World War Tablet: The $200 Strategy
[This article is the first of a two-part series that examines today’s tablet industry and reports the latest updates on releases for this year’s gadget releases]
In 1945, the United States revealed to the world a weapon so powerful that it would change the world forever. It not only initiated a scramble by nations worldwide to recreate the weapon for their own, it fortified US dominance over all nations through this destructive yet exceptionally innovative weapon. In 2010, Apple did the same for the tablet computer, inciting the spark that led to today’s fiery and competitive skirmish among technology’s giants to control the propitious territory that is the tablet industry.
When Apple Inc. released the revolutionizing iPad, it presented itself as an electronic gadget so unexpectedly ahead of its time that it caught the electronic market by surprise. Led by none other than Steve Jobs the Einstein and Oppenheimer of today’s digital age, the world saw the reformation of the tablet industry and the rapid ascension of Apple to the top of global gadget prevalence.
To be precise, the timeline describing the growth of the industry mirrors various aspects of our historical conflicts. The revelation of the atomic bomb by the United States ultimately propelled hasty initiatives by wary rival nations accentuated through the Cold War. In stark similarity, fellow tech giants Samsung and Asus emulating the former Soviet Union and China were quick to utilize their resources and research to imitate the feat that Apple achieved in the e-world.
An arms race, to put it in the words of history is what we are seeing in today’s tablet industry. Such was engaged by Germany and Great Britain in the early 1900s and between the United States and the USSR throughout the Cold War. In turn, what we see today is an arms race between mankind’s electronic giants led by Apple and followed closely by Samsung, with both possessing short run aims to stay ahead while maintaining the end goal of absolute dominance.
Yet, in truth, the war has merely started and new opponents have since entered the battlefield. The name Amazon, once known for e-readers and online shopping, has not long ago opted to engage in the broadening clash of technology giants. Released in late 2011, the Kindle Fire prompted the struggle toward a whole new level that would correspond to many of the features championed by the leading products of Apple and Samsung. For nearly half a year that dominance was held, until rumors hit blogs worldwide of the decision by another great power to embark into the industry.
Already famous for their search engine and Android operating system run by many tablets including the Kindle Fire, the decision by Google to enter the brand new sector of the $200 tablet has already reached the discussions of tech bloggers and whispers within the industry. Its dominance online including Google Maps, Gmail and even Google+, a device that would tie this together was considered by some to be a deal breaker.
According to Casey Johnston of Ars Technica, “Google… has likely become tired of seeing Android tablets of any size get released and flounder, and flounder, and flounder. So it has taken control of the situation by offering a compelling device, under its own brand, at a price other Android vendors probably can’t match.”
So what has triggered the sudden interest in these appealing new products that have stolen the pockets of millions from the already prosperous iPad? The answer is obvious: the price. Apple’s iPad series are truly magnificent products, yet their price for many was the key to rallying consumers towards the $200 tablet sector.
In only a week of release, the Kindle Fire portrayed how popular the category was as it continued to sell a million tablets per week. Yet Google’s introduction of the Google Nexus 7 only a few weeks ago depicted specifications that clearly outplayed the Kindle Fire in every class. Boasting a screen resolution of 1280×800 along with an Nvidia quad-core Tegra 3 processor clocking at 1.2GHZ, the Fire’s 1024×600 screen and dual-core 1-GHz TI OMAP4 processor fails in comparison especially with a matching price of $200 for 8GB memory and the potential for 16 GB for an additional $49.
In the words of Rich Jaroslovsky of Bloomberg: “The Nexus 7 obliterates every reason for buying the current Kindle, and sets a high bar for whatever Amazon comes up with to replace it.”
Moreover, David Pogue, the New York Times gadget reviewer in chief, not only “loves the Nexus 7″ but believes in its potential to rival the iPad.
With glowing reviews continuing to emerge from tech sites and blogs and early reports of commercial success, the Nexus 7 has taken this tablet category by storm and unquestionably underlines Google’s intention of staying ahead of the competition. Though its success will be definite for the time being there is still much competition to recognize in the long run.
As a matter of fact, Amazon is not sitting around to watch the Nexus 7 overwhelm their Kindle Fire as its plans out its counter-attack involving the long awaited Kindle Fire 2. While over the past months tech blogs were chiefly concerned with its rumors and leaks, the unveiling of the Nexus 7 transformed their emphasis towards what the Fire 2 needs for success.
Information Week highlights 10 things that the Fire 2 needs to top the Nexus 7 essentially being a better display, a front end camera, a prettier package (casing), 16 GB of storage, 4G wireless, Quad-Core CPU, lighter load (weight), Near Field Communication (wireless transaction), better graphics and gaming with lastly the availability of a micro SD slot.
With Digitimes reporting that 2 million units of Fire 2 are expected to ship starting at the end of July, the latest leaks are no doubt Amazon’s attempt at keeping customers at bay for a couple weeks as the Nexus 7 is already being shipped to stores.
Though the stakes are very high, the competition is not merely restricted to the newcomers. Apple themselves have been rumored to enter the market with the potential yet mysterious so-called iPad mini. In contrary to Steve Jobs who argued that “[the 7-inch] size isn’t sufficient to create great tablet apps in our opinion,” reports emerging from South Korea, China and Taiwan have revealed that orders have been placed by Apple for 7.86 screen tablets while Bloomberg quotes that two people with knowledge of the plans put the iPad mini to be released by the end of the year.
Though such rumors have often been the victim of a hit-or-miss affair, CNN reports that “more analysts have begun to believe that the arrival of a smaller iPad is a matter of “when,” not “if.” In fact, Apple has much to gain from engaging in this sector of the industry. Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne Agee, explains that “from a competitive standpoint, we believe an iPad mini with a lower price point would be the competition’s worst nightmare, most (competitors) already have a tough enough time competing against the iPad 2, as well as the new iPad.”
Furthermore, research firm IDC reports that an iPad mini “will keep Apple’s share above the 60 percent bar for the foreseeable future. Apple’s tablet line overall would account for 60.8 percent of the market in 2016.” In other words, Apple would assume dominance within the global tablet market for the next 4 years.
On the other hand, some bloggers have pointed out that the iPad mini will simply use old components from primarily the iPad 2. In the words of Eric Lai from ZD Net, “Apple is copying what it’s done successfully with the iPhone in the last 2 years: sell what are essentially older versions to the price-sensitive mass market and avoid cannibalizing its high-end while stealing away users from Android.”
Far be it to keep our eyes on these three tech giants, two other equally influential companies – bookstore giant Barnes and Nobles with their Nook tablets along with the already famous Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) – have already seeded themselves into the market. However, the attention of the public remains aimed at the former three with high expectations for each to potentially dominate the market with its latest features. Though both the Nook and the Galaxy Tab remain attractive products, both companies need to keep up with the fast-paced upgrades of the Big 3 companies of this category.
Through it all the $200 tablet industry delivers the same experience that iPad users can have ranging from e-books, web browsing, email, social media and streaming media. Why settle for an extra couple hundred dollars when much of the same experience can be attained by the far less expensive tablets?
Nevertheless, the fact remains that “anything goes” in the tablet industry. Years ago, the possibility of Google or Amazon engaging in hardware competition, let alone going head to head in a particular market, was out of the question and inconceivable.
In the end, and for the time being, Google’s Nexus 7 is the best 7-inch tablet out there, gathering support from iPad lovers and reviewers worldwide. However if you are patient enough, both the Kindle Fire 2 and the iPad mini continues to emanate a glowing prospect that may just be able to exceed your expectations.