Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New tablets play "Me Too!" to the iPad

A recent look at the TouchPad, HP's new long-needed foray into the tablet market and HP Slate replacement, had me marveling at how similar every new tablet is, copying and switching each other's ideas to the point of indistinguishability.

Obviously, Apple hit it big with the iPad. And regardless of how "underwhelming" and "just-a-big-iPod-touchy" it seemed, it's now what every other company strives to be in this new, very competitive market. Sure, the TouchPad is different, and it still keeps its Palm underpinnings and UI cues that make it beautiful, polished and compelling, but a closer look at it reminds me so much of Android reminds me so much of Win7 tablets reminds me so much of everything else in the market since CES 2011. In essence, Apple is playing a big "I told you so" game as the rest of the world tries to keep up. Oh, the beauties of competition bring us the fruits of technological innovation, which are more or less nothing more than expensive grown-up toys, but I digress...

You always wonder what they will come up with next. Remember when you looked at the Motorola Razr and wondered just how cell phones could possibly get any smaller or better? Well, that's what tech companies do too. except that they make money and pay engineers to do it. Sooner or later someone will totally rethink something that will and should redefine the market, but as of late, that company is Apple. And it's not because they simply have better teams behind them and better marketing, it's just that have taken much bigger risks and put a hell of a lot of effort into market-altering products. Don't think that just because HP bought Palm and are now using their webOS platform that some brilliant engineers had not designed some amazing concept products that would, however, never see the light of day. Just look at the Courier concept that supposedly came from the Microsoft labs. In those situations, companies just didn't take the massive risk to put their resources into something that their market research told them nobody would buy.

Which brings us back to the iPad. It was a product announced to a world that knew of it's existence for nearly a decade. However, the loudest voices in the media said it wasn't good enough. There were no iPad focus groups. Apple developed the product blindly for years, as they so with nearly everything they make. That's a risk only few are willing to take.

Then what does everyone else still do? Well, just sit back, wait and watch a burgeoning new market explode and Apple again dominate a new arena. What and then after the wait-and-see approach to product development, it takes a year for anyone to come up with anything remotely compelling. Well, it's about damn time.

The HP TouchPad. The Motorola Xoom. The BlackBerry PlayBook. And, God-willing, a Microsoft product that doesn't use Windows 7 (Windows Tab 7, maybe?). These are the devices that may finally help us breathe in an Apple-drowned world. I don't care what it is, I just want it to be good and innovative.

Just have the balls, tech companies, to do something great and quit following in Apple's shoes.

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