Want an ebook reader in the states? You have two choices: the Kindle or the Nook. That’s it about. Either other manufacturers are pulling out of the US market or they’re avoiding it altogether. Samsung introduced its ebook reader with much fanfare at CES 2010, but now it’s not going to be released here. This isn’t exactly a bad thing as both the Kindle and Nook are well-polished devices and are about as good as the form factor gets. Still, the lack of competition will eventually be a bad thing as there won’t be clear motivation for innovation or competitive pricing.
It’s a different story in Euroland or Asia. There are many ebook readers available, as two devices backed by content providers don’t dominate the market. This creates true consumer choice and opportunities for new ebook readers. Now, the Kindle is still huge everywhere, but at least manufacturers haven’t totally given up on the market like they have in the US.
But did Apple just destroy the US tablet market in the same way? Are manufacturers really going to invest millions upon millions of dollars in R&D and marketing when consumers are buying the iPad by the millions? Is the US tablet market dead?
It’s been about five months since the iPad launched. Since then we’ve heard bits and pieces of info concerning upcoming tablets from some big names. So far, the only tablet that’s actually made it to market from a major manufacturer is the Dell Streak, but with a 5-inch screen, it’s not exactly after the same crowd as the iPad.
Nearly every week something drops that says Acer, Asus, Lenovo, everyone is working on a so-called iPad killer. But where are they? Did the iPad really come out of nowhere and catch everyone off guard? Surely it doesn’t take that much time to design and manufacture a keyboardless-netbook running Android?
That’s what’s so strange: Tablets have been made for years and they really haven’t changed all that much, but yet since the launch of the iPad five months ago, the whole industry has been silent. Only a few convertible netbooks have dropped including the Viliv S10 and Asus Eee T10.
Sure, there’s a steady stream of cheap Android tablets flowing out of China, but none of the top PC makers has responded with a proper competitor. It really feels like the whole market is holding its breath.
HP has perhaps the best chance to shatter the silence with the Palmpad. After all, it’s coming to the market bearing any major unforeseen hurdle and might be the best chance the tablet market has to spur true competition and innovation. WebOS failed the first time around mainly because of poor hardware, but hopefully that won’t be the case with the Palmpad. But the longer HP delays its launch, the iPad gains marketshare and furthers its conquest for total domination. It only took the iPad two months to hit the three million-unit mark. Just think what will happen if it has this Christmas shopping season all to itself.
Now that HP owns Palm and the rights to webOS, they have the same advantage as Apple. They can develop the OS specifically to their hardware. Everyone else is relying on Android underpinnings developed by Google. Then there’s the Android updating issue and all the fractioning. Android and tablets simply do not seem to be a recipe for success.
The iPad is killing the tablet market even more so than the iPod killed in PMPs. The iPod was the top dog for years, but there was always a race for second place between Creative, Archos, SanDisk, and eventually Microsoft with the Zune. This might not be the case with tablets as they’re more expensive to develop than MP3 players and makers have a lot more to lose. So rather than competing specifically in the US market where the iPad is the king of kings, they might go after other markets in Europe or Asia or ignore the form factor altogether.
I truly hope I’m wrong. I don’t even own an iPad, nor do I want one. The only Apple product I use on a daily basis is the full-size keyboard. But look at the numbers: the iPad has a gigantic head start against any other tablet. So much so that it probably already “won.” All I hope is that manufacturers haven’t totally gave up in that space and plan on outing innovative competitors. I just don’t see it happening anytime soon, though.