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This Week in Tablets: The iPad effect is real, as is the Dropbox problem

For online or phone orders, Apple's new iPad arrived in a brown box, just like every other UPS delivery. Unlike the Apple stores (which also seemed fairly tame), there was no fanfare, shining lights, no screaming or weak-kneed fan boys. Just a delivery man with the usual smile.

The package itself was discrete. A brown box with "AI" and 12510 Micro Drive, Mira Loma Drive 91752 on the label. Business as usual. Well, kind of.

I guess the truth about the third-generation iPad is that the public response to tablets is finally beginning to normalise. The whole phenomenon is starting to feel more like a business transaction than divine intervention.

That's a good thing, ultimately. Like most other outlets, TabTimes has expended a lot of words describing and defining the impact Apple's new tablet is having on work and business.

All of it is very exciting. But I can't help but think that this release marks the completion of the foundation of this revolution.

We'll still see dramatic improvements in the space. Tablet utilisation, apps, deployment, and software development will certainly continue to grow. There's a tremendous upside here. But from a hardware perspective, the platform is beginning to feel somewhat dialed in.

The Retina Display epitomises the notion of the peak tablet. Frankly speaking, the fact that anything can make the iPad 2-state of the art until, um, last week-seem obsolete is dumbfounding. And while tablet manufacturers around the globe have a new standard to contemplate, tablet resolutions aren't likely to get much higher anytime soon.

And why should they? When you reach the point where you can't see any pixels on the screen, there's no need.

Of course, there's more to the iPad than the display. There's a quad-core GPU that's pushing an extra 2.8 million pixels around. There's built-in voice recognition, which is essentially an abridged version of Siri, sans AI fetch and response.

And more importantly for content creators, there's a new HD camera and new photo and video editing tools. Again, however, we're not likely to see too many more ground-breaking additions to the hardware platform itself.

The iPad effect

Do you know what else is important about this third iPad release? It's drawing more attention to and creating more pent-up demand for tablets than ever before. This is known as the iPad effect. Right now, there's only one real alternative-Android-but the event horizon for Windows 8 is only six months away.

In fact, if the numbers IDC recently reforecast regarding worldwide tablet sales are to be believed, the iPad effect is very real. Android tablet market share is already approaching the 50 per cent mark.

Even if the Apple side of the equation is being underestimated, this is still a surprising figure.

Earlier this week, I experienced the iPad effect first hand. My friend John, who just opened a bike shop on downtown San Francisco's main drag, Market Street, called me on Tuesday to talk tablets. The new iPad release was creating a trickle-down opportunity for him and his small business.

"I have an opportunity to buy an old iPad for cheap," he told me. "Should I do it?"

I asked John what he would use a tablet for. Nothing fancy, but more work than play. At that point, I realised that because John already had an Android smartphone, it might make more sense for him to use an Android tablet. His familiarity and the fact that all the apps he'd already purchased would be immediately available made sense to me.

I ended up recommending as much. John got his hands on an Acer Iconia A500 and is now a happy guy. Chances are this tablet will lead to 2-3 others that will eventually be hard- and soft-mounted all over Market Street Cycles.

The point here is that all the attention the iPad is drawing will be more and more beneficial for Android tablet manufacturers. The big question is whether or not it will be too late for Windows 8 tablets to make any kind of splash.

Given the growth projections-IDC is talking about almost 200 million tablets being sold by 2016-it seems like there will be ample opportunity. And who knows? Maybe Microsoft will be able to create its very own Windows effect for tablets.

The Dropbox Problem

Over the last few weeks, we've seen a few different entries into the shared and cloud storage space. Microsoft is making a big deal out of the integration of SkyDrive into Windows 8. In the meantime, both YouSendIt and GroupLogic - established enterprise software development companies-have also seen the light.

Both companies have announced storage solutions, each with a twist that reflects the companies' primary missions.

In YouSendIt's case, the focus is on sharing and collaborating on files via email. In GroupLogic's case, the emphasis is on multiple installation options, including the ability to host data-sharing servers either on-premise or in the cloud.

Not surprisingly, security is paramount for both software developers. Both solutions are attempts to resolve what is commonly referred to in enterprise circles as the Dropbox problem, i.e. organisations where workers set up Dropbox accounts without permission, and in using these accounts on tablets and other devices, compromise corporate security.

The trick for YouSendIt and GroupLogic is that both companies have developed large, loyal customer bases that they can sell these shared-storage solutions into. I'm betting that if you're already using GroupLogic software and services, implementing activEcho is probably an easier leap than committing to Ditto YouSendIt and Workstream.

The nice thing about the emergence of these Dropbox alternatives is that we're starting to see some standards emerging that are based on real-world corporate usage, and not consumer needs. Black/whitelists, AES encryption, remote file/data wiping. This is what the enterprise needs.

I confess to being kind of surprised that Dropbox hasn't more aggressively pursued an enterprise-oriented version of its cloud-sharing service. Given the energy around it at the corporate level, I guarantee you the guys at Dropbox are thinking about it.

This week's winner

Despite Apple's remarkable success with the third-generation iPad, this week's winner is Android. I've been a vociferous complainer about the OS fragmentation, the lack of Google support for Android tablet manufacturers, and the flaws in the OS. But by basically drafting Apple, Google's mobile tablet operating system has already achieved a 45 per cent tablet market share. It only gets more popular from here, too.

This week's loser

Don't let the company's momentary stock rise fool you. It is becoming increasingly clearer that RIM's PlayBook is going to be the odd man out on the tablet front. Lost in the shuffle of IDC's most recent forecast revision was the fact that in Q4 2011, market share for the BlackBerry PlayBook declined to 0.7 per cent from 1.1 per cent.

With Windows 8 on the horizon, I am not optimistic that PlayBook market share will ever grow much beyond a few percentage points. Despite the Android fragmentation, the PlayBook is too much of an island in a sea of competing platforms.

On the horizon

So, over the course of the next few weeks, we'll all begin to use our new iPads in a more practical and less starry-eyed way. I for one am very happy about that. We'll certainly see a flood of app updates as developers optimise their art and image assets for the new iPad's 2,048 x 1,536 display.

And with each week that passes, we're getting closer and closer to the release of Windows 8, and consequently, Win8 tablets. It's hard to believe that we're only 3-4 months away from the RTM build.

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