Tablets

Tablets: What Amazon and Apple know that all the CES tablet peddlers are still missing

Tablets are everywhere again at CES 2012, but none of them combine the two big reasons why Apple and Amazon tablets have succeeded.

The Toshiba Excite X10 is an impressively slim tablet. Photo credit: Eric Franklin/CNET

When I wrote about why Android tablets did a faceplant coming out of the starting gate in 2011, the most common reaction was that I had written off Google too quickly. After all, it wasn't until Android smartphones were on the market for over a year until they really took off. Just give it more time, for crying out loud. That was the general refrain.

But, the problem with Android tablets isn't a time or maturity issue. It's that Google and all of its hardware partners are playing the wrong game and they haven't realized it yet.

Samsung, ASUS, Acer, and Toshiba -- all spurred on by Google -- seem to think that shoving hi-res cameras, USB ports, HDMI connections, quad core processors, keyboard docks, and a handful of dongles at customers will give their tablets a fundamental advantage over Apple and the iPad. "Ha!" they seem to be saying, "Look how much more our tablets can do than the iPad!"

Here's the problem. How many times have you seen someone doing a video call from a tablet? How often have you seen someone hook up a tablet to a 50-inch HDTV and use it to play HD movies and games? How many people do you know who have hooked up a keyboard to their tablet and completely ditched their laptop?

I've used virtually all of the top tablets on the market over the past two years and I've rarely done any of those things with them. I have lots of friends and colleagues with tablets and they almost never talk about doing any of those scenarios. I travel regularly and see people using tablets all the time in airports and at conferences and when I talk to them about how they use their tablets they rarely ever mention those things.

And yet, here we are again at CES 2012 with a bunch of technology companies talking about quad core CPUs and hi-res cameras in their Android tablets. These companies are still betting on the scenarios that I mentioned above, and everything that I've seen over the past year tells me that that's not how most consumers and professionals are using or want to use tablets -- beyond a handful of really smart tinkerers and technologists.

The truth is that there are much better and easier tools for video calling and watching digital content on your HDTV, and if you're a serious content creator who wants to use a tablet with a keyboard all of the time then just get an 11-inch laptop like the ASUS Zenbook or the MacBook Air where you get a much stronger set of tools but still have a tablet-esque form factor.

That's not the stuff that tablets are good at and it's not what makes people want to buy tablets. Plus, all of these high-end hardware features are really expensive and they are driving up the cost of Android tablets so that they are even more expensive to build than the iPad. And, for what? For features the masses won't use and don't want.

To make things worse, when these companies make the pitch for their tablets they almost always focus on all of the technical wizardry. And, Google certainly isn't helping the situation. Google proudly boasts that it is an engineering company. That's certainly worth being proud of, but the problem with it is that the company repeatedly makes the same mistake of thinking the rest of world thinks likes engineers (or should think like engineers). It doesn't, and it won't.

This all boils down to the fact that the technology market is no longer dominated by technology lovers. Google, Samsung, ASUS, Acer, Toshiba, and others like them need to stop acting like the PC clone makers of the 1980s and 90s, and thinking as if they're building computers for the technically-inclined. The market is a lot bigger than that today and it's now dominated by people who couldn't care less about a gigahertz or a megapixel.

Android tablets made a bet on making tablets more like traditional PCs and it failed. The sooner they realize that, the better. Android tablet makers need to change strategy and focus on the things that tablets are good at. (And, Microsoft should take note before Windows 8 tablets hit the market later this year, because they're about to make the same mistake.)

If you look at the two tablets that have succeeded -- the Apple iPad and the Amazon Kindle Fire -- both Apple and Amazon have treated their tablets as simple screens connected to powerful sets of software and services. Amazon spent a year getting its services lined up before it even launched its tablet, and that turned out to be a brilliant move.

The Kindle Fire is an utterly unimpressive piece of hardware. There's very little to it. It's heavy for its size and doesn't have any of the bells and whistles that Android tablets like the Motorola Xoom or the Toshiba Thrive or the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer have.

It's just a screen connected to a bunch of services. And, it works.

It also doesn't hurt that by getting rid of all those high-end hardware features that hardly anyone uses, Amazon was able to price the Fire at $199. Two hundred bucks is its greatest marketing strategy.

Again, when you first look at the Fire, it's not very impressive. When we got one into the TechRepublic office, the first thing we did (as always) is give it to Head Technology Editor Bill Detwiler to do a teardown and hardware analysis. Bill and I were both pretty underwhelmed by the product at first. The hardware is not nearly as impressive as something like the Galaxy Tab 10.1.

But, the real magic happens when you turn it on and sign in to your Amazon account -- especially if you've already purchased content and worked with Amazon's services. The device quickly populates with your books from Kindle, your apps from the Amazon App Store, your music from Amazon Music, your videos from Amazon Video, and your shopping information from the Amazon.com. At that point, it immediately feels like YOUR device.

