Two big reasons the Kindle Fire will be a runaway success: Amazon’s marketing and market muscle.
According to the online retailer, Black Friday 2011 was the best ever for Kindle device sales (which include its line of eReaders); Amazon sold four times as many Kindles as it did last year. While Amazon is always reluctant to provide hard numbers to back Kindle sales claims, comScore data indicates that Amazon was the most-visited online retailer this year. In fact, Amazon bested its closest competition, Walmart, by 50%.
And guess what each Amazon.com visitor saw – Amazon Kindle ads. Amazon is also peppering TV with Kindle ads and the Fire is available at Best Buy and Target, both online and in store. Of course, the fact that the tablet only costs $200 also helps push sales. But according to iSuppli, the Kindle Fire costs Amazon $201.70 to build (including parts and manufacturing). This does not take marketing costs into account, so the actual cost for Amazon to get the Kindle Fire into consumers’ hands is likely much higher. Amazon recoups the lost revenue on contents sales. The online retailer has robust movie, eBooks, magazine, TV show, music and app offerings.
Despite the prevalence of iTunes, Apple does not have Amazon’s market position when it comes to content. Apple is a hardware maker that makes money from device sales. Ditto for the Android tablet makers, which rely on Google for the majority of their apps, music and movies. In a sly move by Amazon, the majority of its content is also available for Android tablets.
Amazon will succeed in the tablet market because it can succeed. It can push its tablet and use its content to overcome the device’s technical shortcomings. It has a solid foundation of offerings, in which the hardware is only one part of the overall experience.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read up on the Kindle Fire before buying one though. Check out our full review of Amazon’s tablet to see how it compares to the tablet competition.
The holidays are here, and tablets will undoubtedly be on wish lists. But with the next generation of queued up for a CES 2012 unveiling in January, and the iPad 3 likely for launch soon thereafter, is now a good time to buy a tablet?
It’s almost a rhetorical question. There is never a right time to buy if you want to ensure the longest time with the latest and greatest, given how fast mobile technology moves. However, the buying decision this holiday season ultimately depends on what you want out of a device.
Those looking for a tablet strictly to browse the web, check email, and maybe watch a movie or two will probably find much to like in the Kindle Fire and NOOK Tablet, especially considering their low price points of $200 and $250, respectively. But those itching for an iPad, may want to wait. The iPad 3 could debut as soon as February or March, given Apple’s iPad announcement history. The same holds true for the Honeycomb tablet fans. The first next-gen Android tablet, the ASUS Transformer Prime is slated for release in December, and others may soon follow suit.
Of course, all that is moot if you find a great deal on a quality device, and manufacturers will probably slash prices on yesterday’s tech to clear out shelf space for tomorrow’s tablets, particularly on Black Friday. The fact is that tablets will be available in all sizes and prices this holiday season, so which do you choose, if any? TabletPCReview looks to clear the confusion in our Tablet Buyer’s Guide by outlining the top tablets and eReaders for each category, as well as exploring the new tablet market as it expands to lower cost devices ready to consume content. We also know that tablets aren’t the only tech on your holiday wish lists. Head over to the TechnologyGuide 2011 Holiday Buyer’s Guide for the best notebook, smartphone, digital camera, desktop and printer buying advice
Since the original iPad launch in 2010, Apple has arguably held the tablet title for the best tablet hardware, best tablet software (both apps and operating system), and best tablet marketing/retail experience. Because Android is an ever evolving work in progress with major fragmentation issues, and because the Apple Store is the last good reason to go to the mall, the Mac maker probably won’t lose at least two out of the three “best” accolades soon.
