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This Week in Tablets: Why smart tablet makers are diversifying for the long haul

A large gene pool indicates extensive genetic diversity, which is associated with robust populations that can survive bouts of intense selection.

This is the first sentence of the Wikipedia entry for Gene pool, and a few hundred years of human history appear to confirm that this notion can be pretty easily applied to the machines we make as well.

If you're following the tablet scene, it's probably already beginning to dawn on you that we're watching one of those rare and literal evolutionary explosions. Not surprisingly, diversity is rapidly becoming the key to survival.

Tablet manufacturers are clearly beginning to understand the opportunities that exist, and the smart companies are already experimenting, extending, and expanding their reach. Or they're clearing out.

Consider the news about Apple and Amazon. Both companies are in leadership positions, and both are rumoured to be working on multiple new form-factors for their existing lines of tablets.

In the case of Apple, it's 5in or possibly 7in device. In the case of Amazon, it's rumours about a multitude of different devices, including the possibility of a 10in tablet and some lower-cost 7in models.

This is not surprising news. Both companies are in dominant, leader/influencer positions, and have successfully fused hardware and software utility in a way that very few technology or computing companies ever have, historically speaking.

More importantly, Apple and Amazon both appear to understand that a larger technological gene pool will ensure longer-term survival for their products.

When does "good enough" become the majority?

Plenty of opportunities still abound for Android and Windows 8 tablet manufacturers, however. As TabTimes contributor Larry Magid recently explained, the notion of "good enough" tablet computing will carry the day for millions of consumers and businesses.

While the new iPad and even the Kindle Fire are remarkable feats of engineering, there are many consumers out there who, not having been privy to the first stages of this tablet revolution, would be happy to use any tablet.

For most people in the world, the ability to check email, play games, and work from any location remains a magical proposition, regardless of the prestige, cachet, or convenience of the most recent tablet offerings.

Sound familiar? It should-the same thing happened with automobiles 100 years ago, with personal computers 30 years ago, and with phones 10 years ago.

In two years, people all over the world will be using tablets ranging in size from 5in to 13in. What's really scary is that even by the year 2014, we still won't have reached a saturation point for these devices.

Smart tablet makers will recognise this and begin to embrace more innovative approaches to size, shape, and function.

This might explain why Google is becoming more and more aggressive around tablet devices, if rumours about co-branded Google tablets are to be believed. When you consider the company's inherent ties to mobile via the cloud, success on the tablet platform becomes even more of an imperative for the search giant.

Relentless Dropbox attacks

Last week, I joked that This Week in Tablets should begin tracking the Dropbox competition on a weekly basis. It's time to stop joking. Over the past seven days, we saw more announcements of cloud storage and cloud service competitors, and these solutions are beginning to go way past what Dropbox is capable of.

Early in the week, QuickOffice announced its Connect syncing service. Enterprise solutions firm Accellion also talked up its kitedrive cloud syncing service with a direct attack on Dropbox. And announced OneCloud, an innovative mobile cloud that allows users to not just access files, but use apps, annotate documents, and more.

And, to top it all off, earlier this week, rumours circulated that Google will soon be jumping into the space with its own Google Cloud Drive offering, complete with 5GB of free data.

The truth is that data storage is cheap, and monthly subscription fees can quickly add up. At just $10 a month, a paying base of 100,000 users adds up to $12 million a year in revenue against costs that are considerably lower than this.

And that's the low end of the scale. On the enterprise side, prices will range from $15 to $50 per seat, per month.

The big question is this: What is Dropbox going to do about this? It would be easy to argue that, if everyone is ripping you off, you're doing something right. But at some point, Dropbox is going to begin losing market share and revenue.

This week's winner: Comcast

The company has been generating lots of attention for its Xfinity Home system, which provides home automation and security via a tablet-shaped console. Not surprisingly, you can use your iPad to monitor webcams in your home, turn on lights throughout the house, and more.

The service is already available in some regions now, and will be available in the SF Bay Area later this month. At the most basic level, you'll get four window/door sensors, a motion detector, a wireless keypad, a keychain remote, and the aforementioned touch screen device, and the package scales upwards from there.

This week's loser: RIM

A $125 million loss. A 20 per cent drop in revenue from the previous quarter. A shakeup at the executive level (including co-CEO Jim Balsillie). A public ceding of the consumer space to its rivals. And a retrenching around its enterprise clientele. Things are not looking good for Research in Motion.

When a company says it will stop offering guidance on its performance, that's a bad sign for investors. This is a classic example of technological inbreeding, and I'm pretty sure that going back to the company's enterprise roots will be the salvation for the BlackBerry line.

On the horizon: Windows 8

The closer we get to summer, the more we're going to hear about Windows 8.

I've been using the OS on a touch-screen All in One PC for a while, and I'm a little concerned about its prospects as a desktop OS. There's no START button for starters, and it's just not clear to me how useful the metro interface could be in a work or even a home environment.

On the other hand, as far as tablet operating systems go, it's a step in the right direction. By offering an intriguing counterpoint to the browse-app-icon mode of tablet operations, it should be able to survive as other ecosystems begin to die out.

Sometimes it doesn't feel like it, but we're still in the early days of tablets. Over the long term, tablet diversity will equal tablet longevity.

Originally published by: TabTimes (opens in new tab).