Apple, of course, has its own set of software and services and had nearly all them in place with the iPhone before the iPad launched. So, from the time the iPad launched, there was lot you could do with it right out of the box. If you already had an Apple account with lots of apps, music, and media, then the experience was even better.

As I mentioned in my article on the struggle of Android tablets, price was a huge driver for the iPad when it first launched. The expectation was that it would cost $800-$1000. When it was announced at $500, a lot more people quickly got a lot more interested.

So, the two successful tablets that the masses have embraced had the same top two features going for them when they launched:

1.) A great price

2.) Services that made them immediately useful.

None of headliner tablets that are being introduced at CES 2012 have both of those things. Some of them have a great price, like the OLPC 3.0 tablet ($100) or ViewSonic's $169 Ice Cream Sandwich tablet. A few them, like the Acer are talking about services, but they don't have a comprehensive package like Amazon and Apple and they aren't putting services front-and-center in the product. That's a critical mistake, and a doesn't bode well for the destiny of most of the tablets at CES.

The issue is especially critical for Android tablets, but it will eventually become critical for Windows tablets later in the year. Both Google and Microsoft need to put the services ecosystem front and center and stop acting like we're still in a PC clone market selling products mostly to people who are interested in the technology. The market has moved on. So have Amazon and Apple, and that's why they're winning.

The good news is that Google and Microsoft both have most of the pieces already in place to drive a tablet product that revolves around services the way the Amazon Kindle Fire does. They just need to make it the central feature of their tablet play and they need that sign-in-and-all-my-stuff-appears experience. Android almost has it, but it still makes users sign in to every one of the Google apps and services individually. That's a unnecessarily disjointed user experience.

To be clear, I'm not saying that Google and Microsoft should simply mimic the same apps/books/music/videos services experience that people can already get from Apple and Amazon. Instead, they should focus on the services they already do well. For Google that means cloud apps and for Microsoft it means the enterprise. That's where they should distinguish their tablet experience -- not with mini-HDMI ports and and keyboard docks and making the argument that their tablets or more like real PCs than the iPad.

So where does that leave hardware makers like all of the ones peddling tablets at CES? They'll have to compete on design innovation, hardware that pairs with specific services, and whoever has the best integration with software and services. And, of course, price.

That means most of the ones we're seeing this week don't have much of a chance.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

193 comments
dankasnitzel
dankasnitzel

You want to see something funny? Go to the Android Market and read the comments of all the Fire owners. Non-stop whining about how this app or that app doesn't work or work well on the Fire. It's pretty common knowledge that the Fire has one of the weakest hardware load-outs of vurtually any vendor. The thing BARELY qualifies to be labeled an Android tablet yet all these people went the cheap route thinking they would have something on par to an Iconia or transformer. They should have paid more attention to the commercials. The Fire is clearly designed to sell Amazon content, read books, and pretty much nothing else. Anything beyond that is at your own risk. For $50 more, they could have got a Nook Color and had a fighting chance of running those apps. So much for the bling.

novasol
novasol

I for one prefer my tablet being equipped with regular usb port, and regular size memory card slot. That being said - Ipad not for me.

d.s.williams
d.s.williams

I just read an article about a solution that can be used to make the on-screen iPad keyboard feel like a real keyboard: Touchfire This is a clear overlay which makes the iPads on-screen keyboard feel like a real keyboard. So, you don't need to add an external keyboard after all! The transparent plastic leaves the screen area visible and active underneath and provides the tactile "feedback" of a keyboard, but you can also simply flip the Touchfire away if you don't need it!

gerbilio
gerbilio

...you don't have to plug anything into them. They're self-contained, and what isn't already on the tablet is available wirelessly. Or at least, that's the way it should be. I'm typing this on the virtual keyboard of my iPad 2--yes folks, you can get used to it! The iPad was a bit ahead of its time (like most of Apple's stuff) as you have to plug it in to recharge it, synch it or connect it to quality speakers, but you just wait. Eventually tablets will have no ports at all. All communication will be Bluetooth/WiFi/4G, and recharging will be wirelessly as well a la TouchPad. iOS 5 is moving in that direction. Power/USB/HDMI/sound/SATA/whatever ports on a tablet? Bah. Dinosaur City.

