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This Week in Tablets: The new iPad plays great defence, but what about 4G providers?

In some ways, this week felt like a five-day hangover. After the frenzy of the new iPad launch hit a crescendo last Friday, consumers, businesses, media companies, journalists, industry analysts and probably even Apple found themselves asking "What now?"

In a classic vacuum fill, the answer started to take on shades of a technological witch hunt as the entire writer side of the tablet ecosystem first turned its hunger on Apple, and then itself.

Within 48 hours, the first wave of "What's wrong with the iPad" stories began to post.

First up? The new iPad was too hot. Writers with access to thermal imaging tools sounded the alarm that the tablet's new thermals were raising internal temperatures to levels ten degrees warmer than the iPad 2.

Irrelevant, said Apple and the second wave of pundits hitting this story agreed. Ten extra degrees Farenheit might make your lap a little warmer, but would have no impact on device longevity.

The second wave of attacks? Wi-Fi connection issues were slowing down data rates on wireless networks. Apple has yet to respond, but it appears that these concerns have been overblown.

The final attack of the week? A change in the polarity of the Smart Cover sensors on the new iPad created incompatibilities with older-generation Smart Covers and some third-party Smart Cover-compatible cases. This accusation rang true.

The new iPad creates interesting ramifications for telecom operators

Lost in the shuffle of all these accusations and rebuffed accusations is the fact that the iPad, it turns out, is a pretty remarkable device. Don't believe me? Consider this: Six years ago, the same level of processing power short-circuited thousands of Microsoft Xbox 360s, to the point where Microsoft absorbed a $1 billion write-off to cover the costs of repairs.

This said, it is rapidly becoming clear that the next generation of extra-high resolution tablets are going to present a challenge for the world's telecom operators.

On the same day that reports began to surface that new iPad users were draining their new 4G LTE data plans after only a week, I discovered the same. On a BART car coming back from downtown SF the Wednesday after the new iPad release-that's five days-I maxed out my 2GB 4G LTE data plan.

Double the resolution equals double the data (those Full HD movies are big!), which means a more rapid draining of wireless plans. This quick-drain will be increasingly compounded by the higher frequency of usage by the general public as tablets begin to permeate the mainstream.

That's when things become tricky for mobile network operators. They're winning big now, but barring a price adjustment or change in packaging, the AT&Ts and Verizons are going to begin losing customers in the tablet space, as more and more consumers eschew higher-priced 4G tablet SKUs in favour of Wi-Fi versions.

At some point, even corporate customers will balk at data packages in excess of $50 and choose to deploy Wi-Fi-only tablets for rank and file employees. After all, if $30 only buys you five days of 4G tablet use, you're probably going to think twice about using it.

Mark my words: The operator that addresses this problem first in the form of more 4G data for less is going to clean up. Maybe the answer is a reversion to 3G with unlimited data plans and reduced rates?

In the meantime and not surprisingly, the new iPad is setting sales records once again, with over three million devices sold in its opening weekend alone. That's almost $1 billion in profit for three days of sales.

No wonder Apple is spending $45 billion on shareholder dividends and buying back shares.

Dropbox competition

At this rate, watching companies gunning for Dropbox by introducing cloud-oriented storage solutions of their own might become a weekly check in.

The assault on Dropbox continues from all sides, companies, and countries, and it's clear that the popularity of tablets is playing a role in the surge.

Last week I talked about how YouSendIt and GroupLogic had recently announced Dropbox competitors for enterprise customers.

This week, SugarSync announced a new tablet-optimised front end for its service. And at the end of the week, Chinese search engine leader Baidu launched its own cloud storage platform for Windows and Android, with iOS and Mac platforms to come.

Cloud storage is rapidly becoming a commoditised feature for any and all cloud-based subscription services.

I guarantee you this; there are more to come.

This week's loser

The Wall Street Journal. Over the past week, while many newspapers and content providers have updated their apps to account for the new iPad's Retina Display, the Wall Street Journal has not. The end result is a muddied mediocre look for one of the most popular news reads on the planet.

This week's winner

At the Toshiba World show in Germany, the electronics and tablet manufacturer raised eyebrows when it announced that it was releasing the AT330 13.3in tablet with a digital TV tuner and a built-in antenna. Practical? No. Well, maybe yes.

For more of our lives than not, we've lived with TVs in the 13in range. Those TVs were all bulky and large. So maybe Toshiba is onto something here?

Okay, it's a long shot. But either way, Toshiba raised eyebrows and cast itself in an innovative light. That's important in a week where the whole tablet ecosystem found itself asking whether or not the iPad was hitting such a high note technologically that platform evolution would begin to slow.

On the horizon

It's highly likely that in the coming week, we'll see at least one or two other descriptions of flaws in the new iPad. Chances are, however, that the tablet is free from fatal flaws. With three million devices already on the market for more than a week, we'd know about any problems if they already existed.

Aside from this? It's wide open, thankfully. We'll likely start hearing more and more about Windows 8 tablet devices. And at some point, we should start actually seeing and hearing about real Android ICS tablets in the wild.

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