If you read between the lines of recent essays between Jason Kottke and Tim Carmody, it becomes pretty clear that Apple’s only potential competition in the tablet market will likely come from Amazon, using a modified version of Google’s Android software.
Kottke lays out a pretty good blueprint for how a company can compete with Apple, basically coming down to a company needing to incorporate cloud services, a more streamlined method for delivering media content than iTunes, and incorporating some element of “social” into the product.
Amazon essentially has all of those things covered as they’ve built out a network of streaming video, online sales, an app store, an Mp3 store, cloud services, they are even testing out an advertising program on the Kindle, no doubt, with the intention of working the kinks out for later use in a subsidized tablet (to compete on overall pricing with Apple), etc.
Combine that infrastructure with the use of Google’s Android, which has cloud syncing down to a science, and you’ve got the pieces in place to compete with Apple.
The problem with tablet computers, aside from being rushed to market in the hopes of competing with Apple, but there doesn’t seem any reason for those tablets to exist. One of Apple’s strengths is that it carves out a market people didn’t realize existed. The iPhone/iPod is pocket computing, the iPad is couch computing and their computers/laptops are for the office.
(As an aside, the next obvious market that Apple will probably carve out is in the living room/TV. Seems a bit obvious, no?)
Tim Carmody praises the recent update Barnes and Noble rolled out for it’s Nook Color reading tablet. Sure, he says it’s a middlebrow device aimed squarely at suburban moms and dads, but I bought a color Nook for Lady Oyster and she loves it. She’s always reading on it, or using it to surf the web, check her email, bop on to Facebook, etc. It’s a great device. Certainly more reading device than tablet computer, but a great little affordable device that can only get better.
The Color Nook isn’t quite as full-featured as I’d like, not nearly as powerful as it should be, but B&N has shown what a tablet can and should be. And I think Amazon is working on a device that will be similar to the Color Nook, but more robust. A device aimed at someone like myself that doesn’t want the bells and whistles of the iPad, but wants something close.
I don’t need a dual cameras and a retina display and all that. I just want a 10-inch tablet that can surf the web, play mobile games, have a set of apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instapaper that I use on a regular basis, has the ability to play music, stream/download movies and television shows, etc. Like the iPad, but a step or two below. Something between the Nook Color and the iPad.
I think that’s what Amazon is/should be working on. Only time will tell, however. Imagine Amazon rolls out a device that includes 32GB of internal storage and then 32GB of cloud storage? If the price was right, I’d buy one in a heartbeat. Furthermore, that’s a device who’s reason seems obvious for existing, with a streamlined infrastructure to purchasing media content and apps, unlike the other Apple competitors.