Wednesday, April 29, 2009

CNet: Price and uninspired software doomed the Tablet PC

In a CNet article today about the rumored launch of an Apple device “somewhere in betweenan iPhone and a Macbook,” author Tom Krazit takes the time to explain why an Apple device might succeed where others have not done so well up to this point.

For intance, he suggests that Tablet PCs and UMPCs were hindered by high prices and lacking software:

“As far back as 2000, Microsoft founder Bill Gates was evangelizing Tablet PCs, but a combination of price and uninspired software doomed that category to niche status. Intel and Microsoft then turned the hype machine to the UMPC (later rebranded MID, or Mobile Internet Device), which several years later aren’t exactly flying off store shelves.”

Yeah, he’s probably correct with the general comment. Tablet PCs and UMPCs have been too expensive and outside of some notably slick apps, there’s not much in terms of knock-me-off-my-feet software available for the platforms. If you ask me, much of this is due to the market that the devices are being marketed towards, but that’s just my take.

How does he think Apple can avoid similar mistakes? One is to leverage the iPhone’s App Store. That makes a lot of sense. As long as the forthcoming device has a display model similar to the iPhone an iPod Touch, I think it’ll fit in nicely to the current store’s product line.

What about price? Here the discussion gets a little fuzzy. Originally he sets forth a $699 price, but then moves on to suggesting that the device might be subsidized by a carrier. Could be. However, even at $699 I think he’s pushing the price envelope too much–especially in today’s market. It’s not a terrible number, but it won’t give iPhone grade explosive growth.

Also, in terms of performance the article suggests that Apple’s earlier acquisition of P.A. Semi is the key. Possibly its work could give a larger iPod Touch the video and full-browser horsepower it needs. Again, could be.

Anyway, explanations aside, I do agree with Tom’s closing argument that Apple may very well be in the best position to create a mobile computing device:

“If Apple is indeed working on such a product, it will have to get the implementation right to avoid duplicating the failures of so many other mobile computing aspirants. But by having awakened the public to the promise of basic mobile computing, Apple could be best positioned to capitalize on the need for something more.”