Jaytmoon
Jaytmoon

I guess you dont get out much in the real world then. I use my Acer tablet to grocery shop, inventory check with a bar code reader app and Oh yes, use Skype for video alls and conferences. I can still read my kindle books and check out ebooks from my library. I can do some light gaming when bored at lunch or when stuck somewhere. I can also watch Hulu basic video's as well as those movies I ported to my microsd card... Oh, I'm sorry, Ipad cant use a microsd card... ;..(

roy.evison
roy.evison

The real issue here is value for money and does the user get a good deal? It is certainly not about 'techie' vs. 'dumby'. The technology to make a tablet a replacement for a laptop exists but the commercial will seems to be lacking. If I sell 'em my tablet, what do I do with my laptops? What exclusive deal can I make with Warner Brothers or the like? I will not be paying ??400+ for a tablet that only does some things when a notebooky thing will do all the above for half the price, might have to make other arrangements to view Harry Potter. Roy.

Dannywowo
Dannywowo

Ipad is a good stuff and I own an Ipad1, and bought an Ipad2 for my wife( but she sold it to college on the next day with sealed condition because she was not impressived by the improvement). To be honest, Ipad is a great invention, there are plenty of way to use have fun on it like reading colorful comic, watch movies, air video, surf on interest. But it can not replace my PC or Laptop at all. When you need to quick transfer files from usb to device, or watch flash, or install exe files ect. , you will find out how a PC can do the job so easily, and how difficult for a apple device. I am really looking forward to a remarkable PC tablet with win8 system combine exe, sd card slot, removable battery,flash, card reader, and reasonable price!!!

JulesLt
JulesLt

Strikes me that it's more like the console market - which also sell on the strength of the ecosystem, rather than their specs. (Sometimes they sell on specs, at the point of launch, but the Wii was a step in the other direction).

Satur9
Satur9

Both the iPad/iPad2 and the Amazon Fire tablets lack HDMI, a microSD slot, and host/slave USB ports, so a massive fail for both crippled device suppliers! When I was staying weeks in Q1/Q2 2011 at a hotel on business, I used the HDMI off my dual core Android 2.2 tablet to watched video content on the hotel room HDTV from a 16GB microSD card and from an external USB harddisk; I could even attach a mouse, and USB and Bluetooth keyboards without having to pay for extra expensive adapters (iPad). I later bought a dock, to makes it much more convenient to use at a desk. I later upgraded to Android 3.2, which has better support for Bluetooth Keyboards, and much better facilities. Basically my tablet is a near laptop replacement. OK, some of the recent higher end Android tablets seem expensive, however the higher end ones have a lot more RAM/Flash to run/hold more Apps, and the mid range ones are actually pretty reasonably priced and much more capable than the Walled Garden iPad2. So no, they haven't all blown it, it is called choice and you get what you pay for! Given the fresh worker troubles in China (e.g. the worker mass suicide threat at Foxcon) Apple will find that their margins will shrink, so will be forced to raise the price of the iPad2 etc. The Android tablet manufacturers are far less vulnerable to this pricing issue, so will look progressively more competative. Suffice to say, you seem clueless and seem to be talking out of your rear end. I also see the Kindle family as a fail too because they lacks a microSD slot and has inadequate ebook format support, so I bought a Kobo Touch instead, which is actually a better device than the Kindle Touch and allows other vendors books to be used too, not just Kobos'.

simon1a
simon1a

I had a Samsung Galaxy 10.1 but have switched to the Apple Ipad. I wrote about having the Samsung (you can read it here http://simonmarksmith.com/wordpress/technology-reviews/samsung-galaxy-tab-10/ ). I was initially swayed by the power, connectivity and being able to use Flash, but found typing on it very frustrating, especially on Facebook. I ended up selling it and going back to my ultra portable laptop. Recently I bought an ipad because I wanted to use Garageband. The whole experience of using the ipad so far has blown out of the water the experience I had with the Galaxy. It all feels slicker, in every respect... If you can, try both, but like this article says, don't be too swayed by the technology, it's more about the experience of using it that's important.

caesarv
caesarv

I do own a galaxy note,a 10.1 Samsung Tablet, and an IPAD2, the thing is that the user experience on IPAD2 is far more satisfying than on a samsung Tab in particular or an android device in general. I am an android fan initially, but I do admit, that even when android catchup and implement the single sign-on feature to "mini me" the device, it will still lack the user experience. The screen responsiveness on IPAD vs Android is noticeable when tested.

