The Great Tablet War: iPad vs Kindle Fire HD vs Surface vs Nexus 10
The battle is raging and spreading like wildfire in the tablet market. For more than 2 years, iPad had been the Goliath of the industry who kicked, thumped and smacked (whatever you may call it) almost single-handedly. So far, if you like watching WWE, the battle in the tablet market looks a lot like a Royal Rumble, albeit with no noteworthy contender other than the one and only outstanding iPad.
Google had the vision to see the market potential for the tablet market since the beginning. As early as February 2011, Google released a version of its Android OS that has been optimized for tablet and it was called Honeycomb. It was greeted with excitement and it was seen as a major threat to iPad’s dominant market position. Back then, Google’s strategy was to focus on software and their role was no further than delivering a good Android OS and leave the hardware business to other hardware vendors. Tapping on the strength of industry leaders in PC makers, from the likes of heavyweights such as Dell, Toshiba, Sony, Acer, Samsung and Motorola, Google assumed that they have it all thought out to repeat its almost miraculous rise in smartphone dominance.
It turned out that what looks good on paper may not bode well with consumers. It turned out that while there are many similarities, PC is not tablet and tablet is not just a smaller version of PC. It turned out that being a great PC maker does not make one a good Tablet maker. One by one, a new Android-based tablet was rolled out to the market just to find out that clearing 10,000 units from the inventory takes what seems like a million years. From Acer’s Iconia to Dell’s Streak. From Motorola’s XOOM to Asus’ Eee Pad Transformer. From Toshiba’s Thrive to Sony’s Tablet S. Each of them suffered a fate no different than the rest. Their lifespan is short and if I may borrow Steve Jobs’ famous quote, iPad rivals are dead on arrival (DOA).
Fresh from its success in dethroning Apple as the biggest smartphone maker, Samsung announced what looks like a decent competitor to iPad. The Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet was announced some time back. I’m not sure how you perceive the device, it looks like a good attempt from Samsung, but it is not quite a contender to the mighty iPad. Maybe it will take them few more trial and error and they may one day find the sweet spot, just like its flagship Galaxy SIII and the hugely popular Galaxy Note II N7100. But for now, I’m not even considering it if I am looking to get myself a Tablet.
Seeing a weak competition in Tablet market, Amazon could not resist but to jump into the fray. In about a year ago, October 2011, Amazon released its first generation of Kindle Fire tablet. It was the first Android-based tablet that is touted as one that might potentially compare to iPad when put side-by-side and still not looking shameful. There are 2 reasons that attributed to this, other than its sleek hardware design. First, Amazon has a great marketplace on its own and millions of people have made Amazon their obvious choice when it comes to online shopping. This provide them with substantial customer base to begin with. The argument is Amazon, with its own tablet, has the flexibility to optimize its store experience that no other Android-based tablet can offer. Second, Amazon was pricing its Kindle Fire tablet at aggressively low price point. At US$199, Amazon is believed to be selling the device at a loss. How much loss exactly they have to absorb for each unit of its tablet, it remains a mystery and guess at best. After the iPad mini was announced, Amazon up the ante by mocking iPad mini being too expensive. See the snapshot below.
Now a year later, we saw that Amazon is indeed serious about its Tablet business and it is not just a one-time hit and run marketing effort that we see from many of the Android tablet vendors. On September 6, Amazon deliver few jabs to the iPad when they announced not only a refreshment of its tablet offering, but more than that. On that day, Amazon unveiled Kindle Fire HD as an upgrade to its first generation of Kindle Fire. Price-wise? It remains the same at US$199. On top of that, Amazon unveiled an 8.9-inch option to its Kindle Fire HD. Specification-wise, it is coming close to the ‘new’ iPad but priced at US$299 compared to iPad’s US$499. Whether Kindle Fire HD will turn out to be an iPad killer eventually, only time will tell.
Last week, just days after Apple held its press event at California Theatre in San Jose, Microsoft came out barking with its debut of the Surface Tablet. Maybe Microsoft has drawn a lesson from Google’s experience. If you want to make a good tablet and take down the all mighty iPad, you cannot trust the hardware guys to deliver the optimum holistic user experience. Instead of letting its hardware partners build the tablets for Windows 8, Microsoft decided to take matters into their own hand. Initial reviews of Microsoft’s Surface tablet has been mixed, but no one has gone as far as ruling it out completely. At best, guys at CultOfMac described it as futuristic but pose no immediate threat to the mighty iPad.
As if there is not enough in the tablet arena to challenge the iPad, Google has today just announced their new Nexus 10. It is a departure from Google’s previous approach in fighting the tablet war. With Nexus 10, Google is trying to repeat its success with its smartphone approach. Hardware-wise, Google’s Nexus 10 will still be manufactured by Samsung, but it has total control over both the software and hardware design that is important to deliver optimum user experience
The Great Tablet War has just begun. Who will emerge as the winner?