Tablets that Failed in 2011 (But Could Come Back in 2012)

Every year, we get new hype of electronics that are suppose to rock their niche. This year, we saw tablets galore. At CES 2011, I personally saw around 8 tablets that disappeared quicker than a fake Apple store in China.

But those tablets that stayed to try and take the market had to deal with the 500 lb gorilla in iPad2. Some did ok, while others failed miserably. That is what were going to look at today.

Cisco Cius

Cisco Cius

Cisco Cius

Knowing that Cisco didn’t want to deal with the consumer market, they decided to go for the business professional. Why not? It worked for Blackberry all these years. Only problem, it still couldn’t cut it.

Cisco Cius is an Android-based tablet that ran 720p, with Wifi, 4G and Bluetooth. It contains Cisco AppHQ, which is Cisco’s business app store. The seven-inch screen had an optional HD media station that could connect USB peripherals, Ethernet access and a handset, turning the Cius into a landline phone.

There is still hope for the Cius, especially in the office that wants to buy $1000 phones. Maybe in 2-3 years, this device will become more utilized.

 

HP TouchPad

HP TouchPad

HP TouchPad

There is no way to sugar coat this, so I am going to say it. HP shot themselves in the collective foot. The HP TouchPad started out just fine. Using HP’s acquired Palm software, the WebOS system had a companion phone in the Pre3. The big feature was the ability to transfer items from the Pre3 to the TouchPad by setting the phone on the tablet.

This tablet was prematurely killed when CEO Leo Apotheker stopped production of WebOS devices in October. It also brought us the first viable $99 tablet, as stores were liquidating.

WebOS has been since deemed Open Source. Maybe the TouchPad will make a resurgence as a collectors item. ITM – HP will most likely come out with a Windows 7 tablet in the future.

 

RIM BlackBerry Playbook

Blackberry Playbook

Blackberry Playbook

RIM has been hurting as of late. Once a staple in business, they seemed to lose a lot of momentum to Apple lately. To really get into the tablet market, they decided to put out the PlayBook, which in all reality, was a pretty impressive tablet.

1 GB of RAM, dual-core 1 GHz processor, Dual HD cameras, and it also worked well with a Blackberry smartphone. The tablet does have a lot of strengths, but the market did not bode well. If it can stand the water, the Playbook might emerge in a year and really show

 

Motorola Xoom

Motorola XOOM

Motorola XOOM

The Xoomtablet was hit hard on specs vs. iPad2. The Xoom’s 10.1 inch display was deemed “Low end”. Resolution is not the only thing about a display. color depth, brightness and contrast are also big factors.

Still, this tablet, which now can be upgraded to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) could make a comeback with Xoom2 and a better display. It also has Bluetooth, micro USB and GPS.

Overall, all four of these tablets are still in production. They have some great features and – if a little work goes into them – they could shake up the tablet market in 2012. HP TouchPad would be the only exception.

With the Kindle Fire and Color Nook out in the tablet market, as well as some low-cost tablets ( like the  $99 MIPS Novo7 tablet that came out), 2012 might have some viable alternatives in the tablet market.

I Feel Stupid

Windows Phone 7Over the break, there’s been a bit of discussion by some of the big names regarding the reasons why Windows Phone 7 handsets haven’t been flying off the shelves this holiday season. Charlie Kindel started the debate with “Windows Phone is Superior; Why Hasn’t It Taken Off?” and largely faults the relationship between the OEMs, Microsoft and the carriers.

MG Siegler responded with a fairly weak response largely citing the mantra of “too late and not enough apps” but as can be seen from today’s news of 50,000 apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace, the latter argument really isn’t that valid.

As usual, Robert Scoble hits the nail on the head. People buy Android or iOS because it’s a safe bet and they don’t want to look stupid or uncool by buying something else. Microsoft Windows Phone 7 and RIM’s Blackberries simply don’t have the gold-plated appeal of a sure-thing.

And he’s right. I was a big Palm fan and look how that turned out. I do feel stupid. After spending years waiting for Palm to move from PalmOS to WebOS and then HP promising to do big things. I bought in with a succession of Pre phones and pre-ordered a TouchPad. Maybe I shouldn’t be so shallow and have a less of an ego, because WebOS is a great operating system and even with the smaller app selection, it does 99% of what I need a phone to do. But when everyone else is, “Have you got this app and that app” on their Galaxy S IIs and iPhone 4Ss, you do feel a bit of a chump.

So thanks, HP. I feel stupid.

HP Gives WebOS To Open Source

HP WebOS LogoIn a surprise move, HP has announced that it will give WebOS to the open source community while continuing to support and develop the platform. HP believes that the combination of the superb WebOS platform combined with open source innovation and corporate support from HP, will foster innovation, creating a compelling user experience.

WebOS is the only platform designed from the ground up to be mobile, cloud-connected and scalable,” said Meg Whitman, HP president and chief executive officer. “By contributing this innovation, HP unleashes the creativity of the open source community to advance a new generation of applications and devices.

