The new year kicked off last week at the annual Consumer Electronics Show at Las Vegas as expected with exciting array of tablet computers from names including Motorola, Research In Motion (makers of BlackBerry), Lenovo, Sony and LG.
The first headlines out said that none of them is an iPad killer, in a reference to Apple’s pioneering tablet launched last April. But there is much more to the game than what Americans think is cool, because the planet is much bigger now— in budgets, tastes and features.
Some 50 million tablets — which make e-readers, videos and games easier to use — are expected to sell in 2011, with Apple leading. The iPad, priced now at $500 (about R22,000) is adding a price challenge to its brand and design power.
A real clue on the future came in a keynote speech by Ivan Seidenberg, CEO of service provider Verizon, who said “The two billion Internet users and five billion wireless users around the world constitute the biggest market for technology the world has ever known.”
This means the game is wide open. In the emerging scenario, Google’s Android platform is becoming a cost-effective alternative to Apple’s iPhone OS, and scores big because more developers use it to make end-user applications.
Also, I was impressed by China’s Lenovo — known for its price effectiveness — unveiling an Android tablet called LePad that can be docked in like a screen to its Lenovo U1 hybrid netbook that runs on Windows. The hybrid including the tablet is priced at $1,500 (R66,000) while the LePad itself costs the same as an iPad.
Lenovo is bound to drop prices after showcasing LePad as a cool alternative to the iPad. It also shows you can use two operating systems on the same machine. With hard disk capacity no longer a big issue, manufacturers may increasingly sell bundled devices with more than one platform.
Windows (OS) plus Intel (chip) defined the “Wintel” era of the 1980s and 1990s. What I call “Androws” could emerge as a convenient platform blend for those who want the comfort of the past era with the emerging opportunities in Android tablets. Google’s impending Chrome OS could also give rise to a similar hybrid.