Don’t panic! As I return from my summer holiday (where I went with my car and returned without it â€“ another story) I feel the need to catch up quickly on what’s really been happening during the second-half of July. Again, don’t panic because if you’re on holiday yourself, it’s a quiet period and the marketing and sales teams won’t ramp-up activities until mid August. After sifting through a ton of iPhone 4 antenna stories (which resulted in some of the most boring podcast segments I have ever listened to in my life!) I’ve managed to pull a few interesting tidbits out for you. Lets go over those stories briefly and then start thinking about Q4 and the events and trade-shows that will lead up to it. This Autumn could be the busiest ever for UMPCPortal and Carrypad.
Overall it seems that everything is on hold right now. On the last MeetMobility podcast we talked about a frozen netbook market as the new dual-core and DDR3 netbook platforms filter in. One wonders whether that really means the end of the basic netbook as cpu-core and graphics specifications turn that simple market into a race for cheap, blinged-up notebooks. The same freeze is in progress with the MID, tablet and ultra mobile PC market too. The Dell Streak is going to look rather out-dated in the next round as dual-core ARM CPUs start to filter-in and if Android 3.0 launches and opens the door to new markets, different form factors and productivity applications we’ll finally see some smart and productive products. In the ultra mobile PC space the Oaktrail and Moorestown platforms have made ‘Menlow’ look rather dated. In the X86 operating system world, Android and MeeGo are still months, if not years from being mature and as we look from every angle; from the netbook market, the ultra mobile PC market, the MID market and tablet market we see the product that scares the living daylights out of every OED, the iPad. The momentum there has been simply stunning and there’s no logical way to analyze it. It’s hype, marketing, magic and fan-base that have punched through any amount of negativity to create something that people simply want. Stunning.
One of the products that I’m quite interested in is the Huawei S7. It’s a modern and possibly winning take on the 7 inch slate space with battery life, applications, social and fun right at its heart. OK it hasn’t got the super-slick look of the iPad but it’s one of the most complete 7 inch Android tablets i’ve seen so far. How disappointing it was to see the availability date slip right out into September. That’s a big slip and one wonders what Huawei are doing there. Did they give exclusivity to a carrier? Are they re-building the OS (Android 2.2 would be nice) or did they decide to swap out the resistive screen for capacitive? That would make sense. Unfortunately I think it’s none of the above and we’re just seeing the realities of launching a complete device into the market.
A product the might look similar to the S7 but could bring a productivity slant is the RIM Blackpad. This is RIMs rumored 9.7 inch Blackberry companion tablet. The rumor sources say it will be launched in November but I’d ignore an iPad-like or iPad-killer references. This is likely to build on RIMs core competence of secure delivery of email and messaging and I’d expect to see it with some form of keyboard to tie in with the productivity theme.
The third piece of tablet hardware news I want to mention is something we haven’t really covered much on the sites. It’s Samsungs tablet which now looks like it will be consumer focused, running Android and will be built around a 7 inch screen. Samsung are the source of the news and they’re also talking about Q3, which is now! Samsung have made some great mobile computing products in the past and I highly rate their electronic engineering skills. They have the ability to build around their own ARM-based CPU too so everything is likely to be very efficient and small. Maybe I’ll drop my Huawei order in favor of this one. It will be fun to compare it to their 2006, 7 inch UMPC, the Q1. I’m expecting it to launch at IFA in September in Berlin. I’ll be there!
Android is turning out to be the easy option when it comes to tablet operating systems now. In fact, you could almost call it the de-facto solution for anyone that doesn’t own their own mobile OS. Despite Windows 7 being a superb, stable, feature-rich and productivity-focused OS, it just doesn’t work for the consumer handheld market. The UI is plain boring and I’m sure there are plenty of people like myself that now do as much as they can on their mobile phone to avoid having to go to the desk and wake the Windows beast. Of course, a desktop-style OS is still needed for productivity but there has to be a way to combine the two for a more enjoyable working experience. As a minimum, a user interface tidy-up is badly needed to enable Windows 7 to appeal to a more consumer, social and entertainment focused customer base but unless it’s done properly, it could make things worse. Witness early Windows Mobile overlay software that leaked the original user interface once you’d got past the home screen. The same was true of Origami Experience; the software that tried to tidy-up Windows XP for tablet users. I wonder if UI Centric can do any better with their Macallan product? There’s little that can be gleened from the short video and press release they sent out describing a purpose-built tablet UI. The problem is, the look and feel might be nice but if the included applications fall short on capability, you’ll end up starting your favorite applications just as you did before and you’ll have the same old problem of tiny windows control elements and scroll-bar, double-tap and press-and-hold controls. My feeling is that no-one will be able to hide Windows 7 until the apps are re-written. (Which means never!)
In part 2 (available here) I talk about why I can legally call a device a Smartbook product when I live just 20km from the Smartbook HQ that has exclusive rights to the name in Germany, a few Mifi competitors and even more tablets. I’ll also highlight the very exciting month of September. IFA, IDF and other events will prepare us for everything that’s going to happen in Q4.
All the stories highlighted in this article appear in the center column on UMPCPortal and in our weekly update article.
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MeetMobility Podcast will resume in about 2 weeks time when we’re all back from summer vacation. Expect a live round-table event with JKK, Sascha and a few special guests. Stay tuned to @meetmobility on Twitter for latest announcements.