But as far as hardware is concerned, Samsung now has the title.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and 8.9 are both thinner and lighter than the iPad, and have better, brighter displays. The Galaxy Tab 8.9 has a smaller display than the iPad (8.9 inches to 9.7 inches), but thanks to its lightweight build (it weighs less than a pound) and compact design, it’s much easier to hold and operate with one hand. It’s little wonder that Apple is targeting Samsung with patent-based lawsuits. True, the Tabs do resemble the iPad in design and packaging, but they are also a serious threat to Apple’s tablet market domination. Of course, both Tabs were released months after the iPad 2, and the iPad 3, which should launch in early Q2 2012 and, will probably surpass the Honeycomb slates in terms of hardware. However, expect Samsung to continue pressing in the market with even better Tabs that surpass Apple’s offering.
The mobile device market has always been a game of one-upsmanship, and in the tablet field, and Samsung is the first to have one up on Apple. Let’s see how Apple responds.
The Windows 7 tablet hardware slated to hit the market in the waning days of the venerable operating system promises to be some of the best yet, and one tablet in particular, the Samsung Series 7 Slate PC, may yet prove that Windows 7 – an operating system built for the precision of a mouse and keyboard – may work as a touch-based tablet OS after all.
Critics, including those at TabletPCReview, have often slammed Windows 7 tablet devices like the HP Slate 500 and Fujitsu Stylistic Q 550 for providing an awkward and clunky computing experience. Windows 7 is not designed for touch, was often the refrain. But lost in that criticism was the role the hardware played. Windows 7 was also not designed for underpowered machines, and for often twice the cost of a similarly spec’ed netbook, Windows 7 tablet PCs too often only offered adequate performance, and devices that ditched Atom processors for the more powerful Core i3 and i5 chips were plagued with absurdly short battery life. It looks like Samsung is finally stepping up to the plate and releasing a device with the hardware required to make Windows 7 work on a tablet PC. It packs a Core i5 processor, which is more than capable of running Windows and high-end programs like Photoshop, a vibrant and bright display, and Samsung promises at least seven hours of battery life.
While we are always skeptical of manufacturer supplied battery numbers, we were certainly impressed with the Series 7 Slate’s performance during our recent hands-on time. The tablet was snappy and quick, and very responsive to both fingertip touch and pen input. It also looks great. Design-wise, it compares favorably with both the ultra-slick Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Apple iPad 2.
The Samsung Series 7 Slate also has the same hardware as the reference device Microsoft passed out to developers at the BUILD conference last week, so Samsung obviously sees a future for this device. We can’t wait to test it out and see for ourselves, but read our first impressions of the Windows 7 tablet for more details on the device that very well might represent the future of tablet computing.
Anyone wondering if tablets are just a fad need only look at technology trends coming out of the last three major electronics tradeshows: CES, CTIA Wireless, and IFA (Europe’s consumer electronics gathering). All three have served as launchpads for major devices and have been dominated by tablets. In the case of IFA held last week in Berlin, a show traditionally focused on home theater tech, tablets stole virtually every headline, with every other product category registering nary a blip on the media’s radar.
For our money, Samsung made the biggest splash at the show with its Galaxy Tab 7.7 and Galaxy Note. Unfortunately, as part of the ongoing patent infringement litigation with Apple, German courts issued an injunction against Samsung, preventing the Galaxy maker from actually displaying the Galaxy Tab 7.7 at the show. However, TabletPCReview still managed to sneak some hands-on time with the latest and greatest Honeycomb tablet at its unveiling, and came away most impressed with the ultra-contrast Super AMOLED screen. If there is one way Samsung can compete with Apple, it is through the Samsung display technology, which is among the best we’ve seen on consumer devices.
Apple’s lawsuit didn’t keep other tablet-makers from proudly displaying their wares at the show, including Toshiba, with the slim AT200, and Sony, with its innovative Tablet S and Tablet P. The Sony Honeycomb tablets in particular really impressed with two unique and distinct designs. They mark a return to form for Sony, which has a reputation for innovative products and cool gadgets.
You can read our full coverage of IFA, including hands on reports of the tablets mentioned, on TabletPCReview. Also, stay tuned for news and reviews of these tablets and others on display at the Berlin event.
