A look at who’s NOT making a tablet
Now that the mythical Apple Tablet has revealed itself to us mere mortals the tablet gates have opened. Apple surely wasn’t the first to start pushing the slate tablet concept, but they were the one all the other slate tablet makers were waiting on. Now that Apple has set the pricing bar (a bar which fluctuates from $499-$829 depending on a variety of specs) everyone else is finally releasing their tablet information. Big names are in this game like Dell (who just said they’ll be working on an entire family of tablets — the Dell Mini 5 must be the baby), HP, Asus, Archos and Toshiba. Heck, even Amazon may be working on a new tablet. At this point, it’s easier just to say who’s not working a tablet.
About a month ago Acer was all gung ho on taking the tablet fight to Apple. Their chairman, J. T. Wang, stated that they didn’t need to be the first in the tablet market and could happily sit in the #2 rank behind Apple. That pretty much sums up Acer’s business strategy – they’re the Avis of computers. Acer comes into a product market and works to bring the price down and succeed not on innovation, but on quality and affordability. Also, Acer was the creator of the infamous Tablet PC — the computing love child of Bill Gates — which is something that Wang still considers a massive accomplishment. Even with all this pride in the form factor, a lot can change in a short period of time.
Just six days later Acer said that they have no plans to enter the tablet market and instead will focus on thinner notebook products. To put it succinctly, Acer things that the tablet market isn’t large enough to bother with and requires an application-based marketplace to thrive. It’s an analysis that we happen to disagree with as it looks at tablets from the “flatter netbook” way of thinking. Tablets shouldn’t be underpowered MIDs, they should be capable computing devices.
It might come as a surprise that Lenovo, a company that has had mass success with convertible laptop tablet PCs and just introduced the IdeaPad U1 Hybrid (a docking slate tablet/netbook) at CES, won’t be pursuing the slate tablet market. Simply put, Lenovo says that their customers don’t want one. It seems very counter-intuitive to us. Shortly after seeing the most anticipated computer product in history launch — which just happens to be a slate tablet — Lenovo says that consumer have no desire for one. Lenovo has been making tablet-based computers since 1990 with their first ThinkPad. They have plenty of experience in creating pen-input displays and touchscreen devices. For them to bow out of the competition is very puzzling and represents a failure to focus on future computing trends, and not ones that are decades old.
There’s been no official word from Sony about whether or not they’ll be making a tablet computer, but we’re speculating that they won’t. This is despite the recent talk from Sony SFO Nobuyuki Oneda who had many positive things to say about Sony’s possible reentry to the tablet market. The thing is, they’ve been burned in the past with their two tablet releases — the VAIO Pen Tablet PC and VAIO UX Mini. Even Oneda is hesitant to say for certain that Sony is moving forward with plans. For him, the main question is software:
I am pretty confident that [Sony's] bright engineers are more than skilled to create a very attractive, so to say Sony Style tablet and it is the software that will be in this tablet that is what I am worried about. Again, it’s is all about user experience nowadays and if it is not friendly, a customer is usually turned off by it and the product becomes a flop or a niche that gets adopted by a small devoted crowd. (Source: Sony Insider)
Right now the main weakness of a tablet is the lack of operating software built specifically for its interface. Ultimately, that and price will be what stops Sony from entering the market. We mention price because Sony products are notoriously high-priced and the tablet market will be defined by cheap, quality products. If a manufacturer can’t sell a tablet for under $1,000 (a high estimate) then they have no hope of thriving in the market.
My Grandma has never been that into computers, instead focusing more on daytime soap operas (like “General Hospital”) and good Southern cooking. Still, in her later years she has become quite the internet consumer; just not enough to forgo the keyboard. That’s why we’re pretty sure there’s no hope for her coming out with her own tablet. When asked to comment she said, “Tablet? You mean medicine?” We’ll take that as a “no.” Plus, she’s spending most of her free time working on her upcoming eReader release.