Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Imminent Tablet Wars: A View From the Tank

By guest contributor J. Philip Rice
Edited by Kevin McFall

This discussion started off with a simple prediction: Apple’s iPad2 will beat the Cisco Cius and the RIM Playbook. The Media Mafia threw in its support of the Motorola Xoom as a best in class device. When we got down to debating the ‘why’ of the matter, we came to the realization that a pending battle on the tablet front was about to take place and the Media Mafia was not about to be content to simply take a view from the sidelines. So, we invited special guest contributor J. Philip Rice to provide his enthusiastic, and thorough view point on which device(s) he expects will emerge from this hardware battle royale.

From my perspective, Motorola’s Xoom will sell to the Droid fan base, similar to how the iPad is selling to iPhone/iPod fanatics. The Cisco Cius is directed at OEM's, otherwise you would already see (although maybe one is coming?) a Linksys version sold into the retail channel. To date, Cisco doesn't have a retail buzz product to compliment Cius, but we will wait and see as the early birds, also known as those with first mover advantage always get the worm.

On the other hand, the Research In Motiion (RIM) Playbook is a total uphill climb. I see it reaching a V2 iteration and then dying off. RIM is quickly facing the same future as Palm as others duplicate their value proposition. It will definitely be a tough road for them going forward. Without BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), the middleware software package that is part of the BlackBerry wireless platform, they would be in trouble.

I have also seen the prototype HP/Win7 tablet (no longer available). It always boils down to the same issues of trying to run Windows with your finger or pen/stylus. HP-Palm WebOS is a fantastic smartphone/tab OS and the new HP tab based on it will be good, but the market will be so crowded soon to the point of saturation. HTC, the maker of the Sprint EVO, just released the Flyer tab, but it appears to be a toss together until they can put a real Android 3 tab together.

Motorola’s Xoom has HTC beat in this category, however, don't discount HTC just yet, they have some good product dev people working there. The next question is whether or not Nokia will make a Windows Mobile7 based tab? If they do, it will be a total wildcard and probably another year before we see it. The prediction is that we would probably see a Nokia MeeGo tab first. Apple who fired the opening salvo selling 14.5 million iPads in 2010 made the world go nuts.

And now for some of the reasons why the Apple iPad2 will win the war…

  • The operating system iOS4 is more enterprise friendly with multi-tasking, consolidated mail capabilities and more. Android hasn’t taken off in the corporate world, which could make it a liability to the device manufacturers choosing this O/S. RIM’s Playbook however, could also suffer as connecting a new OS to the corporate enterprise is something infrastructure managers do with great caution.
  • The iPad 2 will have two cameras, offering the ability for users to snap photos and engage in video conferencing. For corporate users, video conferencing is extremely important, which is why both the Cisco Cius and the RIM BlackBerry PlayBook will offer that functionality. Considering the iPad 2 likely will, as well, Cisco and RIM won’t have a competitive advantage over Apple.
  • Size matters and the 9.7” screen on the iPad leads the way over the 7” displays, although Xoom is weighing in at 10.1” screen size.
  • Apps for the iPad platform are already abundant and are starting to go well beyond entertainment and into the enterprise. Apple has a significant head start here in quantity and in a sometimes loving often strained relationship with its publisher and development community.
  • The existing network carrier partnerships Apple has with both AT&T and Verizon will make it easy to connect the iPad2 on a 3G network at a minimum. As for the other manufacturers, no deals have been announced that have made many waves. Especially for Cisco, the unknown isn’t good. Who knows what the Cisco Cius or the RIM BlackBerry PlayBook will offer and the world is already asking and awaiting answers to these questions. How long will they wait before they go to Apple?

As we conclude this report from the Tank, we tred lightly in predicting a victor; however the numbers always tell the story, bada bing, bada boom. Tell us who you think will prevail in the great Tablet Wars of 2011!

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