Charles Darwin would have appreciated today’s mobile market, where those slow to adapt to changing environmental circumstances go extinct, just like the HP TouchPad.
By comparison to the sleek and quick iPad 2 and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, which hit the market before the TouchPad, HP’s tablet was a lumbering beast, bogged down with a thick plastic build, sluggish performance and mediocre display. However, it’s important to note that at the time of its unveiling, five months prior to its launch, the TouchPad was in line with the then current market standard for design. It was to have a dual-core processor like the crop of Honeycomb tablets announced at CES, and it was approximately the same size as the market leader, the first-generation Apple iPad.
In those five months from announcement to release, the market changed. Apple and Samsung significantly slimmed their tablets, while Samsung pushed the limits of display brightness and ultimately released the first tablet with a better screen quality than the iPad.
Manufacturers that stuck to the bulky design took advantage of the space with unique features. For example, Toshiba put full-sized USB, HDMI and SD card inputs on its Thrive tablet, while ASUS offered a docking keyboard attachment that transformed its apply named Transformer tablet into an Android netbook. HP made no changes prior to release. The TouchPad had all of the bulk and none of the features.
Ultimately, HP was simply not willing to adapt to the market demands with its TouchPad tablet. HP CEO Leo Apotheker admitted as much during HP’s Q3 earnings conference call. “Due to market dynamics, significant competition and a rapidly changing environment and this week’s news only reiterates the speed and nature of this change, continuing to execute our current device approach in this market space is no longer in the best interest of HP and HP’s shareholders,” he claimed. As a result, the tablet and maybe even the entire webOS ecosystem are extinct.
What tablet should I buy? It’s a question I get asked an awful lot by friends, family and readers. The answer always depends on the user’s needs. Do you want something portable? Try a seven-inch tablet. Do they want to take notes on it? Make sure the tablet supports pen input. Is price an issue? Check out some older models, or maybe the ASUS Transformer or HP TouchPad.
Of course, after all the quizzing and conversing, they usually go out and buy an iPad. And while Apple’s tablet is a fine device, it’s not always the best tablet for any given user.
I made that point last week by claiming the iPad is not the best business tablet on the market, despite being the most popular. According to a study by Good Technology, which manages mobile devices for approximately half of the Fortune 100, Apple iPad activations for its customers actually surpassed Android smartphone activations in Q2 2011.
That’s astounding to me, especially considering how little you can do on an iPad out of the box. Without expensive accessories, you can’t load files from a thumbdrive or SD card. The iPad battery is not user replaceable. And the iPad, while well built, is not especially suited for the daily rigors of business use and travel.
Yes, the iPad reinvented the tablet market, and as the most popular device, it continues to define the market. But just because the iPad does, doesn’t mean it does it the best. Ask any artist with experience using a Wacom-powered slate just how “great” the iPad is for his or her needs.
And just because the iPad doesn’t do something, doesn’t mean other tablets don’t either. Take a look at the Thrive and its replaceable battery and full-sized SD and USB inputs.
What kind of tablet should you buy? Again, it depends on your needs. Chances are, there is a tablet out there, iPad or not, that will address them completely.
Late last week, the biggest news in the tabletsphere was the addition of Skype for the iPad to the App Store. While we covered the news on TabletPCReview and turned our attention to a complete and thorough review of the video chat app, I’m left to wonder: what’s the big deal?
After all, Skype has been offering video chat to PC and Mac users for nearly five years, and has been available as an iPad-compatible iPhone app since late 2009. In addition, iPad 2 owners could already video chat across platforms with Fring or chat with other Apple owners through FaceTime.
To be fair, Skype is an excellent addition to the iPad lineup, and our review discovered it delivers the goods. But it’s not novel, nor is it exciting. In fact, I’m almost shocked it took this long to come to the iPad 2.
Facebook offers another great example of false iPad app hype. Did you know there is no official Facebook app for the iPad? Again, it’s available as an iPhone app, which runs at iPhone resolution on the iPad; but there is no Facebook app specifically designed for the iPad’s 9.7-inch screen.