ericswain
ericswain

Jason what you are looking for in a tablet goes beyond the hardware and we get that, but when you look at the potential players in hardware manufacturing that have the ability to create and ecosystem like Amazon and Apple you really cut the playing field down to only a few manufactures. Apple struck first with blowing up their iphone to a tablet sized screen with an improved processor to get into market and yes it's main support was the ecosystem that it was attached too. If you remember there were not many apps available to fully take advantage of tablets new design. The original iPad didn't even have a front facing camera and carried a pricetag of over $500. Amazon engineered their ecosystem so that when ready to launch a tablet it would be able to take full advantage of the entire platform. Price was the biggest selling point at under $200, even more so when published reports revealed that Amazon was actually loosing money on every tablet sold so that it could get it into more hands. Just as the iPad launched with no front facing camera and decent specs so did the Kindle Fire, and watch the next version of the Kindle Fire will launch with improved hardware. This does not mean that users were not looking for feature rich experiences. Why do we look forward to new product launches such as Apple or Microsoft and tade shows such as CES? We want a grab bag of goodies on our gadgets that we can tought to our neighbor as being better than theirs. Do we use them all, probably not but that is not to say that we don't look for them. So who else has the ability to launch a product and ecosystem that can compare to the above two mentioned? Microsoft Microsoft, they have the ability and if you look at their product line such as their Windows Mobile 7.5 and now their new X-box interface you can see that they are gearing up to do the same. They are lauching the Microsoft Apps Store soon and when Windows 8 launches in December you will see that they are going to be the biggest contender as they are creating their OS to run on both x86 and ARM processors something that currently no one has been able to offer. Apple still runs different OS's for their Tablet / iPhone and Desktop systems. Sony Even though they had a poor showing and lineup this year at CES, Sony has the ability to launch their tablet, TV and gaming console to create their Playstation Online as their Ecosystem improving their end user experience and increasing tablet sales to PS3 owners. Google Yet to launch an acutal "Google Tablet", Google has the ability to jump on board as they are doing currently with their phone/tablet platform 4.0 that links their google account to their phone and integrates google+, wallet and all the other services directly into their phone. Googles ecosystem is one of the largest and they have the ability to be a huge contender if and when they actually launch a tablet. As for hardware manufactures like Toshiba, Asus, Acer, Samsung, HTC and others they really are at the mercy of the large powerhouse technology driven companies like Google and Microsoft that have an infrasturcture in place already and they can only really offer hardware driven improvements. Would I loved to have seen HP stay onboard and see what they could have done with Web-OS, yes but I guess we will never know... who knows now that Web OS is moving to Open Source maybe we will see one of these other companies build an Ecosystem around it.

SHCA
SHCA

Congratulations, Jason; you've got it exactly right. Thought I'd throw a positive in among the sour grapes. It's amazing how much time people will spend arguing with new information, just to rationalize their past decision. As an IT professional, I agree with your suggestions on the Microsoft Tablet; done right, it could be a true IT game changer. I hope they listen to you; maybe even add Kinect technology.

RandallTabor
RandallTabor

The applications available on Ipad and Kindle fire are great and they are delivered by a solid CLOUD service. Many of the applications themselves are interfaces to cloud applications. This is (and wil be) true of enterprise applications as well. The device will just be an interface to a service (SAAS, PAAS, IAAS, etc.) that exists elsewhere. Like the "dumb" terminals of the 1980's, security, information access and entry will not be to a document in your device, but one that exists elsewhere. This makes it safer, more secure and easier to integrate with enterprise systems in the long run. Meanwhile, nicer interface with a myriad of choices, personalization, simplicity and nearly anywhere access.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

... and presents it so much more eloquently. For nearly two years now I have said that it's the ecosystem--the hardware/software environment that make the iPad work so well and even makes the iPhone a highly-desirable product. All Android has is a mis-matched group of hardware builders and a wild-west style software market with no real coherence behind any of them. So many fans argued so loudly about Android's openness and Apple's "walled garden" that they completely overlooked the fact that Apple had created a coherent package that gave the user so much more than a simple bunch of apps. I even said that Amazon's concept would do better because of its tie to an established distribution system. So, will Google see the light? Will Toshiba, Acer, Dell now try to build a distribution system and make deals with content providers to distinguish themselves from each other and Apple? Or will they continue to act like anyone should be the content source while they each try to succeed on technical merit? If you ask me, they should band together and develop a combined content source and focus on usability, not gimmickry.

alanavella
alanavella

Well your arguments are valid, however I have several "non tech geek" friends who are doing more and more in android smartphones and tablets. I am sort of a tech-geek and more and more friends come up with apps and possibilities never explored before in tablets. I switched from my iPAD directly to a toshiba Thrive... (then sold the iPAD) I can say that now I can do what I had never been able to with the iPAD (included all sorts of accesories). What has really been the hit around all this is we finally have options. I just whish there were more than just Google and Amazon entering this awesome and new fight for the mobile (future) users. Let??s hope like you say Microsoft adds something finally new to it's new OS. For Apple, just thanks for starting all this.

realvarezm
realvarezm

The android market is what amazons services is to the kindle. I think what you ment to write is that all of this companys need to make a more personalized front GUI..... look the android market is one of the biggest of all and keeps growing. I think that the reason why Kindle and Ipad sell better is because the average user believes everything showed on a superbowl ad. The marketing is what made Windows the biggest OS on market. The marketing keeps telling you buy iphones and ipads but dont own them totally, unless you jailbrake it (which is illegal.. to them at least) and remember to buy one brand new every 6 months. But like evety linux and open source user knows, the freedom of choice, tweaking and do whatever you want is still there! So maybe is not about engineers teaching other engineers, is about teaching users (40 year old and more) how to take advantage of this new stuff.

