Just few months ago, the smartphone/tablet market was crowded, confusing, irritating and volatile. Not just because everyone is trying to manufacture tablets but because everyone was thinking of having their own smartphone/tablet OS. While few were able to bring their versions to the market, few were stuck at drawing board or took U-turn.
It all started with Apple reinventing the tablet about 1.5 years ago. The initial response from OHA was more of a knee jerk reaction with Samsung and other me-too kind of manufacturers releasing tablets with an OS that is strictly meant for Smartphones with not even a single application designed for tablets. Those were more like oversized smartphones. They were rich in features (h/w wise) when compared to iPad but have an inferior software.
Few months later, in October 2010, RIM announced their work on playbook, a 7” tablet powered by BB Tablet OS and gave a brief demo of the OS. Though the OS was impressive, the sales were mediocre and never was able to challenge Android while it was not even comparable to iPad’s sales.
Few months later, HP said ‘me too’ and announced their own tablet device, Touchpad powered by WebOS. The UI looked slick in the demos but turned out to be extremely buggy when the tablet was released.
By releasing Android 3.0 (honeycomb) in February, Google and OHA got a chance to attack Apple which has been raking in huge profits and market share, thanks to its head start.
In August, HP announced that they will discontinue production of WebOS devices due to mediocre sales. This was really spineless and crazy decision taken by HP as the WebOS tablet OS is hardly months old. In Canada, RIM investors started pressuring RIM to either sell it’s patents or sell itself as they have been steadily losing share value and market share. There is no doubt that sooner or later RIM will bite the dust, at least in tablet space.
The future big three
Apple (iOS): Apple will have a handy lead in the tablet market at least for the next year or two but will eventually lose to Google, the simple reason being the sheer number of Android tablets that are going to come out (powered by Android) in the next year or two. Who knows, by the time the iPad is pushed to no.2 spot, Apple might create another new market or re-invent another gadget.
Google (Android): The major problem with Android on tablets is the lack of applications. For some reason, the developers were not able to bring out tablet specific applications the way developers designed iPad specific applications. In the next one year or so, this should be less of a problem and the Android tablet arena should be as crowded as today’s Android smartphone arena. Unlike HP, Google has been showing lot of patience (which is what helped them become number 1 in smartphone market) and unlike RIM’s investors, the investors at Google as showing strong support to Google.
Microsoft (Windows): Last few weeks, I have seen lot of updates regarding Windows 8, the OS meant to run on tablets and PCs, come 2012. Before you laugh at Windows OS, do read the articles published at http://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/ and check out reviews of Windows phone 7.5 (a.k.a mango) on the internet. Similar Google, Microsoft was patient enough to not pull the OS/ecosystem from the market. I am impressed the way that they are working on Windows 8 (not trying to rush the product into the market), the way they are revealing features one after the one, slowly building interest and generating buzz on the internet.
These are the three brands that I pick to succeed in tablet race. What do you? Will Google falter? Will Apple succumb earlier than anticipated time? Will Microsoft be the surprise winner here? Will there be a different winner?