News broke in July that a Facebook app release was eminent, and clever users were actually able to access a hidden version of it through a vulnerability in the Facebook iPhone app. The tech press made a big deal about the hack, but why? The Facebook webpage is readily accessible through the iPad’s Safari browser, and while the Facebook iPad app looks great in leaked screenshots, it doesn’t offer anything new.
Still, when Facebook finally launches the iPad app, it will be reported here and elsewhere as ‘big’ news. We’ll review it, and probably love it. But, I won’t have to try hard to hide my excitement.
When it came time to choose a tablet for the TechnologyGuide Back to School Buyer’s Guide, my immediate thoughts turned to the Apple iPad 2, simply because it will undoubtedly be the most popular device with students and for good reason. The iPad 2 has a great display, superb battery life, and Apple offers more than 100,000 apps, with a large chunk targeted at students and educators.
But, I didn’t choose it simply because it’s a little too slick for its own productive good. The Apple iPad only has one input: a proprietary pin connector. By contrast, the Toshiba Thrive, my choice for Back to School, has both a full-sized USB and SD card slot. While Apple is happy to sell you an adapter that adds USB and SD card support, Toshiba includes it out of the box – and price is always a top concern for students. With that in mind, the cheapest Thrive (8GB model) costs $70 less than the least expensive iPad 2 (16GB model), and a $10 SD card can easily make up the difference in capacity. In addition, the Thrive’s Honeycomb operating system supports external USB hardware, meaning a student can simply plug in any old USB-equipped keyboard, mouse, or thumbdrive, and it will work with the tablet.
The Thrive has a host of other productive features too, including a replaceable battery, textured and rubberized back panel, as well as a file-management app. The iPad and most other Honeycomb tablets favor a thinner design with aluminum or sleek plastic that looks great, but is a bit more fragile and does not allow for battery swapping.
It’s refreshing to see a company focus on practical functionality at the expense of aesthetics, especially in a product category often dismissed as being suited for little more than content consumption at best, and or as overpriced toys at worst. It’s also refreshing to see a company not try to compete with Apple in the design game, which Apple typically dominates.
In order for the tablet market to grow, it will need to offer a variety of products suited for different users and niches. As I wrote last week, it’s not only what a tablet does, but what it does differently. Because it’s practical with productive features, the Thrive is ideal for the student niche.
Having tested out every Honeycomb tablet released to date, I can safely say they are all 99% alike. They all have the same build (rectangular), design (thin), software (Honeycomb OS with Flash support), and size (10.1-inches, with one 8.9-inch exception in the LG G-Slate).
Aside from price and accessories (often sold separately), there is very little to distinguish the Acer Iconia Tab A500 from the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer, and it’s a marketing challenge for Motorola to explain why its Xoom is better than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, to make no mention of why any Honeycomb tablet is better than the iPad 2.
In speaking with Lenovo reps before the recent launch of the IdeaPad and ThinkPad Honeycomb tablets, I discovered they were keenly aware of this. In fact, the first feature they touted was Netflix; the Lenovo Honeycomb tablets will feature a built-in DRM module and will be the first on the market to support the popular movie streaming service. That’s a feature Android users have been clamoring for, especially on tablets, and Lenovo will be the first to market with it.
The product manager didn’t even bother to mention Flash support or the USB hosting, because all Honeycomb tablets have that. Nor did they extol the virtues of the dual-core processor, which is also found on every Honeycomb tablet. They pushed their distinguishing tablet trait.
It’s something OEMs will have to do more of in the future if they hope to compete with each other, and especially Apple. Recent analysis suggests Apple has 61% of the market, and the Mac maker sold 9.25 million iPads last quarter. It’s obvious Honeycomb tablet makers will have to innovate to compete. In addition, the market is starting to become saturated, it’s no longer viable to tell consumers what a tablet does, but rather, what it does differently from other tablet alternatives.