Count And/Or Trollmaster Extraordinary strikes again!!!
It would be charitable (that is, untrue) to call the consumer electronics strategies of Microsoft and Google coherent today. But what they lack in coherence they make up for in er, … sheer recklessness. That's OK, then. Both stalwarts are now in head-on competition with their customers, having launched their own-brand tablets …
" Is there something I'm missing here?"
Comparing the surface and the nexus is ridiculous, one is a sub-£200 budget tablet which is clearly targeting the market of people who don't want to pay the apple premium (and this market does exist, as evinced by solid Kindle Fire sales in the US). The surface on the other hand is going to be 'utrabook prices' ie £1000 and up.
A lot of the articles in El Reg, especially in the hardware section, seem to assume infinite budgets when comparing products. In reality however, many people don't have money for an iPad but might be able to stretch to £160 for a nexus, and might be persuaded to buy a big name brand (asus/google) where they wouldn't want to risk a cheap and cheerful 'no name' chinese jobbie.
What the author is missing is that his opinion is entirely anecdotal. He didn't like it. One dude doesn't like the product. big deal. What about all of the people that don't have a tablet that going to buy one. For them there is no switching cost. I am really looking forward to the x86 Surface so I can get all the Win8 touchy goodness and still run visual studio.
"Both stalwarts are now in head-on competition with their customers, having launched their own-brand tablets, rather than the software for other people to make tablets."
Google's been doing this for years, I think their "customers" knew what to expect in the tablet space based on what happened in the mobile space... the only difference is they're selling it at-cost to try and give android a foothold in the tablet market. You also failed to note that it is one of their "customers" that is making it.. if it was a big deal, asus wouldn't have made it.. it's even got their logo on there.
As for surface, I think MS have done something fairly decent with it (if not a tad expensive).
"Amazingly, Google is actually competing with itself, as Google's new $12bn Motorola devices division wasn't involved in designing its new Nexus 7 tablet."
Again, not really that crazy, since they've only just bought motorola. Plus it only took them (asus) 4 months to spec/build the Nexus 7 when Google asked them to build a decent low end tablet at cost for the nexus brand.
"And if Google's own employees at Moto think they've had a kick in the teeth"
Which I assume they won't... since it's in their interest to get decent android products out to customers. If android was failing, google wouldn't have bought motorola in the first place. It also stopped them going under before google even begun sniffing around them, motorola was failing badly until they adopted android.
"imagine waking up as a Samsung planner today. You've bet big on Android and helped it become a huge platform - and Google rewards you with with a tablet that it sells at cost price."
They bet big on android because their software previously sucked (I know this from experience). Using android would have been cost effective... it's not because they were helping google out of the goodness of their heart like the picture you're painting, only to be stabbed in the back. I
"And each time, after 20 minutes, I've put it back in the box confident I'll never want to touch it again. Pricing issues seem irrelevant if they can't persuade me to use one for free."
The point is, you didn't go out and buy it to fill a need. Most people buying tablets will be filling some sort of need. Be that as a web browsing device, commuting device, ebook reader, media consumption, gaming platform. Which brings me to my next point...
"Without stuff to do, Tablets remain as the forgotten niche of computing - the Kindle and the iPad being the exception because of their close relationships with the content production sectors. And without content, neither Microsoft nor Google have much of a story."
Total bollocks. You can buy most music via a whole load of download apps on android and windows (amazon being one of them), just as easily as iOS. You can buy books via the kindle, kobo, sony, and a million other apps. Hell, they even have the same book/page whisper sync you get with the kindle. Netflix and Lovefilm have apps too. I don't see how Microsofts/Googles relationship with content providers is a problem when they have 3rd party applications for syncing this content for them.
"Microsoft has Xbox games. But neither YouTube nor Xbox access make a tablet indispensable. And "access to stuff" is simpler and easier on a Kindle or iPad than on either Surface or the Nexus 7."