IslandGypsy
IslandGypsy

For me the problem with the Android Tablet or phone is that I am at the mercy of the manufacturer when it comes to updates. While I know I can Root my phone or Tablet, why should I have to?

zoso967
zoso967

i've done all those things...literally all of them ...

PensivePeter
PensivePeter

So I'm just imagining those iPad users going round taking photos and walking into street lamps while chatting on Skype and holding the iPad in front of them? But yes, the essence of your thesis is correct: the device is a powerful interface for passive multimedia consumption. However, it's not a powerful interface for anything that looks or feels like effort or real work.

nuwans
nuwans

I have a toshiba thrive and a kindle fire and I notice that I use kindle fire a lot more than toshiba thrive. Yes, I got toshiba thrive since it has usb, camera's, hdmi as those were a selling point to discover that I hardly use the features. Kindle fire does not have any of those but provide much more services. I also think Google got this thing wrong and hope Microsoft will act wisely with windows 8. Tablets are not to replace laptops. Tablets are useful when they provide the right services. Google can definitley offer real nice integrated suit of services to make Android useful to non-tech people.

seanjones21
seanjones21

That's all great that we can make some low-end easy to use tablets for the Apple iPad/Kindle market to compete with, but what about professionals who use tablets on a daily basis for years? To say that Microsoft is about to make the same mistake, you need to check your bias at the door. Microsoft has been putting OS's on tablets since before Apple or Android even were dreamed about. See the Fujitsu Slate/Lifebooks that have been around for almost a decade. As I said, check your bias at the door, because if no one designs anything for the pro users or the geeks, as you so casually toss aside, we'll stop getting all hyped up and eventually so will our friends/family/circle of influence. You need to think before you write an article, and your editor should have caught that as well, there are a lot of techies/geeks out there. Enough to create our own market without any help from the casual users

waytoobusyforthisnonsense
waytoobusyforthisnonsense

I posted a very constructive criticism of this article and its 'research' and opinion, and had my post deleted. I am 'waytoobusyforthisnonsense' - and Toshiba Thrive is the way I will go - with all of its bells and whistles and nice rubbery-feeling backing - and its ability to accomodate a full-sized USB and SD card reader - as a more-than-adequate substitute for a $2500 Toughbook or a flimsy iPad.......

CFWhitman
CFWhitman

The Asus Transformer and the 7" Samsung Galaxy Tab are not failures by any reasonable account. The Transformer is especially popular among tech people. They may not have a matching market to the iPad or the Kindle, but they are not failures. The Nook Color and Nook Tablet are not failures either by all accounts. They've continued to sell more than B&N ever expected them to. The iPad seems more popular among people who don't care about technology and have a lot of disposable income. The Kindle Fire helps fill the gap for people who don't care about technology and don't have so much disposable income. It's funny, but among the people I personally know, Android devices are more common than iPads. The distribution is Nooks and Kindles for the people that don't care about technology and (not as many) Samsung tablets among the people who do. In the tech forums I visit on the Internet, the Transformer devices seem to be the most coveted, but those are technology geeks. I don't yet have a tablet (I have an ARM base palmtop that fills most of my portable device uses). If I get one soon, the front runner at the moment is the Nook Color, since it is so easy to change the operating system if I want. I have no interest in an iPad (or Kindle Fire) for three reasons: (1) It has no SD card or similar flash memory slot. (2) It has no USB host capability. (3) You're not really the administrator and can't sideload apps. If I were the administrator, and it had either an SD card slot or a USB host, then I might be more interested. Of course, I am a tech person, so my requirements are not the same as the average person.

ruyaguilar
ruyaguilar

I agree 100%. I work for one of the major players in technology and have established the same argument over and over again. Unfortunately I am not to high on the chain of command. Anyway what do I know? Right? Well I think as a customer, I know what I want and as a geek I have asked and analyzed what other people want. Listening to statements like well my android tablet is just like a big phone everything I have on my tablet I can have on my Smartphone, except the size of the screen. Right, but that makes a difference when you want to enjoy your content bigger is better. So if you want to watch your favorite tv program while your wife is watching American Idol you can put on your headphones take out your 10 inch tablet and enjoy it. Would not be the same experience on a 4 inch screen. On the other hand, you have what I call the bed tablet users. I love to drink a glass of wine on my bed while reading my pulse feeds. Occasionally some browsing while I listen to my music library other times read a book and make annotations. Having mentioned the scenarios here is what I think. The opportunities are media consumption. The reason most people own a tablet is because they look cool and you can consume media on the go in a nice screen. This is why every major player out there needs to work really hard in having services that make sense for the consumer, are a single solution for all media consumption, allow for syncing between devices and uploading of content and the content you can purchase is cheap. One fee all access to video and music, a place to store our digital content, documents pictures, etc. that is what we like and what we want.

