MediaFile

How tablets can save the PC

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

‑ Winston Churchill

These are tough times for the personal computer: The 30-something device that everyone used to covet is being crowded out by younger objects of our affection. Time for a makeover.

Visionaries like Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Apple’s Steve Jobs started a revolution by imagining that computers — at the time, massive, room-filling machines that basically just did arithmetic — could become indispensable tools for the masses. PCs led to a world filled with powerful electronics we could take anywhere: Desktops became laptops, phones became mobile and then smart. And now there are tablets.

PCs aren’t going to disappear, but they are no longer the most important computer we use. Many people carry three computers now: smartphone, tablet and laptop. The laptop is becoming the one we use least. Even some of our enduring PC use is reflex and habit. If we lost the use of a laptop, would life grind to a halt? Not with all these other options.

PC sales had their worst quarter ever in the first three months of this year, down almost 14 percent over the same 2012 period and the first full quarter when computers shipped with Windows 8. Analyst Bob O’Donnell from top research firm IDC connected these dots. Per Yahoo News:

Apple in miniature

This week Apple faces two significant tablet challengers. The first is Microsoft, which is releasing its long-awaited Surface tablet on Friday. The second is… itself.

Yesterday, amidst the anticipation for the Surface and strong sales for the Kindle Fire, Apple announced a slew of new devices, the $329 iPad Mini the most intriguing among them.

The mobile era has been defined by Apple: iPod, iPhone, iPad, you know the drill. Apple ascended largely unchallenged, facing only a few stunned and weak rivals. By the time it got to tablets in 2010, Apple benefited from an unspeakably large pent-up demand for a device nobody had been clamoring for. Since then it’s sold more than 100 million iPads.

How Amazon used the Kindle to beat the odds

Editor’s note: This piece originally ran on PandoDaily.com. It is being reprinted with permission.

Whether you own one or not, you have to respect the Kindle. In the age of digital Darwinism – where perfectly good products and companies were brutally rendered extinct by superior species – the Kindle was the little e-reader that could, not only thriving in the age of tablets but even, in time, evolving into a multimedia device that took a bite of the market share for tablets.

The Kindle was never flashy. It lacked the sexiness of the iPad, offering instead pure functionality. Its design was bland and boxy, offering up a color spectrum that could be found in a dirty ashtray. It went on sale in 2007 for $399 and sold out in five hours. Skeptics thought this was just a small but fervent niche market of book lovers who fetishized the Kindle. But in time, the Kindle proved those skeptics wrong.

Why I won’t be getting an iPhone 5

Thousands of people will be “the first” to get the new iPhone 5 today. I won’t be among them. I’ve had every model of Apple’s revolutionary handset since it was first unveiled five years ago — upgrading even if my phone contract hadn’t expired yet — and, like the first-time parent of a toddler in a public place, am in a state of panic the moment I don’t know where my iPhone 4S is.

But I am skipping this upgrade. And while Apple is already setting sales records (again) with this launch, I’m seeing this milestone as the beginning of the end of the smartphone as the dominant mobile device in our daily lives.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not abandoning the iPhone, or any smartphone — at least not yet. I’m not even saying my iPhone 4S will be my last Apple handset, or that the smartphone won’t endure, even if only as a commoditized device.

Amazon and the tablet market’s 7 / 10 split

Amazon is going where few have dared to tread, announcing a “full size” tablet that takes on Apple directly — and has the gall to be cheaper than the iPad. The tablet highway is littered with the remains of wannabe iPad killers from big hardware names — Motorola, Blackberry, Samsung. Even Google, whose Android software powers the Amazon tablets, didn’t bother to poke the Cupertino giant when it released its Nexus 7, choosing to make a tablet a smidge under two inches smaller than the iPad.

Amazon’s new large tablet, the 8.9-inch Fire HD, has a slightly smaller screen than the iPad’s 9.7 inches. But the entry-level price, announced today, is $300 — $200 less than the iPad equivalent, and only $100 more than the industry standard price for the new 7-inch interlopers, pioneered by Amazon.

Why bother overtly taking on Apple? Because Amazon can — and almost only Amazon can.

