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ATPM 16.11
November 2010



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by Mark Tennent,

The Outlook Is Cloudy but Clearing

Ballmer’s new Idea, the Slate. Hasn’t he grasped the concept that people want cheap, simple, easy to use devices? Apple showed him the way with their first iPod. Soon nearly everyone had one, wanted one, or bought something that looked like an iPod. The iPod wasn’t original, but coupled with downloads from the iTunes Store it was unbeatable.

Obviously, since then, Apple has been forced to unlock downloads as the likes of Amazon started their own online stores. However, the point is that the iPod can do one or two things really well: playing compressed music and video. Apart from on iPod touches, it’s a good bet you have never seen anyone playing games on the iPod even though they have always shipped with some free games.

Similarly with the iPad.

Tablet PCs never really took off apart from niche areas for handhelds such as those carried by couriers. No one wanted an expensive computer when for a lot less they could get a laptop that was easier to use and more configurable. Along came smartphones, which could do a few of the tricks a computer can, such as e-mailing, even though the likes of Blackberrys are awkward with a tiny screen. Change the form factor, make the screen the keyboard, and smartphones became pocket computers such as the iPhone and imitators. These are capable of graphics-intensive applications as well as satellite navigation, voice recognition, and all the thousands of software titles in the iTunes Store.

Then those clever chaps at Apple saw that a simplified and larger tablet would work for all those tasks where a full keyboard isn’t necessary but a larger screen is, such as Web browsing, e-mailing, and most importantly watching videos and reading electronic books and magazines. Just as desktop publishing with the combination of a WYSIWYG Mac, PageMaker, and PostScript transformed design and publishing, iPads and their lookalikes are inevitably going to do the same for printed media. Or, at least, until the next new thing comes along.

Meanwhile, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer thinks the public still wants tablet PCs. Even Samsung is proudly announcing their tablet being able to run a lot more programs at a price approaching double the cost of an iPad. They are more likely to cannibalise their own netbook market because a netbook running Linux or Windows, with a proper keyboard and a range of input/output ports, is a true pocket device, unlike an A4 tablet PC.

As for the Cloud, where all your data storage, software and control is handed over to a third party, it is making pathway straight to India. The Indians will inevitably be able to supply the same service cheaper than the likes of IBM and Google, and probably are already.

Good for them. I have no problem in calling a helpline in Mumbay where I find the technicians are ebullient, effervescent, and helpful. They probably wrote the software in the first place. However, I like to keep control of my data in-house and secret from competitors.

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