HP has said that it will work with the open source community to define the charter of the open source project based on four principles.

  • The goal of the project is to accelerate the open development of the webOS platform
  • HP will be an active participant and investor in the project
  • Good, transparent and inclusive governance to avoid fragmentation
  • Software will be provided as a pure open source project

No news was provided regarding other partners, new hardware or the specific handover timescale.

Undoubtedly more news will filter out over the coming days but it’s interesting move that may work out for HP and WebOS. HP gets to retain the patents it acquired from Palm to protect itself (and presumably WebOS) from attack, while hoping that the open source community and the homebrew scene will move the platform forwards. Future devices could appear from any OEM manufacturer, not just HP, but it will be interesting to see what the next WebOS product will be. Personally, I think it will be a printer.

WebOS App Catalog Revealed

HP WebOS LogoAnother week with no news from HP, another investigation by the WebOS Internals crew. This time they’ve directed their attention at HP’s App Catalog for WebOS to reveal everything you ever wanted to know…and probably some stuff you didn’t really care about.

– There are 8399 unique apps.
– There are 3514 apps that work on all WebOS devices.
– There are 5562 apps for the TouchPad.
– There are 6454 apps for the Pre 3.
– There are 6440 apps for the Veer.
– There are 7116 apps for the Pre 2.
– There are 6024 apps for the Pixi.
– There are 6761 apps for the Pre and Pre Plus.
– There are 1904 app contributors.
– There are 2642 apps that are free and 84 that cost $10 or more. 2638 cost 99c.
Accuweather is the first app in the Catalog.
Mayo Clinic High Blood Pressure is the largest app at 1.6 GB.
– It would cost $13,293.15 to download all the apps.
– It would take a 90 GB WebOS device to install them all. (Go on HP, let’s see a 128 GB TouchPad 2.)

Well, that’s probably enough for now. If you want to keep up-to-date on WebOS Internal’s work, you can follow @webosinternals on Twitter.

HP Still Thinking On WebOS

HP WebOS LogoHP has still hasn’t decided what to do with WebOS but appears to be taking the decision seriously. At an all-employee meeting last night with the WebOS team in Sunnyvale, new CEO Meg Whitman, reportedly said, “It’s really important to me to make the right decision, not the fast decision,” and “If HP decides to do this,we’re going to do  it in a very significant way over a multi-year period.

Setting this against reports coming out of Reuters that HP had engaged with Bank of America Merrill Lynch to sell WebOS for just hundreds of millions of dollars, rather than the $1.2 billion HP paid for Palm, it seems clear that Meg Whitman is seriously evaluating all the options for the future of the mobile operating system. She’s reportedly also said, “The question now before us is what do we do with webOS software and do we come back to market with webOS devices? It obviously will not be the same device but it will be version 2.0.”

What does seem to be clear is that any future thoughts focus on tablets rather than mobile phones. At the all-hands meeting, Whitman reportedly said that, “Things get more complicated if you add in phones.” While the TouchPad may continue, it sounds like Pre and Veer are dead as product lines whatever happens, but you never know.

On one hand, it’s easy to criticise HP for continuing to dither, but to me it appears that Meg Whitman is doing a proper evaluation of the options available, rather than taking the somewhat whimsical approach take by her predecessor Leo Apotheker. If WebOS is retained by HP in addition to the PSG group, it will be one of the biggest corporate turnarounds in history!

4.2 Million WebOS Users?

HP TouchPadOver the weekend, an amazing piece of detective work by the WebOS Internals team and some crowd-sourcing via Twitter has revealed that there approximately 4.2 million WebOS users, give or take.

Every WebOS phone or tablet user has to create a profile in order to use their device. Each profile has a unique identifier, a number that appears to simply increment by 1 as each new profile is created. Early Palm Pre adopters have identifiers typically in the 10,000s whereas those who started with the TouchPad are in the milllons. The profile identifier cannot normally be seen by the user but a Homebrew program called Impostah, developed by Rod Whitby and WebOS Internals, allowed this number to be revealed.

Using Twitter, WebOS owners were encouraged to come forwards with their identifier and the date they signed up so that a graph of identifiers against time could be plotted, showing the rise of WebOS and key moments in the timeline, such as the release of new devices. The graph, courtesy of WebOS Internals, is shown below and what you can see is a fairly steady rise reaching around 4.2 million. The most notable point is probably when HP had the TouchPad firesale and the graph climbs steeply. Click on the graph for more detail.

Graphing HP WebOS Usage

The number of profiles is slightly ambiguous when trying to convert to numbers of users or number of devices because while you can only have one phone per profile, you can have a phone and a tablet. For example, if you had both a Veer and a Pre 3 you would need two profiles, but if you had a Pre 3 and a TouchPad you’d only need one profile. Obviously, there are also accounts that have become dormant when the owner has moved to another platform.

