The tablet wars are not a foregone conclusion
Marco Arment spent a hell of a lot of time trying to make the simple point that the tablet wars are a foregone conclusion in favor of Apple. The thing that stuck out about his review of a review is that it spends so much time frothing at the mouth because someone said something nice about a competing Apple product that’s true. But if Ars says the hardware of the Tab 10.1 is nicer than the iPad and it’s a true statement, what’s the problem? The Ars review pointed out that the third party hardware support on iPad is still beating Android.
When you get to the bottom line, Mr. Arment’s conclusion like so many pundits is that the tablet wars are over and Apple owns the market due to its dominance in app support. If these pundits are right, then every other hardware maker in the industry will just have to hang themselves, fire everyone, and close up shop. Or the more realistic outcome is that everyone else will tighten their margins and start competing on price. When nicely configured Android tablets are selling for $300 or less on a more mature Android 3.x OS and a maturing app market, they will be competitive on price and value.
Beyond Apple and Google, Microsoft Windows 8 tablets will start showing up with something that looks like a very usable touch interface in the fall of 2012 (3 years after Windows 7). The third party app market will be thin but it will run existing Windows software and drivers so that you can do things like print without sticking your iPad or Android device in a copier. Microsoft will likely make MS Office (including Outlook email) usable on a tablet interface and it will be enterprise manageable in terms of maintenance and security.
The Windows 8 tablets whether they’re on ARM or Intel x86 SoCs (without legacy PCI support) will be competitive on a hardware level for the first time. The main thing that really bothers me is the fact that Windows 8 won’t show up for more than another year and things can change in that period of time, but it doesn’t mean that the market will only support one or two players. Microsoft is probably very late to the party, but the game is not over by a long shot especially when the value aspect of Windows tablets come into play. While the PC makers will be reluctant to participate in a “race to the bottom” in profit margins, that is the harsh reality that they operate in. Windows 8 tablets will essentially be netbooks with capacitive touch screens which means they shouldn’t really cost more than $100 over the price of existing netbooks. That puts Windows 8 tablets in the $350 to $500 price range which is very compelling to the stingy PC shoppers who aren’t going to buy Apple.