Tablets

It’s Official. Apple will host a press event on October 23rd in San Jose, California.

After multiple sessions of rumour roulette, Apple e-mailed invitations on Tues, Oct. 16th asking if the press knew the way to San Jose. Will it be the debut of the worst kept technology secret in many a moon or will it be some new add-on for iPhones? Most everyone is betting on the former. Read the full story on CNN.com.

Keeping in mind the fact that Microsoft’s Surface tablet debuts on Oct. 25, it is the conventional wisdom that the success and acceptance of both new tablet offering will depend on pricing. Read about their race to find the sweet-spot on TechRepublic.

Dr. Data is an interested bystander in all of this but he does not plan to buy one or the other anytime soon. Dr. Data has no money. That can, of course, be remedied by one of the folks who keep browsing his resume actually making him an offer.

Have You Received Your Invitation to The Launch Yet?

The time has long passed for the invitations to the launch of the vapourware iPad mini and there has been nary a peep from Cupertino or the industry press or anyone else for that matter. On the other hand, no one has said “Sorry boys; false alarm” either. The latest date from those supposedly in the know is now supposed to be Oct. 23.

Since Microsoft is launching Windows 8  AND  its new line of Surface tablets on October 25  – both of which will go on sale the following day – the revised date for the iPad mini – from those supposedly in the know – is now October 23. From a strategic standpoint, this date – indeed, if there is any date at all – makes a certain amount of sense. By announcing the iPad mini a couple of days before Redmond hosts its big to-do, Apple would steal a considerable amount of Microsoft’s thunder. one-upmanship between the two giants is, after all, nothing new.

Dr. Data became suspicious that something was wrong when a report in the industry press stated that the iPad mini was already being manufactured in Brazil and two days later read a report that the devices were being produced in Asia. There may really be an iPad mini or this may just be a case of a company starting or promoting rumours just to see how high the industry press – and the public – will jump. Of course, word of the October 10th mail-out was reported by Fortune Magazine – which subsequently issued a retraction – but who fed them the information in the first place? Only time will tell.

Read the full story in PC Magazine.

Only a couple of interesting bits today and they both deal with tablets.

  • The term “post-PC” device has been bandied about recently and you may be wondering just WHAT a  “post-PC” device is. Matt Baxter-Reynolds, a UK-based software development consultant, has penned an excellent analysis in which he concluded that a post-PC device is

a lightweight device that’s used for one’s relationships and personal life, not for work.

   Read the full article on ZDNet.

  • Microsoft will be launching Windows 8 and its new Surface tablet in a little over two weeks from now. More than one analyst has observed that apps (applications) for the RT model – and Windows 8 in general – will be few and of mediocre quality. Microsoft’s VP for Sales and Marketing has announced that he expects that 100,000 Windows 8 Apps will be available by the beginning of February, 2013 and that 400 million people will be using Windows 8 devices by July of that year. Is he the Oracle of Delphi or is he just blowing smoke? Read what Charlie Osborne wrote about this on ZDNet.

It now seems to be a forgone conclusion that Apple will announce a 7 inch version of its popular iPad over the next few days. As was reported in yesterday’s technology Digest, the invitations to the press et al are supposed to go out today. The next 24 to 36 hours should tell the story.

Back when Steve Jobs was leading Apple, he scoffed at the notion of a smaller iPad saying that the user would not be able to have the full iPad experience. In the time since that declaration, Google has launched its popular Nexus 7 and Samsung has continued to make hay off of its 7″ Galaxy Tab, perpetual litigation on behalf of Apple not withstanding. Then there is the Kindle Fire and the Nook from Barnes & Noble that have begun to move from being an e-reader and purchasing platform to a serious alternative to the competition. In other words, the little guys are eating Apple’s lunch and Cupertino only owns 52% of the tablet market nowadays.

Apple’s Ouija Board must have packed up leaving no communication with the great beyond because they appear to have taken notice of the tablet market as a whole. For once, they are a follower rather than a leader. While it is great that Apple has taken notice of what real people may want, the 7-inch iPad may signal another opportunity for Cupertino to throw its considerable weight around.

PC Magazine’s Mark Hatchman has an article and side-show on 6 Ways the iPad Mini Could Beat the iPad. While a couple of these “ways” seem to be somewhat frivolous, price and portability are serious talking points and the article is well worth a look.