Explain to me why access to stuff is simpler and easier on a kindle or iPad. It seems crazy to me that you even wrote that. The Nexus 7 isn't even out, but it'll sync books as well as a kindle... music/videos/pictures on my android phone syncs just as easily as my iPhone used to, if not a little better, because it'll sync down from the device too from 3rd party sellers in the app stores. Also, if I've plugged it into another PC, it won't wipe the device. The surface hasn't even been released yet, you've go no way of saying how easy that is to access anything either.
"Of the two losers, Microsoft's Surface looks a slightly cannier bet, because it's really a laptop - and you can still use it as a laptop replacement. Is there something I'm missing here?"
Again, both aren't even released yet - and you've already branded them both losers. I'm actually shocked at how poorly thought out and biased this non-article is, even for you this one is a bad one. :(
I got one of those lovely HP tablets in the firesale and it was worth every penny. I have no actual "use" for it and having owned it for over 12 months I have not been able to find one, however... I wouldn't be without it.
I can throw it in a bag and hardly notice it's there. I can take photos to show my nan so that she can see them, I can look up random stuff on google while I'm watching TV and I can read emails on a screen bigger than my phone.
All in all it's a great thing to have, even if it doesn't really have a use. So the only purchasing factor with tablet for me is price (and battery life if you were thinking of a shenzenpad). I'd throw £150 at a tablet for fun (and did) but I wouldn't throw £300 becuase it's got no use.
I'd love to know if anyone has found an actual use for a tablet. I mean something that you can't do on the phone or laptop that you already own.
And why exactly is 'access to stuff' easier on an iPad? There is nothing, NOTHING, an iPad does that can't be done just as easy or as enjoyable on a decent android tab (I'm sure that applies to a win 8 tablet too but I haven't tried one yet)
I'm sick of the fanaticism and devotion that the media put on Cupertino's products. Yes, they're decent enough, but so are countless other devices. Show some balance please.
I'd imagine Samsung were well ready for the strategy, seeing as they have had the last two Nexus phones - its not as if Google or even Moto is making the tablet - its an Asus.
I've been pondering a tablet for a while...this might be the one that pushes me over the edge as I like the whole Nexus concept.
If *you* can't see the point of a tablet, then fine, no-one is forcing you to use one.
Friends and family of mine have iPads, and use them for consumption and creation.
We have a cheap Android tablet, which gets used extensively for games, and video, and occasional web browsing (when I can pry it from my son's hands).
Based on what I've read so far, I'm looking forward to getting one of these.
Obviously, all that is independent of the other half of the piece, ie software makers moving into hardware.
Give a f***! Just got myself a nice portable 7" tablet for the commute, that will likely be supported to the ends of the earth by XDA Developer community as it's a Nexus device. I like my One X for music, but I'd still prefer something a bit bigger for browsing. Plus, I'm getting into Android dev, so another cheap device for testing purposes is useful. MS has a much harder sell than Google.
Google have partnered with htc and Samsung in the past for their previous Nexus devices, so I don't think Samsung will be losing too much sleep.
This sounds like standard stratergy for Google, they make a reference design and a few weeks later Samsung, htc, LG et al come out with something that is even better. It allows Google to set the baseline for how an Android device should look / react. It seems to have spurred their telephone market on to produce some great equipment.
Maybe they have been disappointed with their partners efforts until now in the tablet arena and want to give them a kick in the rear and hope their get their arses in gear.
I think Microsoft are in the same boat, they've been trying for years to get tablets accepted and their partners haven't done a good job of it so far, so they are taking a leaf out of Intel's, AMD's, nVidia's and Google's book and are making a reference device for the tablet market.
I don't see you writing that Gigabyte, MSI, Asus, Asrock etc. have been kicked in the teeth every time Intel releases a new reference motherboard design to show off their new chipsets... The same goes for AMD and nVidia in the graphics market, they show off a reference card and their partners then go on to make the really stonking versions...
So what you're saying is that Google and Microsoft will never be able to catch up with the iPad and therefore should just let Apple have free reign in the tablet market?
