Tag Archives: tablet

The Kindle is dead, long live the Kindle

I’ve been complaining (whining) about the Kindle for some time now.  My main argument was that with the impending emergence of netbooks and tablets (which weren’t out yet when I started this thread), a dedicated “e-reader” was pointless and destined to fall by the wayside.  It was clearly a stepping stone to devices that offered an e-reader as just another piece of software on a device that was capable of far more.

Amazon has now released the Kindle Fire, a color tablet that is based on the Android OS rather than their proprietary Kindle OS, just as I told them to.  The world doesn’t need another OS, and Amazon doesn’t need to waste money designing one, so they’re much better off leveraging Google’s OS and adding the Kindle software on top of it.

While Amazon is still offering Kindle dedicated e-readers, it seems clear that the Fire will be Amazon’s focus going forward, and the dedicated e-reader platform will probably be de-emphasized and fall by the wayside as tablets get cheaper and the price difference between tablets and dedicated e-readers approaches zero.

So to Amazon, I say well done: you’re focusing on what you’re good at and providing a reasonably full-featured tablet at a very competitive price.  Will it put pressure on the iPad?  Probably not a lot because it will be the category leader for the foreseeable future, but clearly the race to the bottom for tablet prices has started, just as it did for PCs a few years ago.

NookColor: First of the iPad Challengers

If you’ve read my blog at all over the past couple of years, you know how unenthusiastic I am about e-readers in general, and the Kindle specifically. Today, Barnes and Noble introduced their new reader, the NookColor, and it’s a huge leap forward that should help them gain significant market share.

The NookColor is, of course, full color, but also important, it features:

  • A web browser
  • Support for digital music files
  • Support for MP4 video files (I’d like to see more codecs supported, but it’s a start)
  • Android OS
  • Its own app store, so presumably most Android apps will work with it, although B&N will  curate the offerings
  • 8GB of internal memory, with a Micro-SD slot that can support up to another 32GB
  • A mini-USB port
  • Wifi

All that, for the low, low price of…$249.  You read that right.

James McQuivey of Forrester Research talked a little today about how this new Nook will affect the Sony and Amazon offerings, but what I want to know is how it will affect the iPad.  If you read through that feature list above, it matches the iPad almost feature-for-feature, although it surely has a slower processor, and of course wouldn’t sync with iTunes.  (Personally I find iTunes bloated and slow, and can’t stand using it anyways, so no loss there.)

So the question is will people keep shelling out $600+ for Apple’s iPad?  If so, why?  The prestige?  The “cool factor”?  Because they’ll only buy Apple products?

The NookColor really hits the sweet spot, and is a sign of things to come.  It caters to those of us to don’t read enough to justify a dedicated e-reader (most Americans, I’m guessing), and to those of us who think the iPad just isn’t useful enough to justify the price (I don’t think I’m alone there, either.)  The NookColor is actually the first e-reader or tablet that has piqued my interest as having sufficient functionality at a reasonable price point.  And it doesn’t look half-bad, either.

I don’t think B&N has the marketing chops to take on Apple, but I think the NookColor is the first in a string of low-end tablet/readers we’ll see come out in the next year or two that will turn tablets into a commodity product, like netbooks.  At their current pace, Apple may see the iPad get Mac’ed in the not-too-distant future.  Its cost and closed nature will relegate the iPad to a niche market of customers who will spend significantly more for the sense of style and status that Apple products bring with them, but the mass market will yet again pass Apple by.  Incidentally, Android phones are selling faster than iPhones these days, too…

iPad fails to live up to the iPod/iPhone legacy

Apple iPadStevie Jobs yesterday announced the much-anticipated iPad, a tablet device that he says fills the gap between smartphones and laptops.  There have been a flurry of articles since then for and against the iPad, mainly focusing on what features it has or is missing, but I’d like to look at it from a higher level, looking at the product positioning and the problems it is trying to solve.

In introducing the iPad, Steve asserts that it is “better (than smartphones and laptops) at these tasks”: browsing, email, photos, video, music, games, eBooks.  But the product he then demonstrated didn’t seem to be better at any of those tasks.

  • Browsing and email: these will always be easier on a laptop that has a physical, full-size (or close to full-size) keyboard with a mouse/touchpad/pointing device. The iPad’s touchscreen does not make web-browsing or email easier, nor does its small size.  The iPad will be adequate for short email or browsing sessions, but for many of us our smartphone is already good enough for that.
  • Photos, video and music: it’s a nice photo browser, but to watch movies you’ll need some sort of stand.  The hard drive (64GB max) is too small to be good at storing any of these – it would fill up with 10 DVDs, and I know many people whose music collections alone are larger than 64GB.  To upload pictures from your camera to the iPad, you’ll need to stock up on dongles because it only has one 30-pin port for connectors (no USB).  This device (being based on iPod/iPhone software) is clearly intended to complement a laptop or PC with larger storage capacity, not replace it.
  • eBooks: this is the one application in which the iPad outshines smartphones and laptops.  And it could be argued that the addition of color (neato!) makes it better than the Kindle, but for people who read for long stretches the Kindle’s e-ink screen will still make it the better option, assuming they aren’t reading magazines or textbooks that rely on color.