A few items today requiring only a wee bit of blether:

  • 22% of American Adults own a Tablet – A study by the Pew Research Centre has revealed that the tablet has become a mainstream device. In addition to the 22% ownership, another 3% borrow one belonging to someone else. Another finding is that only 52% of tablet owners have an iPad as opposed to 81% in 2011. Read the full article.
  • Fortune Magazine intimates iPad mini announcement –  Long rumoured to be in works, Fortune claims that invitations to the launch of a 7″ iPad will go out on Oct. 3rd with the big press event coming the week of Oct. 8th or 15th. Is Apple trying to steal Microsoft’s thunder? Read the full article on C|NET. PC Magazine has a similar article with additional details. A second article on C|NET reports that the device is already being manufactured in Brazil. Remember, you heard it here first!
  • Scientists seek to float a boat on Saturn’s moon, Titan – Instead of water, Titan host lakes of liquid methane so skinny dipping is not an option. Read the full story on C|NET.

Here’s a few items for today’s digest:

  • HP has announced a “true” business tablet. No it’s not an updated version of its TouchPad; A great tablet that fell victim to stupid business decisions. The HP ElitePad 900 will run Windows 8 and is  1.4 millimeters thicker & .2 lbs heavier than the iPad 3; A minuscule difference that Apple’s marketing department will no doubt exploit. Release is set for January, 2013 and will most likely be competitively priced with Microsoft’s Surface tablet. HP’s newest product is reviewed by both ZDNet and C|NET.
  • Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, has issued an apology over the less than stellar performance of its iOS 6 Maps application in which he admits that the company fell short of delivering a world-class product. Mr. Cook also took the unprecedented step of suggesting that users try one of the competing mapping applications until Apple Maps is ready for prime time. Read the full article.
  • If you’re gobsmacked at the though of Apple apologising for an underachieving product, you should be cognisant of the fact that this is not the first time that Cupertino has cried mea culpa. Read the full story of Apple’s lamentations.

Microsoft has an uphill battle on its hands. Apple’s iPad owns 80% of the market. The other 20 % belongs to Samsung’s Galaxy offerings, Google’s Nexus 7, Amazon’s Kindle Fire, etc. and etc.  The market floor is littered with also-rans and products that got off the launch-pad – like HP’s TouchPad – but were aborted in mid-flight.

With the advent of the touch-centric Windows 8 operating system and the Surface tablet range, Microsoft is going to have to come out swinging if they want to have a decent chance of making a significant dent in the market, let alone Apple’s iPad behemoth. Of course, there are Microsoft loyalists who face Redmond twice a day in prayer just as there are Apple Loyalists who face Cupertino and threaten jihad against anyone who suggests that even a few i-Products may be behind the technological curve. To be sure, those hard-core loyalists will help to boost sale of the Surface tables when the first one makes its debut a month from now but what about the long-term? Geek.com suggests that one of Microsoft’s secret weapons could be the ubiquitous MS Office.

Redmond has already announced that they will release a version of Office 13 that will run on the Surface RT which is based on the ARM processor platform. This is a good thing because at the moment, RT-compatible apps are few and far between. The RT version of Office 13 will be a tablet-optomised version of the Home & Student edition that contains Word, Excel, Power Point and OneNote, the greatest little application that you’ve probably never even heard of.  To the continuing chagrin of all who purchase Home & Student, this version does not include the indispensable Outlook application and that tradition will continue with Office RT. Whether there will be a RT compatible version of Outlook available as a separate purchase remains to be seen.

Office RT will come bundled with the Surface RT tablet and will not be available as a stand-alone product. As to whether or not this is a good thing, only time will tell. However, a tablet that already comes with most of the features from the world’s most popular office suite could well give Microsoft a competitive edge amongst new tablet purchasers as well as those who have been sitting on the fence waiting for a truly viable iPad alternative to come along. We’ll see in a little over a month.

Suggested Reading:

The article from Geek.com about the RT-Office combination

Microsoft’s Office blog which talks about Office-RT

Microsoft has confirmed that it will hold the official launch for Windows 8 on October 25th in New York City. Readers should be advised that this is not the same as the date that Windows 8 will be available commercially. Launch dates are usually big, splashy parties for the media so a company can announce that its long-awaited product is finally here.

Sometimes, launch/announcement events can backfire as happened with Apple very recently. The boys from Cupertino made the formal announcement that the iPhone Five is here – and there was much rejoicing – and then subsequently announced that the delivery date was being pushed back. Of course, this came as a major disappointment to the legions of Apple fanatics who had planned to stand on line – for days if necessary – outside the nearest Apple store so that they could be among the first to have one. (Apple is missing a golden opportunity by not selling tents, sleeping bags and umbrellas stamped with the corporate logo.)

