Until Android or Windows tablets match the range and quality of iPad’s app ecosystem they will continue to be a very small niche. Right now I don’t think this is possible unless Apple stumbles for a year or two.
I have long espoused that there is no tablet market, just an iPad market. But with the introduction of the Kindle Fire and to a lesser degree Nook Tablet there is a competitive threat to be dealt with. Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble were smart to not take on Apple straight up as Samsung and others have done, and failed, with Android tablets. No, they developed highly customized user experiences centered around reading and content consumption and carved out a foot hold with price. And like what Android did with smartphones over time, you can extrapolate the same course might be taken in the tablet space with incremental improvements and “good enough” solutions at prices half or less Apple charges for the iPad.
So it will be interesting to see what Apple does next week when they announce the iPad 3. Rumor has it they will keep the iPad 2 on the market as an entry level device and might even field an 8 GB model. That would be most interesting but to fully disrupt the nascent tablet market they would have to hit the $299 price point. Since refurb original iPads sell for that today it would be conceivable that the 8 GB iPad 2 could retail as low as $299. If that’s the case, game over even for the Kindle Fire.
There is also a ridiculous rumor Apple will announce a 7.85 inch iPad before the holiday season at $199 to compete head to head with the Kindle Fire. This is just not how Apple rolls, especially since they are sure to introduce a new resolution for developers to deal with, so I still think it is more likely to see a 4 inch iPod Touch at the end of the year based upon the iPhone 5. This would retail in the $199 price point but would not run iPad apps. I think Apple could command at least $100 over competitors especially if they are delivering a larger and more capable device.
We’ll see what happens next week but this will fully play out over the next 6 months.
Well, well, it seems our friends at Amazon are preparing to get into the tablet game after all. MG Siegler over at Techcrunch has seen and played with a prototype and has written up his impressions. What I find most interesting in all of this is the branding and control over the user experience that seems almost Apple-like.
So have the tablet wars begun or are we just watching the end of the dedicated eReader era?
Time will tell but if anyone can break into Apple’s iPad market, it’s Amazon. But they have chosen to not directly compete with the iPad in the initial release but take on eReader rival Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color. Like B&N, they are forking Android and writing a unique user interface on top of the Android kernel (reported to be Eclair but it would not be surprising if it turned out to be Froyo). But unlike Barnes & Noble, Amazon has a lot more content to sell than books and magazines which does not bode well for the second generation Nook Color unless it comes out for less than $200. The 7-inch Amazon Kindle will completely grab the Nook Color customer with the value proposition of books, magazines, movies, TV shows, music, and the web for half the price of an entry level iPad 2. It will be the must-have holiday gift if they get it out in time and have produced enough to meet the strong demand. And many customers will see this as a viable alternative to an iPad unlike every other Android, QNX or WebOS tablet. That’s because Amazon seems to have put together an end-to-end customer experience like Apple pioneered with the iPad 18 months ago.
The branding also seems brilliant here using the well-known Kindle brand. That brand started out meaning eReader hardware but over the past year or so has also included software on the iPhone, iPad, Android, WebOS and other mobile platforms. So now Kindle means content and not just eReader or eBooks to consumers. Placed on a 7-inch tablet along with the Amazon Instant Video and mp3 store, the Kindle brand could become as powerful as the iPad.
But it’s early days and I have yet to see and use this device. I certainly will pick one up when released and post a review here as I think Amazon is onto something really interesting here.