What Is Happening To The iPad. It Is Not About The iPad.

This old computer is so large it takes up a room

Apple released their earnings report last week and everyone was abuzz about the slowdown of iPad sales and the slowdown of tablet sales in general. Here, here and here. They are missing the point. The market is not going down it is shifting. Something else is happening.

What does this really mean? When we look at the tablet market we need to step back. We should take this as a whole instead of individual categories of products. Everyone wants to characterize each product as being a wearable, tablet, smartphone or computer. They are all computers. Plain and simple. Thinking about it that way it becomes clear what is happening. As the cost of processors goes down and the performance increases. Moore’s law and automation in action.

The result of this is more powerful computers at a cheap cheap price. I thought about this the other day when I got in the mail a coupon. Yep a coupon. It was for a tablet for just $19. The coupon was from Micro Center. They just opened a location near me in Brooklyn on 31st in Industry City. My first thought was that this machine will be crap. Oh yes crap, because what kind of machine can you get for 20$. I investigated further via the web. Like you do when you don’t believe something. I found out that the offer was real and the machine is good. I read the specs and saw dualcore with plenty of memory.

I took the walk to Micro Center. A huge geekie store with everything you possibly would need in tech with very friendly staff. When I got the machine I booted it up and it come up quick. The screen was eh, but it was ok for reading. I connected it to my wifi and when surfing the web it was fine. More than fine. It was fast. I was surprised. I thought the experience was going to be very much like an old Windows 95 machine as it struggles to open word. That did not happen. This is very usable.

I researched this machine further and found out that you can get it on Amazon for 50 bucks. Still not bad. So for $50 you get a machine that is small and has enough power to do email, surf the web and read ebooks on. Just $50. I am struggling with how cheap those capabilities are now.

So soon people will be giving away these machines like they give away USB Thumb Drives. Imagine you are at a conference and instead of getting a USB Thumb Drive from a vender you get a table. Or instead of you getting a program as a booklet you get a tablet that has the program. At this point you could use a tablet like it is paper. I imagine that there would be some disposal and recycling issues if that was to happen. People would then consider them like paper and throw them out. I can see them piling up like folders and papers on people’s desks.

The prices of the laptops are down too and are going to go down even further. The microcontrioller performance is increasing, so why call them a microcontroller any more. They are computers. What we are seeing here is that soon we will have incredible powerful devices with tons of memory that will be very very small. Imagine the uses for technology. Computers are not going to be limited by application and price. Gets me excited.

The small powerful computers are going to be everywhere and why not. It will cheap to collect information and cheap to store it.

I am not sure if we are just seeing a category disappear or shrink, but a category that is spread among other categories. Computers everywhere and at a cheap cheap price.

Photo credit: Stuck in Customs / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

2014, The Year of Wearables and Hardware Startups

HP TC1100

Happy New Year everyone. There is nothing like a new year without predictions and statements about what is to come (or not) in your industry for the new year. So to start this year off right I have selected three articles to comment on for the new years blog post. I saw these articles during the holiday break. The first article is by Anthony Wing Kosner from Forbes online. I have come to read Forbes every now and then, but have become disturbed by their ads that interrupt and show up all the time.  I digress.   I agree with him that Hardware is the new Software. From the discussions I have had with people in the Hardware Community in NYC we all agree on this. When I talk with people about this I usually say that where we are now, with Hardware, we once was with Software in the 90’s. I feel it is like a blast from the past. During that time in our past, big companies were the only ones that could afford to make their own software. They had the funds to buy the servers and the software packages. Now look what has happened, startups can use development packages for free (open source) and they don’t need to buy servers they can rent time and use cloud services. Something similar is happening with Hardware Prototyping. Now you can use cheap development boards to prototype with. However, there is no foundation yet for the development of hardware products yet. Big companies have been doing this for awhile and so they have developed their strategies, but big company strategies do not translate to small company strategies.

We have project management techniques and Product Managers for software products, but not for hardware. Not yet. I see it happening and evolving in that direction. Hardware is very different than software (I have mentioned this and explained it in my other posts.) it needs a different kind of management and strategy. We are developing something along those lines at MakeSimply. That then leads me to the next article also from Forbes online by Rakesh Sharma. This article is a great start to the discussion of what makes a successful hardware business. It requires rethinking things and adapting new ways.  I also believe there are always was to streamline the process. Make the process open to the customer and easier to implement. The last article is a post to Google+ from Robert Scoble.  I mention it here as Google Glass is a new type of wearable hardware product. I am relieved to see that one of the biggest fans of the product has seemingly come to his senses and realizes that the product is not ready yet. I say exactly, that it is too early. It needs more time to cook. The ideas and use cases are solid, but the technology behind it is not ready. The battery does not last long enough, the processing power in the small package is not good enough and the OS is not easy to use. Not to mention the social implications of wearing such a device in public. This reminds me when Microsoft brought out the TabletPC. You can see the use cases, but the technology was not there yet. Also people were not shown the proper use cases that would make them buy the device. I also remember the head stares I would get when I showed up with my HP TC1100 TabletPC. Wow it was a wonderful device, the batter lasted for two hours or less, and it took forever for word to startup, but I loved the saucer separating machine (Star Trek Next Generation reference, look up HP TC1100 to further understand the reference).  It took almost six years after Microsoft came out with the TabletPC and until Apple came out with the iPad that technology and the market were in sync with each other. If Google Glass would come onto the market today it would be relegated to niche industries and will not be ready to be a consumer device. 2014 already looks like it will be a great year for Hardware Startups!