robert.eubank
robert.eubank

I bought my wife an Android tablet for Christmas. She???s an avid reader and was ready to go to electronic books. I looked at the Kindle Fire, Nook, and all the other options. The iPad is too big compared to the size of a typical book, so I focused on the smaller tablets. I compared all the features and finally decided on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 Plus. I am a techie, so I probably selected the Galaxy Tab as if I was selecting it for myself. Although my wife loves it, she does not use most of the features and Android seems a little too complicated for her at times. I bought the tablet because I knew I could put the Kindle and Nook apps on it and she could buy books from Amazon or B&N, which is how she has always bought books. Guess what? The Kindle app is far superior to the Nook app, so that???s what she uses. I could have saved a lot of money and bought the Kindle. On the other hand, I do get to play with it occasionally.

Freetime000
Freetime000

Jason appears to just be a user not an actual technogoly geek. With all the Android tablets and all their cool extras, he claims to have never used any of it or needed it. Hmmmm. Perhaps Jason is too busy being a trolling writer to be a tech. Most techs love extra gadgets and features. My circle of tech geeks cant get enough. Sure the common user might not use or figure this stuff out but you'd be surprised. Maybe theres a dual market? Tablets for drones and tablets for people that want more out of their purchases. How many times have you seen someone doing a video call from a tablet? I do this from the comfort of my couch with kids and grandma all the time on Google Talk! How often have you seen someone hook up a tablet to a 50-inch HDTV and use it to play HD movies and games? Done it a few times in a hotel which is very nice! Admittedly not used it at home since i have a roku but thats not why it's there in my opinion. Its a portable media device. Not a set top device. How many people do you know who have hooked up a keyboard to their tablet and completely ditched their laptop? The guy that sits behind me at work ditche dhis laptop for a Transformer with Keyboard dock and loves it. i was jealous. It's two in one. Why buy an 11 inch laptop and a Tablet when you can have both? Jasons comes across as the technological Richard Dawkins, desperately bashing that which he cannot understand with a vendetta that seems to have no real purpose except to bash those who don't swing his way.

jdshipley
jdshipley

Having a tablet like the kindle fire is great if you live in the U.S. Pretty useless to us in Canada at this stage. I have an Acer Iconia A500 and even though it isn't the prettiest or lightest tab out there it is great for email and surfing the web and apps from the Android Market. And the best thing is being able to get content onto it without having to convert it like you would with an Ipad and itunes. I also do hook it up to my HDTV on a weekly basis so I do love that option. I do agree, as Jason points out, that I am probably in the minority as I am a tech geek who takes advantage of these things.

abba2do
abba2do

This year 5 more employees got ipads to simplify their workload without having to lug around a laptop. I have used my ipad from day 1 and upgraded to the ipad2 when it became availabe, and will probably upgrade to the next one that that one comes out. Why? I can use the apps to access my servers and networks, access my workstation, run reports, hold webex or skype conferences, run my netflicks or podcasts or presentations to the TV using the apple TV, view my email from any account and much more, all with a quick flip of a cover. Quick, to the point and simple. FYI...gave my old ipad to my mother who has macular degeneration and has not been able to read a book for the last 7 years, and now she she is reading and emailing again, thanks to easy custonized test sizes and styles and screen size.

timothyf7
timothyf7

Didn't even have to look at the by-line on this one. Jason is on Apples payroll. Nothing is ever objective when it comes to competition to an Apple product. As said before Jason, your Apples are showing!

OldHenry
OldHenry

Is Amazon Prime... We bought Prime because it just made sense based on our purchases. Amazon started adding services to our membership which were of moderate use before we bought our Fire. Then, when we turned them on, all this stuff was available at no charge as part of our Prime membership. If I were Microsoft I'd link their tablet to the Xbox brand and the Xbox live service. Also add Skydrive and Mesh automatically.

