2011 was an interesting year in the tablet world. The anticipation of Apple's iPad being overthrown never materialized. There were some contenders but all fail to unseat the iPad as the number 1 selling tablet. What will be more interesting is to see where 2012 takes us. But first let's review 2011:
In January, several tablets were introduced including the highly anticipated Motorola Xoom and the Notion Adam Ink. Asus also demonstrated a tablet that can be attached to a keyboard - Eee Pad Transformer. Android Honeycomb (3.0) was Google's tablet-specific operating system (OS). The Xoom worked well but the pricing and the finished product were its weakness. The Notion Adam Ink had great potential with a beautiful design and highly customized Android software. Unfortunately, it was another tablet that failed to meet expectations. January closed with RIM demonstrating their Blackberry PlayBook, another potential slick tablet.
February was the month that Apple's iPad 2 was going into full production for a March launch. Also, TabletConnect finally got on Twitter during this month. HP also introduced a game changer - TouchPad. Little did anyone know at that time that this would be the second best selling tablet of 2011... but only because of its fire sale. Samsung also announced its next tablet - Galaxy Tab 10.1.
March saw the launch of the Xoom tablet and the iPad 2. During this month, Archos stated that it was launching its next generation tablets - Gen9. RIM also provided additional info on its PlayBook.
May was a light month in terms of major announcements or launches. However, we saw Google announce their next generation Android - 4.0 aka Ice Cream Sandwich which would be used on both tablets and smartphones.
The summer months of June/July/August had more announcements of... more tablets. iPad 2 still remains the champ as no one has been able to overtake Apple. Manufacturers continue to miss the secret to produce meaningful sales. TabletConnect turned one in July. In August, an unexpected game changer occurred in the tablet market. HP admitted not only defeat and decided to discontinue the TouchPad but also decided to sell all its inventory... at a ridiculous price of $99 (for the 16GB). This decision put the TouchPad on the map as the TouchPad became the hottest tablet for the next two months (number three in worldwide tablet shipments in Q3 2011, according to IDC). At $99, there was no reason why it did not make sense to buy one. Sure its running webOS but the developer community was already working on porting Android. Unfortunately, four months later we still have a beta version of Android (CM7). With Android 4.0 being released, there will be further delays on getting a non-beta Android port onto the TouchPad.
September saw the announcement of Amazon launching its Kindle Fire. Also Sony announced their two Android tablets. Windows 8 was also introduced as being a viable OS for a tablet.
October was a tragic month in the tablet world as Steve Jobs passed away. Whether you love or hate Apple, the company would not be where it is today without his leadership and vision. He is the reason why we have a tablet market. I honestly believe if the iPad was never launched, no one would be interested in tablets so the tablet market would not exist.
The year ended with the Kindle Fire selling very well although no actual figures have been released by Amazon. At a price of $199 and an ecosystem in place (media: apps, movies, music and books), Amazon is the best company to compete against Apple. Barnes & Noble new Nook Color (although identical in appearance to the original Nook Color) went on sale.
So that brings us to what to expect in 2012. We believe there will be companies that will abandon the tablet market. The sales will not justify continuing the production of their tablets. The normal cycle of economics will follow through with only the strongest companies continuing to produce tablets. We will see quad-core tablets and better apps to make use of those powerful processors. Android will continue to be the dominant OS as RIM will formally abandon its tablets. Microsoft will make a strong push for Windows 8 tablets but we believe they will not succeed. Google will probably launch its next generation OS (Android 5.0). Prices will continue to fall as consumers will continue to focus on under $300 price target. It is an exciting time as we will be entering the second phase of this tablet market (where the stronger companies will continue to improve their products as the cheaper tablets are eliminated).
Happy New Year.