Stick a fork in it: Dell is done

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published on PandoDaily.com. It is being republished with permission.

Sometimes when life gets too stressful, I try to remind myself that things could be rougher. Sure, I’ve got a raucous toddler and three deadlines in two days, but at least I’m not a coal miner. At least I don’t toil in a factory that renders pink slime. And best of all, at least I’m not running a large American personal computer company that has no conceivable way of combating an existential threat to its business.

I highly recommend this as a stress-reducing technique: However ugly your life gets, just try to put yourself in Michael Dell’s shoes. Imagine what that’s like. Picture yourself at the helm of a company that rakes in $60 billion in annual revenue — and then watch the money evaporating, floating away on a post-PC cloud. You built this company on the theory that computers were a forever-business, that the world would never fall out of love with the PC, and that you would be the guy to supply their fix.

Google enters the tablet wars with a small, safe bet

Google took another bite at the hardware apple with the announcement Wednesday of the Nexus Seven tablet. The tablet, very wisely, is not looking to compete with Apple’s iPad – the indisputable leader — but rather the smaller, cheaper tablets from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Outside of the iPad monolith, the Kindle Fire and Nook Color have been the most competitive entrants (albeit modestly) since Apple created the market in 2010.

Google’s Nexus Seven is a safe bet and, especially given Microsoft’s (sort of) foray into tablets, not entirely unexpected from the search and advertising giant.

And that’s why Google is smart to go after a part of the market where Apple doesn’t compete — the iPad is a “full-sized” device of 9.5 inches that starts at $500. There’s no reason to believe Apple is interested in making a 7-inch model, a size the late Steve Jobs derided. But both Amazon’s Kindle Fire and the Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet are 7-inch models that retail for $200, the same as Google’s Nexus Seven. By going after less-entrenched – but still huge! – companies, Google’s success doesn’t have to be measured against Apple’s. It can start small – literally – and see if it makes inroads against two companies still trying to make inroads themselves.

Tablets are shaking up the chip industry, even more

Tablets like Apple’s iPad are on their way to becoming a great equalizer of the semiconductor industry.

Sales of semiconductors used in tablets are ballooning and are set to nearly double to $18.4 billion by 2014 , according to a new report from IHS iSuppli.  Although still smaller than the  chip market for mobile phones and personal computers, that’s a massive market — and one that has not been dominated by one or two behemoth players. Last year, tablets were only the No. 8 destination for microchips.

Intel has long ruled over the PC industry and Qualcomm has enjoyed a similar position in cellphones, but the fast-growing tablet market is almost completely up for grabs, and each device needs a broad range of chips. Application processors attract the lion’s share of attention form from Wall Street investors but the iPad and other tablets are also packed with radio frequency chips, DRAM memory, NAND storage, sensors and analog semiconductors made by everyone from Avago to Samsung.

Sony’s case of iPad 3 launch envy

Sony, in a bout of bad timing, is hosting an event on March 7 in San Francisco for tech reporters at the same time as Apple’s reported iPad 3 unveiling and the Japanese conglomerate wants to make sure it won’t get ditched.

Sony, which some people consider to be the “Apple of the ’80s”, sent out a helpful e-mail on Tuesday informing invited members of the press of the scheduling conflict without mentioning the world’s most valuable tech company. 

The email said:

Another press event invitation went out today which conflicts with the Sony roundtable on March 7.
Please confirm if you are still available to join the Sony event.    

Zynga’s Pincus fights back against copycat accusations

Mark Pincus, the CEO of Zynga, isn’t pleased with reports that Zynga is ripping off games from small developers so he is doing something about it–wielding his pen to write passionate manifestos to employees invoking Silicon Valley greats like Apple.

After a game developer accused Zynga of copying a game called “Tiny Tower”,  Pincus sent a 60-line memo to employees to make sure his flock knows Zynga has done nothing wrong, (the memo was leaked to the blog VentureBeat and later obtained by Reuters).

“Google didn’t create the first search engine. Apple didn’t create the first mp3 player or tablet. And, Facebook didn’t create the first social network. But these companies have evolved products and categories in revolutionary ways.”