Apple lost sight of the fact that tech devices must simplify our lives.  The iPod made it easy to listen to music (and later, watch movies) on the go.  The iPhone gave us a world of applications with a slick interface in our pockets.  It let us take pictures without a camera and navigate without a dedicated GPS, and it let us do a myriad of light computing tasks without a laptop.  The iPod and iPhone both revolutionized their markets and changed the way we live, but the iPad fails in this regard.

The iPad is too big to be truly mobile, and it’s too small and limited to replace a laptop.  Rather than simplifying my life, the iPad is making it more complicated – it’s a third device I have to maintain, load media onto, and buy dongles for.  And all this starts at $499?  No thank you, Apple.

Even Hitler doesn’t want one.

For more details, here’s a sampling of the extensive coverage out there:

Amazon: Stop it, now

Amazon today announced that they are making an app store available for the Kindle.  What they need to do is go back to the engineers and have them crank out a color Kindle, so developers can make halfway interesting apps for it.  Mashable opines that this is “a huge development that completely changes the dynamics of the impending Tablet wars,” but when you consider that the imminent Apple tablet is sure to have an app store, a color screen, and will likely sell more units in their first year than the Kindle has sold cumulatively, this announcement amounts to squat.  There’s a reason Amazon doesn’t talk about how many Kindles they’ve sold.

Amazon knows they’re losing all their momentum to Apple, and they’re grasping at straws.  They conned EA into giving them a quote for their press release, ““Working with Amazon, we look forward to bringing some of the world’s most popular and fun games to Kindle and their users,” but what’s missing here is any mention of a specific game.  EA probably hasn’t started work on any Kindle games and may very well just wait and see if the platform is going to shape up.  They certainly won’t release any of their premier game licenses on a black and white screen.

Please move along, nothing to see here.

Looks like I’m not the only one on this bandwagon

Tablets and E-readers will be killed off by Notebooks

4607c57e4b473460400x1You heard it here first: despite the fact that they were all the buzz at CES this year, tablets and e-readers are destined for obsolescence.  Sadly, the fax machine may outlive them.

Here’s why:

E-readers:

The only reason e-readers exist is because it’s hard on the eyes to read text on a computer screen for long periods of time. You could argue that e-readers were invented to save paper or reduce printing and distribution costs, but if that were the main reason, then people would have been reading their books, magazines, and newspapers on their computer a long time ago.  You could go read War and Peace right now, but you won’t because it would make you feel like someone is hammering rusty nails into your eyes after the first hour.

So e-readers exist because they have cool e-ink screens that are easy on your e-eyes.  Great.  But what is an e-reader really, besides a tablet PC with a nice e-ink screen and no web-browsing?  In time, tablets will be developed with screens that are similar to e-ink, or perhaps with an “e-ink mode” that can be turned on if you want to read for a while.  And then after you’re done with War and Peace you can go back to watching the latest Lady Gaga video.  Cool.  If I had a tablet like this, I wouldn’t have a need for an e-reader.

So, looking into my crystal ball, I see a tablet with e-ink mode killing off e-readers…so how does the tablet get killed off?

Well, let’s look at the problem that tablets solve – tablets exist because people want something small, portable, and comfortable for casual use while sitting on the couch.  Yes, that’s pretty much it.  The PC industry has been trying to make tablets for years, but they’ve always failed for two main reasons:

  1. The reason everyone acknowledges is that fully-functional PCs have always been too heavy.  Only recently have we started seeing small PCs with enough horsepower to run regular old Windows, Office, Outlook, and have a few web browsers open at the same time
  2. The reason everyone has been ignoring (particularly on the CES show floor) is that the tablet form factor just isn’t all that functional.  If you’re sitting on your couch, it’s okay to use your touchscreen tablet to web browse a little, play MP3s, watch your videos, or use Facebook.  But if you’re doing any serious work on your PC like writing a letter, manipulating files, configuring complex software, using Photoshop…you will want a keyboard and mouse.  The tablet form factor is great for fun stuff, not for serious stuff.

And yes, the device that solves both of these problems is the notebook.  Notebooks have keyboards, pointing devices, and are getting lighter, smaller, cheaper, and more powerful by the minute.

We are already seeing people merge notebooks with tablets – HP has a pretty cool notebook called the TouchSmart tm2 (that’s right, I said “HP has a cool notebook”), which features a foldaway screen.  (Not a new idea, but theirs is very slick.)  Lenovo (formerly IBM) unveiled at CES a notebook with a detachable touchscreen (shown above.)  The writing is on the wall, guys – notebook/tablet combos will make pure-play tablets pointless.  And notebook-tablets with e-ink screens will make e-readers pointless.

The only question is how long this will take.  I give it 3 years.  I think the fax machine will still be around by then.