Over the past three months — more or less since the release of Windows 8.1 — I’ve finally started to see some PC-based tablets that appear poised to give Apple actual competition for the market niche that the iPad has more or less owned for the past four-plus years. This platform has become so popular and ubiquitous that when I looked up the launch date for the iPad 1 (April 3, 2010) I was stunned to realize that it’s really only been a little over four years since the first IPad came out.
The release of several new Windows 8 (and 8.1) tablets in the past quarter appears to put some potentially game-changing new entrants into the 8-10″ tablet market. As far as I can tell, it’s the energy efficient but sufficiently high-powered quad core Bay Trail models of Atom processors that are finally going to give PC makers a valid comeback to the ever-popular iPad platforms in 7″ and 10″ formats. Thus, for example, I’ve looked at the $350 Dell Venue 8 Pro (Z3740D, 64GB SSD, 2 GB RAM, Intel HD graphics) and the Lenovo ThinkPad 8 (Z3770, up to 128 GB SSD, up to 8 GB RAM, Intel HD graphics; pricing not yet available: base level set at $399 so top-line must be at least $800) as the first of what will no doubt be a whole slew of small and light tablets that offer sufficient power and capability to give iPad a run for consumer’s money.
At 8.8mm thick, under a pound in weight, with full HD (1920×1200) resolution, and up to 8 GB RAM, and 256 GB SSD, the high-end ThinkPad8 could give Apple heartburn — as long as it’s not too much over $900 in price.
I expect we’ll start to see more machines of this type showing up at CES (underway in Vegas right now, starting today) and that Windows will finally be able to pose a meaningful counter to the iPad. Will this be enough to make a difference, and change market dynamics and consumer inclinations? We’ll see!