You say that the reason the Kindle and iPad are successful is because of their content market - a point I agree with. But content does not grow on trees - device first, then the content grows. Expecting a device to launch an iPad-equivalent amount of content available is foolishness.
"the Kindle and the iPad being the exception because of their close relationships with the content production sectors. And without content, neither Microsoft nor Google have much of a story. Google is relying on the increasingly bare public internet for "stuff", of which nothing is exclusive to Google. "
You seem to be missing the Google Play store, which now sells books, TV shows, Movies, Magazines, etc (just like Amazon and Apple). You can also use the kindle app (amongst others) on an Android tablet to view Kindle purchases.
IMHO the main thing that's missing from Android tablets is apps... and Google releasing a cheap but good (as opposed to the many cheap and rubbish Android tablets on the market) will kick start tablet app developers, and make people wonder why they're paying triple the money for an Apple Ipad that essentially doesn't do much more than the Nexus 7.
This is exactly how I felt about tablets since they came out.
When I am work, I have a laptop for consuming stuff, at home, another laptop.
On the train, my 'normal' mobile will do my email and, when I want to know the rugby scores, some web stuff as well.
Never really seen the point of another thing in my pocket, or if it is a ten incher, the extra bag I need to carry around what is basically a netbook without the keyboard.
There still is no real compelling use-case for a tablet, beyond 'Being an iPad'
"Microsoft's Surface looks a slightly cannier bet.."
In essence all they're doing is having another stab at the Tablet PC market, but now at least the HW is capable of delivering a decent amount of use away from the desk.
If it weren't for that dreadful UI, I'd have to say Surface does look like the best of the non-iPads. Which I find disturbing in itself!
I read books on mine, so I don't have to carry around lumping great paperbacks.
Also do my time recording in the office, which I export to excel sheets for my timesheets.
but aside from that and email and music and the occasional game and portable browsing (on a decent sized screen), and google navigation and a notepad that syncs with my pc and phone and tablet and dropbox sync for important data files and mangler or mumble to chat to mates across the world and netflix and bbc iplayer and ..... nah that's it, you are right, its good for nothing I should throw it in the bin immediately!!
You are right--for you, tech-based owner of two laptops. I'm in a similar boat.
But my mom has no laptop and doesn't need one. An iPad or similarly-featured-tablet-that's-not-quite-as-nice would be fine for her, and probably your mom or dad too, 90% of the moms and dads and aunts and uncles out there.
the Nokia fallacy.
It's not enough to have a store for music, apps, movies, etc. You also need to persuade the public that you're *the main choice* for music, apps, movies, etc.
Nokia failed spectacularly when it tried to create a content eco-system for its phones. Teh Glooge will likely fail spectacularly too, because it doesn't understand that an ecosystem isn't primarily about technology or about content, it's about the relationship users have with their devices, and the extent to which they will do your marketing for you.
'Everyone knows' you can get books on a Kindle and all kinds of things on an iPad. People buy these things and show them off to family and friends. A *lot* of unpaid person-to-person sales chatter has literally made these devices household names.
Where's the competing proposition for the Nexus?
If Teh Glooge had marketing clue they'd tie the tablet to some household content names, and sell it off the back of that. But - aside from a few geeks who'll buy a Nexus so they can root it - just saying 'Hey, we have a tablet and an online shop for stuff too' isn't going to cut much ice with a public that believes it already knows what it wants.
You make some excellent points, Mr/Ms H. But I would say the killer app you're all missing - for me, anyhow - is video media. There are some nice apps (like the excellent RockPlayer) that play all video types in common use on teh innerwebs (and who doesn't have a few gigs stashed away?), so plug in my trusty 32GB MicroSD loaded with sum fillums and telly shows, and I'm happy as a fanboy in an aluminium factory.
A smart TV would be perfect for my Mum. Except there isn't one with a UI she can operate. She simply doesn't think in tech. Maybe if Apple really do an iTV... But I have zero faith in any of the other manufacturers. Her iPad she can operate easily. This is a woman with a masters degree, who's still consulting, ten years after retiring - so all she needs is a UI that wasn't thrown together by somebody who was blindfolded. And possibly blind drunk...
