With the news that Apple has sold a staggering one million iPads since the tablet’s release barely a month ago, you would think competitors would be racing to produce a tablet device of their own to cash in on some of the iPad’s fame, but in what has turned out to be the most interesting, if not the most under-reported, tech story of the week is that two companies whom analysts predicted would present the fiercest competition to Apple’s iPad have bowed out of the tablet race altogether.
Engulfed by the news of the meteoric success of the iPad both Microsoft and HP quietly announced that they have shelved their current tablet projects, most likely never to be looked at again. While this is yet another dark omen of Apple’s continued technological dominance, is bowing out of the tablet race a signal of defeat for these companies at the hands of Apple, or a shrewd business maneuver that will see them both return in the near future with far more advanced and innovative tablet technologies?
It was truly a surprise to hear that Microsoft was the first to concede the tablet fight to Apple, although who could blame the PC giant for shying away from the tablet computing fight, since they were amongst the first tablet pioneers in the early 2000’s who tried, and failed, to bring handheld computing to the public.
Many analysts speculated that Microsoft’s Courier, the folding two-screen prototype tablet device that was unofficially revealed last year, had a better user interface, more features, and a better overall design that the iPad, meaning that had Microsoft pursued the development of the Courier, they very well might have given the tech loving public another device to consider.
Despite this surprise, however, considering the fact that Microsoft is still working on the roll out its Windows 7 and Windows Phone 7 operating systems, it does make sense to stop the development of other operating systems, like the custom OS thought to be employed by the Courier. What this means is that while the Courier project is almost certainly dead, we can hope that Microsoft will incorporate its innovation and smart thinking into some other advanced tablet project.
While many were equally surprised that HP backed out of the tablet race with the strength of their prototype Slate device, which ran Windows 7 on a 9 inch touchscreen interface, for me, this latest move by HP makes perfect sense. Why would HP want to pay Microsoft licensing fees for an operating system when with the purchase of Palm, the webOS gives HP one of its own?
Although many remain frustrated that neither of these two tech giants was even willing to make a limited run in the tablet market, it does make sound business sense. If either of these devices had beaten the Apple iPad to tech store shelves across the country, you would assuredly have seen Apple take a step back and revamp the iPad before unveiling it to the public. One of key reasons behind the iPad’s current success is not really its innovation, or its features, but simply the fact that it’s the only tablet available. If there’s one thing that’s for certain, it’s that novelty goes a long way in the mobile market.
This means that every other company who enters this race now has to compete with the fact that Apple’s iPad is the default tablet device for the tech consuming public, and in order to gain any significant market share, these other tablets will need to vastly out-perform and out-class the iPad, and if the news of Microsoft and HP bowing out shows us anything, it’s that neither company was in a position to do that…yet.