Last week was a big week on a personal and professional level. Tuesday afternoon brought the birth of a new member of our family, a daughter, which fit in nicely with a flood of new product announcements from the major players in tablets. Let's take a look.
Apple kicked the week off with a long-anticipated "iPad Mini," a 7-inch tablet which, like most recent Apple releases, was well-known to the public before the curtain was finally pulled back for the official product announcement. Interestingly, Apple also announced a "new" New iPad, largely keeping the form factor of the prior iPad while shifting to Apple's new "Lightning" connector and providing a slight specification bump.
While Apple's secrets were well-known before its product announcement, there are a couple of things that stand out to me about the iPad Mini. The first is that tablets have matured to a point that market leader Apple sees a viable market for a multitude of form factors. Apple now has three tablet formats, when you consider that the iPod Touch is essentially a tiny slate. Steve Jobs famously lamented that there was only one "perfect" size tablet, of course personified by the original iPad's 9.7" screen, but now the company is putting its money where its mouth is on different screen formats.
The other interesting thing about Apple's announcement is its timing. A reawakened Microsoft, which we'll talk about soon, also announced the release of its Surface tablet last week. Shortly after Microsoft had set the announcement date, both Apple and Google put events on the calendar.
Google had scheduled an Android event for Monday, Oct. 29th, but it was canceled due to Hurricane Sandy. Instead of rescheduling, Google announced its new Android products on the web site, including the operating system Android 4.2, the Nexus 4 smartphone, and a full-size tablet called the Nexus 10.
The Nexus 10 tablet is certainly worthy of the positive press, but Google seems to be making what primarily amounts to a "me, too" play. We have yet to see if Android freedom and price-point can lure users away from the shiny Apple, even if the hardware specs are comparable.
While Microsoft's "official" release of Windows 8 and its Surface tablet were primarily rehashes of previous news, what's most interesting is that Google and Apple appear to see this release as enough of a threat to try and steal some of Microsoft's thunder. I've previously written that Surface represents a major bet for Microsoft, with a large potential reward — returning to dominate the tablet market that it entered nearly a decade ago — and a huge risk by creating a billion-dollar failure as HP did with its WebOS tablet.
For IT leaders, it's amazing to witness all three major players in the tablet market launching refined products over the course of a single week. Apple and Google appear to be tweaking largely successful products, with Apple notably admitting that there's more than one "perfect" tablet size. Microsoft's big bet on what amounts to an entirely new ecosystem driven by hardware and its new OS could completely change the face of the tablet market or be relegated to the bargain bins in a few short months.
What are your thoughts about the recent tablet announcements. Who do you think will dominate the market? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.
Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. He has spent over a decade providing strategy consulting services to Fortune 500 and 1000 companies. Patrick can be reached at email@example.com, and you can follow his blog at www.itbswatch.com. All opinions are his and may not represent those of his employer.