You hear all the praise for the Sony PS3 as a media player. It's got one of the most horrific, un-intuitive, messy UI's I've ever had the misfortune to try and use. It's also horribly brown. Goodness knows what Sony's tellies are like, which haven't had billions spent on their development.
I was originally in the same spot as you 18 months ago, wondered what use a tablet would be.
Now I use an iPad (Mk1) and a Kindle Fire (rooted, ICS) daily. The iPad mainly for the web (what doesnt work is minimal) & the odd simple spreadsheet. The kindle is great for email handling (ok ICS crashes once in a while but I knew that when I reinstalled the machine).
The phone is android as well (gingerbread) so out & about email is on it as well but it's surprising what you endup using them for.
The downside is the odd weird look I get on the train when using all three at the same time.
A couple of my colleagues here have bought tablets and seem to think I should. They dribble on about how 'cool' they are and 'how clear the display is'. What I haven't yet found is any reason at all for switching to a tablet from a laptop. A lot of what I do requires data entry (ie;a keyboard) and whenever I broach the issue the response is that the 'keyboard' is poor.
So basically it seems to me that a tablet is just a laptop without a keyboard and with a smaller screen. I'm struggling to see what the point is and I certainly don't see why they are 'the next big thing' :-/
"So what you're saying is that Google and Microsoft will never be able to catch up with the iPad and therefore should just let Apple have free reign in the tablet market?"
I don't think AO is saying that Apple should have free reign. He is just saying that surface and nexus 7 don't pose a threat.
"You say that the reason the Kindle and iPad are successful is because of their content market - a point I agree with. But content does not grow on trees - device first, then the content grows. Expecting a device to launch an iPad-equivalent amount of content available is foolishness."
What content exclusively requires a Kindle or an iPad?
You say that, but I have had a bunch of tablets of all kinds, from very expensive to dirt cheap, running Android, various flavors of Windows, Meego, WebOS & whatever-RIM-calls-its-OS-today.
Of those, the only one that came close to the iPad was the TouchPad. Everything else, I just wound up setting aside. I even tried using an Asus Transformer (with keyboard) as my main portable computing device, but gave up after a few weeks.
Apple set the benchmark very, very high and no one has come close yet. For most people, their hardware & software feels like a pair of comfortable shoes, where as Android is just --- badly finished.
Don't get me wrong, the iPad is basically a device for consuming content, a modern version of a TV. Most other tablets are aiming for at least some productivity, maybe trying to do many things is why they don't work as well.
"a decent android tab"
There's the problem. there are no decent android tablets that an average person can use and so hardly anyone is making Good tablet apps exclusively for Android tablets. On the other hand there are tonnes of Good iPad exclusive apps. That's a huge advantage for the iPad.
Except that whole OS update thing. To a lot of people an "android update" means a new device. Apple is popular as its the most "fool safe" because it can reliably be operated idiots, children, chimpanzees..... if you are a vertebrate you can probably use it happily and reasonably safely. Android still needs to work on "fool factor"
"So what you're saying is that Google and Microsoft will never be able to catch up with the iPad and therefore should just let Apple have free reign in the tablet market?"
To add a variant on Adam Nealis arguments, I don't think it is being suggested that they shouldn't bother - rather that they need to come up with a compelling proposition. Leave out Google and MS for a moment, and look at the many Android tablets in the market place as a similar example. If they did what an iPad did, as well and notably cheaper, then that's a good proposition. But what most of them actually offer is to be a little bit cheaper when all is considered, and to do things almost as well as an iPad, and that's not a very proposition.