Windows 8 will be commercially available – which means that ordinary folks like you and I can buy it – the following day on Oct. 26th. Those of you who have downloaded the customer preview of Windows 8 should be advised that the demo OS will cease to work on that day. (There is no such thing as a free lunch.) Microsoft will also make the RT version of its Surface tablet commercially available on that date, just in time for the holidays. It should be an interesting Autumn.

Google’s entry into the tablet market – the Nexus 7 – has been available for about a month now and some good reviews are starting to come in. For example, TechRepublic’s tear-down of the Nexus 7 revealed that it has an overall edge in hardware when compared to Amazon’s Kindle Fire.

Then there are positive reviews like this one posted on ZDNet which describes the Nexus 7 as a road warrior’s best friend. All good.

And still others – whilst knocking the “Ice Cream Sandwich” release of Android – admit that the Nexus 7 is a stable device that gives good performance. This particular plaudit appears to be based on the fact that the Nexus 7 is running the later release of Android named “Jelly Bean” rather than the older “Ice Cream Sandwich” release. This begs the question: “Is Android’s success on the Nexus 7 due to the fact that the hardware has been developed to the exact specifications of the same outfit that created Android in the first place?” This may be the very reason why Apple has been so successful with its Mac, iPhone and iPad.

Of course, the Nexus 7 has had a few minor quality issues like the screen being improperly glued to the body of the tablet. Things like this are more a production problem with the manufacturer – Asus – rather than a true design issue. This kind of problem is much easier to correct than a design failure.

And finally, there is the “Backyard Camping” commercial for the Nexus 7 that shows off the tablet’s abilities in an everyday setting. This will – hopefully – lay to rest the misguided notion that since only Apple can produce a really good commercial, the company is the only one that can produce a really good tablet/phone/computer.

At present, Apple holds roughly 65 % of the tablet market with Samsung holding a mere 7.5 % and Amazon’s Kindle Fire owning around 4 %. The forthcoming release of Microsoft’s Surface tablet may change the dynamic somewhat. While it is not to be expected that scads of iPad users will abandon the device for Surface, it may very well serve as the tipping point for widespread corporate adaptation of tablet technology.

Meanwhile, Barnes and Noble has dropped the price of the Nook by $20.00 in anticipation of Amazon’s next iteration of its Kindle Fire. As the Tablet Wars continue, $200 seems to be the pricing sweet spot for 7-inch tablets; At least the basic models of 7-inch tablets which have 6 or 8 Gigabytes of storage. If your needs are simple – like browsing, e-mail, and the occasional YouTube video, then the basic model will probably be all you need. If you needs require additional storage, then naturally the price will increase. Google’s Nexus 7 is priced to fall within that target range.

At this stage of the game, determining who will be # 2 to Apple’s iPad is mainly a wait-and-see strategy. Nonetheless, Google’s Nexus 7 could be a real contender; Especially in the 7″ category.

The 7-inch tablet has been somewhat of a read-headed stepchild in the mobile computing world. Samsung had the 7-inch Galaxy Tab a few years ago and there have been a series of 7-inch also-ran’s from other manufacturers; Well known and less so. Of course, there are the Kindle Fire and the B&N Nook that have gained a fair amount of popularity though both are reading-oriented and focused on their respective corporate eco-systems. The popularity of these devices has been, overall, somewhat limited simply because they are not iPads.

Indeed, the late Steve Jobs looked down his bespectacled nose at the 7-inch form-factor  pronouncing them unworthy and unable to provide the full iPad experience. In the post-Jobs world, there have been a series of rumours that Apple has a 7-inch iPad in the works but, so far, none of these rumours have borne fruit. Perhaps the Nexus 7 will serve to help 7-inch tablets really take hold . . . even though it is not an iPad.

On my recent road trip to Albany, NY I took along my 10-inch HP TouchPad. It was great to have this device with me but it required me to use, for an extended period of time, a gear-bag larger than I’m used to carrying. The bag was great for toting the tablet but it’s bulk made it a bit impractical for anything else. A 7-inch tablet would have fit nicely into my standard gear-bag.

For more on Google’s Nexus 7, read this article on ZDNet. There is also a slide show containing pictures of the Nexus 7 and screen shots of the Android “Jelly Bean” OS.

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