Thankfully, I've never been in a perfect storm. I have seen a movie about it, but the worst storms I've encounteredwere of the lightning, thunder and torrential downpour variety whenI attended college in the Midwest. I came pretty close to a tornadoonce, but it missed us by 20 miles. There are various ways ofdescribing a perfect storm, but it usually refers to a confluenceof multiple types of weather conditions converging to create a perfect storm that has a huge impact on anyone in thestorm's path. |
This fall, the tech market will have a perfect storm of its own, asthree major technologies and industry forces converge to deliver awhole host of new products for consumers. This could be either a very good thing or a bad thing, dependingwho you are. Techies will have dozens of new technologies to buythat enhance their digital lifestyles, and to them this will be agood thing. But for mainstream consumers, so many new products andgadgets will be coming out at the same time that they'll havealmost too many choices to deal with.
In many cases, this couldcause a lot of confusion. ( MORE: 6 Reasons Apple Is So Successful ) The first major products that will have a big influence on themarket will be the next generation of low-cost Android tablets.This will be led by Google, which is expected to jump directly into the tablet market with a 7-inch tablet ofits own. We hear that it will be an Android tablet with the mostrecent version of Android (known as Jelly Bean), and that it willmost likely be priced around $199 to compete with Amazon s Kindle Fire . But I have heard that it could be priced as low as $179 as well.Google could announce this tablet as early as its developmentconference in late June.
Google getting into the tablet market is a big deal. It means thecompany will be competing with its own partners and customers suchas Samsung, Asus, Acer, Lenovo and others. And Google getting intothe market is an important move, as it signals that Google iswilling to put its own marketing muscle behind Android tablets totry and help them gain market share. To date, Android tablets havenot done well, and this thrust from Google means that users willhave a lot of Android tablets to choose from this fall. We also expect Amazon to continue its push in the tablet marketwith a new 7-inch Kindle Fire, and many believe the company willalso bring out a 10-inch model that could be more competitive withApple's iPad.
And since Amazon subsidizes its tablets byselling digital content and products from its online store, the10-inch model could be priced as low as $299 according to sourcesI've talked to. And we hear Samsung has a stellar new tabletit will also launch in Q4, which will only add to the amount ofAndroid tablet choices that will be available this fall. The second big thing will be the push by Microsoft to introduce twoversions of Windows 8 , the company's new operating system with the Metro touchuser interface. This new OS will be especially important for thetablet market, and by late October we should have dozens of newWindows 8 tablets available in two distinct flavors.
The first willbe tablets based on Intel's x86 chipsets. This is importantbecause it means that you will be able to run existing Windows appson these tablets. The one problem with this is that existing appswill not be Metro or touch enabled, which means to use them youwill need a tablet that also has a stylus. Microsoft is pushingsoftware vendors to build new apps that are touch-enabled to takeadvantage of the Metro UI, but at launch we expect less than 10,000Metro apps for Windows 8 will be available. The second flavor will come in Windows 8 tablets that use ARMprocessors.
In this case, no existing Windows application will workon these machines, but these tablets have the advantage of havingchips with extremely long battery life. Software developers arealso being pushed to create dedicated apps for use on ARM-basedtablets, but at launch we may have only about 500 apps ready to goon these systems. However, while the x86 versions of Windows 8should have strong traction with IT users, ultimately the ARM-basedWindows 8 tablets may be more important to the consumer market ifthe software community starts to back it. This is because with theARM push, Microsoft is actually starting over.
It has no legacybaggage from older versions of Windows to deal with, and in essenceit gives Microsoft and the software community a completely newpalette to work with. ( MORE: Windows 8 Versions: The News Is Mostly Good ) Windows 8 with the Metro UI will also be available for laptops anddesktops, but since existing laptops and desktops are not touchenabled, its impact on these platforms could be limited at first.Microsoft is hoping that PC vendors will start building laptops anddesktops with touchscreens in the future to take full advantage ofthe Metro UI; but that may be slow in coming, as puttingtouchscreens on the products adds at least $100-$150 to the cost ofthese computers. To date, vendors are rejecting these moves as theytry to keep laptop and desktop prices low to stay competitive.However, over time Windows 8 will find its way onto all laptops anddesktops, or at least be available as an upgrade for consumers. Also, Intel and its partners will make a huge push around Windows 8 Ultrabooks this fall.
These are Intel's new thin and light laptops thatare similar to Apple's MacBook Air, and Intel is going allout to use them to revive the laptop market, where growth has beensomewhat stunted by the iPad. Most Ultrabooks will be priced above$699, so at first they will be bought by a more upscale audience.However, we will also see products that are thin and light withless processing power called "Ultrathins" debuting thisfall as well. These will be in the $399-$599 range, thus givinglaptop buyers some exciting new form factors to choose from thisholiday season. There will also be a new category of devices introduced around thisWindows 8 launch called hybrids. These are tablet-and-keyboardcombo devices in which the screen pops off and becomes a tablet(when docked with the keyboard they work more like a laptop).Asus' Transformer Prime is a good example of this hardware design running Androidsoftware, but these impending Windows 8 hybrids will be fully Metrotouch-enabled.
This will be one of the more exciting new productlines we will see this fall, and there's already a lot ofinterest in hybrids that marry the tablet and laptop into a singledevice. ( MORE: Intel and Microsoft s Secret Weapon Against Apple ) And there will be a third technology push that will also have a bigimpact on the market. We expect that in October, Apple willintroduce a new iPhone. Although nobody knows for sure what thiswill be, I do expect Apple to deliver a completely redesignediPhone that is sleeker, more elegant and much more powerful thanwhat the company has on the market today.
Demand for the iPhone is still very high around the world and therewill be huge, pent-up demand for the new iPhone here, as millionsof current iPhone users are coming to the end of their carriercontracts. At the same time, we expect as many as 20 new Androidand at least four new Windows-based phones out this fall, too. There is also the possibility that Apple could introduce a smalleriPad. While this is purely speculative, there are lots of rumorsfloating around that this is in the works.
If so, this would be agame-changer and could have a real impact on the tablet market.Amazon set a new price for 7-inch tablets with the $199 KindleFire, but if Apple does introduce a smaller iPad, it would also bemuch cheaper than the 9.7-inch iPad — likely be priced as lowas $299. I suspect that if consumers look at the Kindle Fire at$199 or Google's low cost tablet at a similar price, and havean option of buying an iPad for only $100 more, a lot of them wouldopt for the iPad. These three types of technology products and marketing forces willcollide sometime between July and October and set the stage forwhat will be the most active tech buyers' market we have everseen for a Q4 holiday period. Aside from the devices themselves,close to $1.5 billion will be spent on marketing these products toconsumers this fall. Consumers' heads will spin aswe're bombarded with ads for new smartphones, tablets andportable computers.
Start your technolust engines now, and getready for some really cool products this holiday season. MORE: A Tablet in Every Room: How to Think Different About the Future.
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