The HP TouchPad’s sudden demise caught many by surprise. Perhaps what we all were expecting was the usual story of companies big or small coming up with their own version of an iPad killer only to languish and die a slow death while the iPad reins supreme. HP decided not to follow the often repeated path and instead culled the tablet project altogether going by the lackluster demand. In fact, the company is even seriously contemplating letting go of its entire computing business.
Coming back to the TouchPad, its sudden death is even more interesting when taken from a historical perspective. A tablet PC from HP was sorely missed right from the time Apple had launched the first gen iPad. Consumers not owing allegiance to Apple were desperate for a device they could hold up to the iPad toting crowd. HP did respond with a device running Windows but that eventually landed up for the enterprise buyers. However, hopes of an iPad beating tablet from HP kept going as HP said this could be done with a device running the WebOS. An HP tablet named the TouchPad running WebOS did came and went off, all within just weeks. A shakeout is not too uncommon when a segment becomes too overcrowded, though perhaps a product from a company as reputable as HP heading for the chopping block is the last thing that consumers were expecting. But then, perhaps this is the clearest picture so far of how intense the competition is.
So this leaves us back to the same old situation of a tablet segment increasingly dominated by the iPad with its potential rivals getting withered away. Also, this leaves us with the same old question of how can the iPad be brought down. Android is the biggest competitor for the iOS and the coming of the Ice Cream Sandwich version could bring a fresh lease of life to the likes of the XOOM or Galaxy Tab, along with scores of others.
Then there are the Sony offerings in the form of the S1 and S2—both interesting concepts and have the potential to make it big if they care to price it just right. There is a new Transformer also in the making and it has been among the better Android tablets. Windows 8 does hold strong potential and can well turn out to be the game changer in the segment. Also, lets not forget the ecosystem around Windows is the largest of its kind and all that Microsoft has to do is play it safe in the mobile computing space and they too can emerge victorious.
Another company that is also holding out a lot of promise when it comes to an iPad killer is Amazon and analysts are already predicting a sales figure of no less than 3 millions tablets within this calendar year. That’s partly because the online retailer knows to play the price card all too well and that is one important factor in garnering sales besides also offering a quality product.
Sadly, there isn’t a clear answer to when the iPad will meet its competitor. Chances are that it might never. That’s not because the rivals will never be that good, but because Apple is continuously looking for ways to build on the lead it already has to its credit. Also, say 5 years down the line, the tablet market will be a lot more matured than what it is right now with devices with more PC like capabilities being the norm than it is now. An Apple vs the rest might no longer be that relevant, though there will be a few big players sharing the top pedestal with Apple. All this while Apple’s market share is sure to come down in the long run. Then there is likely to be segmentation in the tablet category, with several niche segments coming up instead of a single device scenario that we are facing with. Also, the ultimate winner might no longer be determined by who is selling the most tablets but who is making more money out of the entire ecosystem and the tablet business. Apple already is a formidable player in this, Android is fast catching up, while Microsoft will have to shift its focus from the traditional forms of computing to the new age mobile devices.
Sovan Mandal is the senior tablet and tech corespondent for goodereader.com. He brings a international approach to news that is not just applicable to the North American market, but also Asia, India, Europe and others. Sovy brings his own writing flavor to the website and is interested in Science Fiction, Technology and Writing. Any questions, send an email