So I tend to agree with the article that Surface is not going on to great things immediately, but maybe you're right that it is overly pessimistic. What MS is moving towards is the day when your mobile "phone" is your main data processing device, using the phone screen when you're out and about, possibly non-wired keyboard and screen for laptop levels of productivity, and using a big f*** off screen at your main place of work (perhaps even your TV screen at home). Surface gives MS an option against the demise of the existing PC (both laptop and desktop). For niche applications, sure, there will long be a need for customisable personal computers, but at the current rate of progress in mobile technologies the PC will be forgotten by the masses inside a decade. Intel know this, which is why they're desparately trying to break into the mobile phone market; Maybe they will, maybe they won't. ARM are the sort of company who are well positioned here, and of course MS are looking to port their wares onto ARM, albeit rather clumsily from what I read. And MS sniffing around the near death phone makers starts to look a lot more relevant (although I wonder if this means WP8 is a another stop gap to last a couple of years...)
All the elements of this are slowly coming together - for example DLNA link ups between phones, TV's and other devices. At present DLNA, Bluetooth et al are generally too slow and clunky for my liking, but I can still wirelessly display photos taken on my phone via my 40 inch telly, and I think that's a good start. Why can't I run a productivity suite on my phone, display it on the telly and use a wireless keyboard?
Much of the Reg commentariat have lambasted both Win8 and Surface (and I don't like the look of them either), but on reflection these two are the most striking things MS have done for a long while. They aren't looking for short term market share, they aren't expecting to make money, they are hoping to keep themselves relevant as the technology changes. RIM have shown what happens if you don't look to the future, so for a rare change I'll say publicly that I applaud Microsoft for these innovations, even though I currently don't expect to buy either.
Potentially this means that MS are quite right not to heed the user feedback on the interface of Win 8, because it isn't intended to do what we've all assumed, and perhaps Win 8 will not be mandated on new computers, but will sit alongside Win 7 for some years, and you choose whichever you need. I hope so - it'd be a pity if if they screwed up the roll out by trying to foist it onto unwilling users.
Pessimistic indeed. I use my Asus Transformer (Original), Galaxy Tab 7" (Original), my SGS II and my Desire all reasonably regularly. Each has found a different niche.
The Desire is "just a phone." It can sometimes browse if I am out of other options, and it can serve as twitter client for the customer twitter accounts I am supposed to monitor. It’s usually posting a WiFi hotspot for the tablets. Minor stuff.
The SGS II is a workhorse; the external battery case attached, I get a reasonably amount of use out of it. It serves as a SIP endpoint for my corporate extension, RDP client for all of the things and all-around general-purpose computer in my pocket.
The 7” Galaxy tab is an ebook reader and thing-I-play-Angry-Birds on. 100% pure content consumption.
The Asus Transformer gets a crazy stupid amount of battery life. 12 hours of use while it is charging the Desire via USB. With nothing more than my Desire and my Asus Transformer, I can plop down in the pub, RDP into my home VM and write articles for 12 straight hours before the battery dies. Nothing else comes close. Not a netbook, not an ultrabook…nothing.
What’s the point of a tablet? The same damned thing as a computer. Except the battery lasts a hell of a lot longer. The input devices you have available (mouse, keyboard, etc.) determine your ability to get various types of real work done. But push comes to shove, applications like Wyse Pocketcloud allow you to get real work done, even from a smartphone, if need be.
Portability. Convienience. Battery Life.
Why a tablet? Because I like to go outside from time to time. And there’s a whole world beyond my office walls to explore.
Yep. Walking around outside the walls of my office. Gardening. Visiting with friends. Figuring out exactly where that catwalk goes or just sitting under a tree, writing.
And no mater where I go...
...I can still provide tier 3 tech support when the call comes through. So I'm still getting paid. More importantly, that 24/7 availability and support my clients pay me for? (A major reason in choosing me over the competition, even at my higher rates.) I can provide it.
Without having to be tethered to a desk, 24/7.
Wherever I go, there I am…getting paid.
That sounds disturbingly like a cue for a song! You're not secretly writing a musical are you? It would be an impressive extra string to your bow, but I have a horrible feeling that:
Tech Support! Superstar!
Would be a sure fire, smash... Failure... Although I suppose you could put it on anyway, as a tax write-off.
Song 1: When The Call Comes Through
first line: Wherever I go, there I am…getting paid.