In comparison to iOS and Android, both of which have in excess of 100 million users each, the 4 million-odd WebOS users are a drop in the ocean. Regardless, the graph shows that there was slow but steady adoption of a little under 2 million per year. Of course, HP continues to dither over the future of WebOS.

The WebOS Internals team are a bunch of hackers (in the best sense of the word) who created a whole Homebrew ecosystem under the Preware moniker that allowed Pre owners to add easily add patches and other software outside of the official App Catalog.  They’re probably WebOS’s best last chance.

Ubuntu Linux Heads for Smartphones and Tablets

ZDNet is reporting that Canonical is intending to make the next release of Ubuntu, 12.04, a LTS (Long Term Support) release with intention of then expanding Ubuntu beyond desktops and laptops into smartphones, tablets and smart TVs, with a target of 2014 for an all-platform release.

Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical, in an interview said, “This is a natural expansion of our idea as Ubuntu as Linux for human beings. As people have moved from desktop to new form factors for computing, it’s important for us to reach out to out community on these platforms. So, we’ll embrace the challenge of how to use Ubuntu on smartphones, tablets and smart-screens.” The full announcement is expected at the Ubuntu Developer Summit, which starts tomorrow and runs for a week in Orlando, Florida.

Having already been in discussions with partners for around 18 months, it seems that this is more than wishful thinking, but one can’t help feel that the whole Palm-HP-WebOS debacle bodes badly for any company wanting to get in on the smartphone and tablet space. If HP can’t make it happen with a solid OS and Zen of Palm, what hope has Canonical? When quizzed about this, Shuttleworth said that he saw “Android as its primary competitor…..We’ve also already heard from people who are already shipping tablets that they want Ubuntu on the tablet.” And of course, “Ubuntu already has a developer and customer base.”

While there’s no doubt that the mobile space is still maturing and there’s plenty of change still to come,  I have a hard time seeing Ubuntu on anything but a small niche of tablets and an even smaller niche of smartphones. iOS and Android have their foothold and Microsoft will be a solid third if Windows Phone 7 continues to deliver and Windows 8 delivers as expected. A fourth player is going to have difficulty making inroads, especially one as relatively unknown as Canonical and Ubuntu.

Smart TVs are a more plausible destination as the internal software is of less concern to the consumer. Most people buying a TV are looking at the exterior brand such as Sony, Samsung or LG, and not what’s inside, although this may change if a “Powered by Roku” or “Google TV inside” campaign runs. Plenty of change to come in this space too.

I wish Ubuntu every success.

HP Changes Its Mind

HP LogoAfter an “evaluation of strategic alternatives”, HP has decided not to either sell or spin off the Personal Systems Group (PSG). Given the plummet of the share price on the original review announcement and the subsequent departure of the then-CEO Leo Apotheker, this is not entirely unsurprising news.

The new CEO and HP President, Meg Whitman, said, “HP objectively evaluated the strategic, financial and operational impact of spinning off PSG. It’s clear after our analysis that keeping PSG within HP is right for customers and partners, right for shareholders, and right for employees. HP is committed to PSG, and together we are stronger.

Apparently the in-depth strategic review revealed that the PSG was tightly integrated throughout HP’s operations and brought significant value to HP’s brand and portfolio. The cost of extracting PSG from HP negated any possible benefits from the split of the organisation. There’s a surprise.

No news on whether WebOS will get a reprieve but more may be revealed at a this afternoon’s press call (5pm Eastern)

Update: based on the press call, it’s “wait and see” for a few months with regard to WebOS. There’s more over at PreCentral.

Decision Time For HP and WebOS

HP TouchPad

The rumours continue to swirl around HP and WebOS but AppleInsider is claiming that the fate of WebOS could be decided today (11th October). Reports suggest that the initial bidding process is complete and that an annoucement may be made after a meeting today to confirm the next step in the sale process.

There’s been much speculation as to who the prospective bidders might be. At various times HTC, Samsung, Qualcomm and Facebook have all been in the picture, some more realistically than others, and one of the current hot favourites is Amazon. Looking back at when Palm was up for sale and HP purchased it, BusinessInsider claimed there were five serious suitors, suggesting Apple, Lenovo, Research in Motion (RIM), Google and of course, HP. Which of these would still be interested given the success that HP made of Palm?

Some were after Palm’s considerable patent portfolio rather than WebOS itself, and the famous “smartphone” patent in particular. Even HP were pretty upfront about this with Mark Hurd saying that HP wasn’t buying Palm to be in the smartphone business. (How prophetic was that?)  Ultimately the nature of the sale may depend on HP’s feelings towards WebOS. Do they want to simply get as much as they can of their $1.2 billion back as quickly as they can, or do they want WebOS to succeed, even if HP was unable to make it a winner. Only time will tell.

Read related articles at GNC for HP, Palm and WebOS.

GNC-2011-09-29 #709 Kindle Fire

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