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

Imagine a route-truck driver making deliveries, who wants to be able to review an order without carrying endless piles of paperwork. Imagine a salesperson/road warrior who doesn't want a "luggable" laptop, and doesn't want to deal with a 3" or 4" screen on a smart phone. Imagine a production supervisor in a factory, overseeing a manufacturing line and reviewing the status of processes as he/she moves around the production floor. Imagine dozens of other people doing jobs where a light, portable, usable computer would make their work easier, and improve information flow in the enterprise. Imagine a device small enough, light enough, compatible enough and rugged enough to be successful in those environments, with features relevant for those environments, and you will see tablet sales explode. Dump the "fluff", focus on functionality, and ruggedize the product enough to survive in the real world. That will be a big winner.

erh7771
erh7771

...that and keeping it simple and specific. Go up in price for those who want it but for those who don't KIS

McClausky
McClausky

C'mon that's one of the best features a tablet can bring

HugoM
HugoM

I have a very expensive and superb laptop. But I use the cloud and apps on the cloud so much, that I hardly use the processor any more. Of course it is still useful when I need it for video editing and so on, but I keep my accounting and my CRM and my billing on the web where they can interact with the bank account and the customers whether I'm around or not. So Jason is right - I don't need a whole lot of fancy gizmos I need access to the cloud. And Jason is wrong I still need a detachable keyboard and HDMI and USB and voice recognition, and I could probably use gesture recognition soon

tank203
tank203

I think that Android has a price point over apple every time. And as far as having your device power up and have all your stuff populate on it as soon as you sign in for the first time, google has had that which is why I love the android system. I sign in, and my stuff is there. All my pictures, my emails, videos, music, everything, at my finger-tips, within moments of opening the box. There was one other company that focused on empowering the "not so techie" people of the world with emerging technology... anyone know who that was? AOL

BRS
BRS

It sounds like the old battle for the VHS recorder over complicated when all that was wanted was a disc player with an on/off switch a stop/go switch and no ten year old to operate it

spinimagedv1
spinimagedv1

I very much enjoyed this no nonsense view about what they are missing and completely agree while bells and whistles are added the PC tablet market is that of the PC clone market of the late 80's and 90's. This market would be better served by making a product that is easy to use and that people would WANT to work with. I sense some of the same disconnects in the tablet market as the PC market, you have manufactures that do not control the OS and vice versa sad and disappointing really. People slam and love Apple? Why? I do not know. Bottom line is they offer expensive quality tools that compel others to match. Why do they seem to be the ones imploring others to match their manufacturing, OS, quality? If google ( not cap'd for a reason ) cannot do it then who? MS? they again are late in the game... I look for a new mobile leader to emerge, a powerhouse that embraces shortfalls in OS and GUI design and lets the web decide their future. HTML 5 is the future for all mobility solutions for the time being and I believe a power play for at least the next 5-10 years. Motorola has the right idea with their acquisition of Rho...

Gussy2000
Gussy2000

Kindle Fire owner (well wife) and I completely agree with the author. I use my laptop for account management and content creation and our Roku to stream to our HDTV. My wife couldn't care less about specs. She just wants her shit to work when she needs it to. As a stay at home mom with a rambunctious toddler, the tech she uses needs to be simple. Our son does not allow for long boot times and constantly logging into everything.

Abbeydale
Abbeydale

This is the way technology driven ideas have always gone. Photography was once the domain of chemists and glass grinders and their efforts were directed to technically better cameras and photographs. Eventually the process became easy enough for the less technical to handle and the content providers, artists and those with a message to put across, took over. Cinematography went down the same route and today we don't care what process was used to produce Avatar or Harry Potter, it's the story and the vision that counts. The web has given the home computer almost unlimited content to play with. Tablets have given us a slightly different, perhaps more comfortable, way to play with it, but still it's the content that counts and this article has hit the nail on the head.

phil
phil

I can get quite defensive reading all these articles about how android is "failing" but fundamentally you are onto something. If I wanted all the high end features I would go for a netbook (or better still a good old desktop: something else being written off too early) but for a tablet ease of experience is what turns people on in my view. Google has a great list of services: something that logged you on to all of those straight away (and, as you point out: in one go) would be a great selling point. The thread contains a lot of opinions from technology enthusiasts like myself: but we are not the target audience. I love Linux but I accept that its unlikely to exceed 2% market share: in fact I prefer it that way. Google and android are far from failing but they could do better: a few lower end devices would sell well I feel.

dnox1978
dnox1978

I use my Pad as an laptop replacement , therefor I Need connectors like HDMI and DP or DVI and preferably a USB port and card reader like SDHC, I daily connect my samsung PAD to 46" HD screens and Projectors for power point presentation and so on,

binaryme
binaryme

I think Jason is right on mark here but will probably only get mixed agreement from the Tech types likely to be reading this story. I'm a geek and love my gadgets to be as flexible as possible... and admit disliking the iPad because it is so limiting... but, I also run a small computer shop and have to admit that the 'average' customer doesn't seem to care about all the 'extra' stuff. They generally ask a few basic questions like: "How much"? Followed by: "Can I get on the Internet with this"? or "Can it play my music and videos"? or "Can I play games on this"? Questions like: "Does it have an HDMI port or a USB port... etc." are secondary, if they come at all. The old 'KISS' principle does seem to work for the masses.... even if the average geek prefers more options.