Sung by our hero with a chorus of black t-shirted, laptop wielding PFYs dancing in the background.
[Thinks: I must have had too much cheese last night]
They made a TV show called "The IT Crowd" and it was a hit all around the world. Why not a musical?
Featuring such worldwide hit songs as:
"Reboot! (Have you tried turning it off and on again?)"
"Wikipedia is down (what am I going to do?)"
"Oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god..."
"The Failwhale is back, baby!"
...and many more!
Buy your season's tickets now!
"Google is relying on the increasingly bare public internet for "stuff", of which nothing is exclusive to Google"
They seem to have mentioned something called "Google Play" about 2 gazilion times during their presentation. Maybe they're thinking of using that in some way with the Nexus 7?
Whether that'll work or not is another matter but odd not to mention it in the "article".
One could argue that Apple were similarly crazy to go up against market-dominating Nokia, when they came out with the iPhone. However, Apple brought better hardware, a vastly improved user-experience and a working app ecosystem.
Are MS and Google bringing along similar innovations with their latest tablets? I don't see it.
I reckon it'll only be Glasses will give Google a chance against Apple. MS's current mobile attempts are hopeless. Still, it's nice of them to give Apple the appearance of competition.
Between surface + the nexus tablet I think the surface is a much more interesting one. Looking at the nexus, it's fundamentally no different from an iPad. They're just offering a smaller screen for a lower cost, but the article is right - without the content it's of limited use, and the end result is that the price reflects the value it offers.
The surface at least offers something very different: the pro version can run windows apps, and has a stylus. There are big reasons to chose it over an iPad, and it doesn't need to be a loss-maker as a result. Whether people will actually buy it remains to be seen, but I think it could be a better bet. I think MS will have much better content deals in place (they have a lot already for the xbox, zune, and that recent barnes + noble deal) for the people who go for that.
Both companies really have to get devs interested though. As an iOS dev, android as a whole isn't very appealing. iOS apps tend to generate around 4x more income, and with android you have a lot more work to do to earn it because of the fragmentation issues (which ARE an issue for serious devs, like it or not) and you're dealing with a LOT more support work. Narrow this down to tablet apps, and android goes from unappealing to barely worth considering at all. The market is a huge amount smaller, and interest in apps from the android tablet owners is actually quite low. Cut-price tablets might help, but looking at the Fire the interest might be short-term.
Win8 might be a good platform for devs, but we don't know how well customers are going to take to it. After using it on the desktop (and seeing that final retro desktop, urgh!) I think this is a lot more of an unknown than it should be. I suspect it'll flop badly on the desktop, and that might impact its chances on tablet, but hopefully it will thrive - competition is good :)
This is an excellent article - something of a rarity these days. As you point out the iPad and Kindle really are the only devices worth using these days because they provide locked in content that you have to pay for.
It is increasingly frustrating to have to read information from the 'bare public internet'. Why oh why does The Register continue to make its content freely available online? Obviously no-one in their right mind wants to read content in this way. Hopefully both the nexus and surface fail and sites that have freely available "stuff" - like The Register - are shut down so people like the author of this article can get on with the serious job of writing content for people behind paywalls.
I use a 7" tablet every single day, for reading, news, music, some gaming, and especially video consumption on the move. I don't need that content to be tied into a single provider (I have three e-readers on my tab for example) or a single format (my tab happily gobbles up avi, mkv or MP4 vids), and its less hassle than carrying around multiple devices (as my iPhone is my work phone, I tend not to want to clog it up with music and video content that lunches the battery). If you played around with a tablet and couldn't think of a use for it, what kind of a tech journalist are you?
I won't buy a Nexus 7 because its not enough of a step up (lack of expandable memory means its actually a step down), but a Surface? Sure. You said it yourself, its a canny bet because its easily justified next time you want to upgrade your laptop or notebook.
Why, because it has a keyboard that does double duty as a cover? Will it really be beyond the wit of man for someone else to produce something similar as an accessory for one of the other tablets? And then where does that leave the Surface, when it's main USP no longer has a U?
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