onto the upstart virtual service.

Microsoft VP of worldwide licensing and pricing Joe Matz posted on the Microsoft Volume Licensing blog that OnLive's use of Windows in its virtual Desktop app for the iPad and Android tablets is in violation of Microsoft's licensing terms. Whoops!

Unable to resist the opportunity to exact some payback, Citrix senior director of product marketing Calvin Hsu wrote a blog post of his own. This one was entitled "Thank you, OnLive Desktop. Thank you."

In the candid and confrontational post (which begins with "Wow, where to begin"), Hsu references OnLive's hubris, the market's concern that OnLive had struck a special deal with Microsoft, and the fact that several writers and analysts have also taken umbrage with OnLive's service and model.

Hsu also used the opportunity to point out a few advantages he says Citrix' solution has over OnLive, including a more touch-optimized desktop experience.

Nivio, another virtual Windows desktop client that is more targeted at students, also couldn't resist commenting, stating that company has licensed Windows the right way for its product.

Bottom line: Yes, the reactions were a little catty, but turnaround is fair play, right?

There is no way OnLive doesn't suffer some losses here. Will OnLive's licensing fees escalate to a prohibitive level? Will OnLive have to shut down its nascent service in order to rework its product to meet Microsoft's licensing structure? Will Microsoft work with OnLive to define a unique licensing structure?

Joe Matz said in his blog post that Microsoft is "actively engaged with OnLive with the hope of bringing them into a properly licensed scenario." In other words, they'll work it out.

In the meantime, assuming that negotiations don't price OnLive Desktop out of the market, the negative publicity shouldn't hurt the company that much. In the meantime, Citrix' retort confirms that the company does in fact see OnLive as a threat.

Media matters

The media space continues to evolve and, much like web-based publishing in the mid-1990s, ad standards are lagging way behind content.

At Financial Times' Digital Media Conference 2012 conference earlier this week, a panel of advertising executives unanimously agreed that mobile advertising is getting big enough that the current lack of standards is becoming a real problem.

"It's hard to buy a mobile ad campaign," StrikeAd's Tim Finn said. That is a problem.

The industry's need is going to open doors for intrepid ad networks and providers. It's easy to envision companies like Celtra Inc, which publishes a self-service ad platform named AdCreator, gaining massive traction and critical mass.

Early movers don't always win big in the digital ad space on new platforms. But second movers quite often do. This space bears watching.

And finally, Apple

Could Apple script a better week for itself?

Considering the week started with everyone speculating about the iPad and that it finished with the iPad saving a man's life at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, probably not.

And in between all that, of course, the new iPad was announced.

My take? All on its own, the 2,048 x 1,536 Retina Display will be more stunning than people can imagine. Even the crustiest, jaded tech editors found themselves in awe, even if they proclaimed a lack of enthusiasm for the other new features.

I'll skip the granular look at the new iPad's specifications (Short version: Retina Display, A5X processor with quad-core graphics, 5MP iSight camera, 4G LTE access), but some interesting consequences bear contemplation. In no particular order:

No 4G hotspots on AT&T. As reported, while the Verizon version of the new iPad will allow owners to use their tablet as a mobile hotspot for other device, the AT&T version will not.

For the launch, both versions are sold out, and with this week's announcement that AT&T would be throttling data rates for heavy data users with unlimited plans, the wireless operator really isn't doing itself any favors.

What's in a name? Say what you will about the name, but the real-time reaction the nameless new iPad elicited from the pundits over the course of Apple's announcement was priceless. As the presentation went on, the snark and smug tones of the live bloggers slowly morphed into an anxious, almost desperate yearning to know the name. Any name.

When the smoke cleared, and it was clear that the new iPad's name was the new iPad, the anti-climax was complete. Somewhere Steve Jobs was smiling. I guarantee it.

Say what you will about the name, it got everyone talking. And, while Apple's Phil Schiller said the company didn't want to be predictable with the name, TabTimes' Doug Drinkwater rightly points out that this is probably an important step for the iPad.

Is another announcement pending? If you're like me and find yourself surprised that Apple appears to be ceding the 7in form-factor to Amazon and other tablet makers, it might be time to rethink this assumption.

As TechCrunch's Amit Runchal astutely pointed out, Apple has a long history of making fairly substantial secondary announcements in early June at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, which is also in San Francisco.

Chances are we'll hear about and see iOS 6.0 there. It also seems like a great opportunity to unveil the 7in tablet that has generated so much gossip.

Enterprise adoption of new iPads? If I was an IT buyer, I'd think twice before dropping dollars down on new iPads, particularly since the iPad 2 now costs $100 less. That said, there are some specific industries and professions that stand to benefit from the Retina Display, voice dictation, and more.

This week's winner

The Economist's Oscar Grut. The former digital editions managing editor was promoted to the title of managing director for all of the Economist's digital operations. This is no small task because it encompasses both the app and the web editions of the brand, all of which continue to grow.

Since the Economist launched its iPad app in November 2010, the company claims it has generated over one million readers on phones and tablets.

This week's loser

In a week where Apple dominated headlines and coverage, there is no real loser. Why? Because the more iPads Apple sells, the more tablets all manufacturers will sell. It's the bellwether for the industry.

These are still early days, and with Forrester predicting that 34% of all adult Americans will own a tablet by 2016, there are going to be lots of opportunities for other tablet manufacturers.

On the horizon

Sad but true: We're all holding our breath until the release of the new iPad on Friday, March 16.

I spent almost two hours on the phone waiting to order one, and I'm glad I stuck it out. Apple sold out of iPads for the March 16 release, so if you buy one now, you won't get it until the following week.

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