Horus418
Horus418

More tosh, two android tablets in the house owned by a six year old who just messes with it, has some educational programs, my partner has the other. My partner is about as tech-knowledgeable as a corpse. Both of them have a great experience with Droid Tablets, they use skype, gmail, Amazon, ebooks and play games and have never needed to 'become expert technicians'. I have not had to do anything to help them except show my partner how to access an SDcard. Once that was done not another word has been needed. Sorry I think once again techrep/Znet/Cnet are talking BS, so much BS it is starting to get on my nerves. Yes Apple and Amazon sell tablets, all the other companies do and all of them have their high and low points, but the droid is not dead and is nowhere near emergencey care. If I was Apple I would worry as they sold far fewer iPhones/iPad than they expected. Sorry but I think you are far from the truth, so far that I would have to say you are a bunch of liars. Sorry but that's how I read all the sales, reviews of tablets of all forms.

hiteshmurkute
hiteshmurkute

Mr. Jason has pinpointed the issues with android rat-race in the IT market. There's no end to the limit of the hardware as technology grows every month. Usability of the Tablet should be taken under consideration by the manufacturers. The main goal of tablet is portability, ease-of-use & ofcourse long battery life to support the travel requirements. How does a tablet with 10 MP HD Camera with flash, 2 to 3 Ghz of processor, 10 - 12 inch screen & all other power consuming specs will last for 10 hours?

tutor4pc
tutor4pc

May be there should be three types of tablets. One without cameras but all the other goodies like GPS and SD card slot for videos/music, one that has a small screen for real portablity, and a real big one as temporary substitute for a laptop. Personally, I am a gadget freak and I want it all except the TV connectivity. That is partially because my TVs are still old CRT units. I travel a lot and I like to carry music and videos. My comfort desire is asking for a 10 or even 12 inch unit. The batteries should allow the thing to run 12 hours or more. That gets me trans-Atlantic without a problem. The screen should be at least 1024x768 for good display of movies and web pages. For a camera I schlepp around my super zoom and my android smart phone. I want bluetooth for navigation and for keyboard/mouse. 2 slots for SD cards make it possible to have one for "permanent" use and one for transient use. Unless the speakers are really good I rather use headphones with noise cancellation. One thing that I would like to see is a recording function for TV/VCR. That way I could add a surveillance camera or copy my old tapes. Interestingly enough great tablets come out of China at fantastic prices. It's just a gamble with warranty or repairs.

theamit
theamit

So, i'm a techie, 20+ years in the industry. I bought an iPad. One of the joys of "cloud" computing, is the fact that you DON'T need a grunty machine to run your apps, you need a browser which should in theory be your gateway to all your applications. Hands up anyone who knows who the biggest proponent of cloud computing is? Google... and yet they are pushing for bigger, stronger, faster hardware on tablets? I don't see the logic. Android is a GREAT OS, it's not a device. iPad = Device, Android = iOS, install the Android iOS on rubbish hardware and guess what, doesn't matter if it's ice cream sandwich or a 10 course meal version of Android, the experience will be rubbish. The iPad is a simple device that is easy to start using even if you have no technical knowledge, Android based devices have a bit more complexity and are more techie friendly. They're both great, just different.

gembilt
gembilt

Where MS and BBY dropped the ball on the tablet is not making it an extension of their existing function sets. Most people can pick up their iPad and it's on the network and they pretty much know how to use it. The Kindle Fire is already connected to their book collections, etc. I should be able to pick up what amounts to a 7-10 inch extension of my MS desktop, like my BBY, and go from there. If I open up Outlook on my desktop, there's my email.. If I pick up my BBY, there it is too, just like I left it. I want something in between the 2 so I can open up my tablet while I'm away from my desk and go over the presentation that was too small on my BBY, or surf, or read my books or news. Live network connections, and consistent apps are the key to making a tablet really useful to me. Essentially, I just want a Blackberry with a 7 -10 inch screen and a mapped drive to my desktop or network drives, or enough SSD space to store a reasonable number of docs so I can access my docs when I'm away from my desk, but don't feel like dragging out a full laptop.

d.s.williams
d.s.williams

Surely a tablet should (or could) be just as good as a netbook/laptop, but without the hinged screen/keyboard combo, hence simpler, less to go wrong, but without the need to make compromises as iPad etc. force you to.

RichardParent55
RichardParent55

Apple sells an HDMI connector that works. It's not a mirror image of the screen but it does work for things like PowerPoint presentation (and movies.) I have seen colleagues connecting an iPad to an old projector so I would believe that such a connector also exist. Before you say that these are extra, I would say that this is an acceptable way to keep the cost (and price) down and have those who need it pay for it. Finally, yes all of these products (tablets, ultranotebooks, etc) will evolve and eventually meet all our dreams but by then we will still want more. I remember a time when we argued why would someone "need" a computer at home!

Editor's Picks