Stars Aligning for Tablet Turmoil in 2012
By Mike Anderson
2012 is shaping up to be an exciting year for tablets and the mobile industry overall. The battle, through 2011, has been won, and Apple has taken the prize. With a new leader at Apple, expectations continue to be high. Just the media whiplash with the great iPhone 4S not being an iPhone 5 is an indicator. Expect 2012 to be a year where Apple will keep its innovation push crisp to maintain the shine on its image.
Google has a lot of change to coordinate, and it must also keep the industry aligned with its Android momentum. With the Ice Cream Sandwich release, a coordinated platform direction for mobile devices is emerging, but there’s still too much fragmentation. Throw in the potential for Google and its Motorola arm to create a more integrated device platform, and the rest of the tablet OEMs have plenty to be concerned about.
HP’s rapid entry and departure in the TouchPad and webOS world is a clear indicator of the extreme competition. The open source play with webOS opens up a new opportunity for an additional platform to arise. The whole acquire, launch, kill, auction, release scenario has taken the momentum and much of the glow from webOS. With the potential to create an alternative to Android and Google, at least in the minds of HP and others, 2012 is an opportunity year for webOS to take root. HP remains committed to making this happen, but not all that much. There is potential for webOS to have a future, but HP is hedging its bet by building Windows 8 tablets and we’re hearing the right words from the new CEO that webOS tablets are just around the 2013 corner.
Microsoft has a lot of promises to keep. Windows 8 has potential, and Microsoft has great ability to attract and nurture hordes of app developers. Their renewed mobile and tablet strategy is behind, but the war is really just beginning. Nokia, Microsoft’s new partner, has lined up to deliver its first Windows Phone device and it’s moving into the US; they are aligned with the Windows 8 plans. HP is committed to providing Windows 8 tablets in 2012, so Microsoft can use 2012 to build momentum. That is, if Microsoft can overcome its characteristic pace and actually delivers production Windows 8 in 2012.
RIM is truly struggling to hang onto its previously unchallenged enterprise stronghold. Not much has gone well for them in 2011, what with network outages, tablets failing to meet objectives, software delays, and even challenges to product names. Their Playbook play is holding on by a thread. The new mobile OS strategy has promise, but they have to survive to fight another day. A little good news is that there is so much going on across hardware, apps, mobile OS platforms and various ecosystems that RIM is not directly in the crosshairs of the major conflicts.
There’s even more to the story. Tablet devices continue to be introduced with innovative capabilities, and the lines between them and laptops are blurring further. Amazon and Barnes & Noble have joined the battle, and the content side of ecosystem power will show its influence even more in 2012.
Diversity of technologies, challenges to leading approaches, struggling products and vendors and rapidly expanding use cases building on the exceptional power of tablets and mobile reflect the range of forces at work. A lot of new and existing stars are lining up, and 2012 will be terrific for tablets. Of course we’ll be covering this all in detail in our mobile and tablet agenda. It starts next week with our tablet special report.