The Future of Mobility

The announcement of the iPad 2 kindled (not the Amazon one) something inside of me this week.  I have provided a few angles on the new iPad, but wanted to close out the week looking at how I view the future of the mobile market. 

Undoubtably, mobile devices have finally taken off and are becoming more mainstream.  What was once seen as a techy item, is being used by professors, business people, mothers, students, and even Grandma and Grandpa Joe. 

The evolution of the smartphone has taken a turn.  What was once a push for smaller is better has turned to a balance between functionality and size.  With the smartphone becoming more functional, allowing users to surf the web and watch movies etc, consumers started seeing the benefit to larger screens.   What we are seeing now is the advent of larger screen smartphones and tablets to satisfy the increased functionality.  A new strike between functionality and convenience.  

So what does the longer term future look like for smartphones and tablets.  Who will be the front-runner, and what will they need to do to stay on top.  Obviously, Apple is seen as the leader at this time, but can Android or even Blackberry catch up?  Keep in mind, when I present these questions, I am writing with regards to the US market.  The addition of the International markets would change everything and add some more players. 

Right now, I see the major US players in the mobile space as:

  • Apple
  • Google – Android
  • Blackberry
  • Microsoft

What do each of these players have to do, in order to stay competitive?  Well, for starters they need to continue to innovate and improve on their products, while keeping their costs down.  This is a given for all of the players above. 

Let’s look at the specifics for each player:

Apple

  • They need to open up.  They are too stuck on a proprietary mindset and this already got them in trouble in the 80s.  Add a USB port to the iPad, allow an SD port, let me see my files and folders and transfer stuff without using iTunes.
  • More product lines – the one reason the Android devices have better specs is because Apple only provides product upgrades once a year.  You want the next best iPhone, it could take 1-2 years.  With the Android, HTC is coming out with one phone, while Motorola is already working on the next best thing.  This keeps the product line fresh. 
  • Realize Google is for real.  I know no one has been able to touch the iPod, but Google has a good chance to make a run at Apple with phones and tablets.  According to Steve Jobs at the iPad 2 unveiling, iPad is 90% of the market today, but keep approaching it from a standpoint that no one can beat you and someone will…especially when it’s Google in the rearview mirror.

Google

  • Push to become more mainstream and less techy.  Nothing wrong with techy people, I could be considered one of them, but a phone branded as “techy” for some is an automatic classification of “scary” for others.   Start marketing campaigns branding your products towards less tech oriented market segments.
  • Improve your security model.  This might be a difficult one since Google’s model relies on openness.  Education might be the best practice here or having a security program pre-installed might help reduce the risk. 
  • Lower your price points of your higher end products.  The Motorola Xoom was deemed the iPad killer.  I must admit, it looks pretty nice, but the price point is too high.  $600+ and I have to sign a contract with Verizon?  Apparently, a cheaper model in the $500 range will be released at Sam’s Club with only Wi-Fi, but when there are cheaper iPad options, who do you think will get the majority of the market?  Android is in the position where it need to impress and get itself out there, not price itself out of the market.  Think of Vizio TVs – they were high quality and in a lot of cases a better product, but the main way they got out there in the market and proved themselves was on price. 

Blackberry

  • Stick with what you are good at and appease your main market.  Blackberry is still alive because of the security and their seamless Enterprise integration.  Businesses that require tight controls, especially government related, will turn to the Blackberry.  For Apple and Android, they are out to appease the average consumer right now with new and innovative things.  Their models aren’t tied around security and in some cases, like I mentioned with the Android,  harbor less security.  For Blackberry, they are seen as lacking in innovation, but sometimes boring means stability and security. 
  • Don’t lose complete sight of innovation. 

Microsoft

I only mention them because I am sure they will make some kind of run in the mobile space, but they have a lot of catching up to do.  So did Apple in the 90s…

What about tablets?  Are they the future or a fad?  I think they can be the future, but they can fizzle out if not marketed properly.  The main way to keep the tablet heartbeat alive is to get it into the workforce; Seamless integration within the Enterprise.   This is key!

I have had my iPad for two weeks now and I love it.  I am also starting to realize everything I do on it, I can do somewhere else and better.  For example, it acts as an e-reader, but so does my Kindle and the books on my bookshelf.  It plays Netflixs, but so does my 65 inch TV.   It acts as a computer, but my netbook definitely is my device of choice when working or writing.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my iPad, but others might come to realize, they don’t really need it. 

If the tablet can get itself into the Enterprise workforce, it can prove that it is more than just a cool gadget.  I think this is achievable and already in the works in many places.  During the iPad 2 announcement, there were many examples of different professions using the iPad.  And now with the camera, the options are even greater.  Remember when we use to watch sci-fi shows with workers communicating with each other via tablets – can you say Facetime on the iPad!  The industry must continue to come up with more practical uses of tablets; otherwise, people are going to realize their smartphone does enough for them on the go.  If I had to bet on tablets continuing to be a future game changer, I would probably take the bet.

Apple’s original iPad now selling @ $100 discount

If you head over to the Apple store, you will notice that the first generation iPads are selling for as low as $399.  That would explain where that $399 rumored price point came from to compete with the lower end Android tablets.  If your in the market for an iPad and don’t care about the new iPad 2 features, here is your chance.  The link to the Apple Store  is provided below:

http://store.apple.com/us/product/MB292LL/A?mco=MTcyMTg1MDA

iPad 2 announced, as expected…but are these the iPads you were looking for?

Well, it is official, the iPad 2 is coming to an Apple store near you, next Friday, March 11th. It’s funny how secretive Apple is about its products, yet when they are announced, there is almost little surprise to what is announced! In this case, what was pretty much expected of the iPad 2 has been confirmed. Here are the key upgrades in a nutshell:

  • Faster A5 Processor – 2x faster and 9x faster graphics;
  • Front and rear facing camera (and a gyroscope);
  • 1/3 thinner than original iPad;
  • Verizon and ATT capable;
  • Comes in black and white;
  • New cool accessories, including a magnetic screen case and 1080p cable adapter;
  • Price points remain the same along with the memory options – 16gb, WiFi only, $499 starting point.

So, what does this all equate to in the end. If you don’t have an iPad, and you waited anxiously because the first one had some obvious shortcomings, congratulations, you did it…you made it! Go out and reserve one now (they are going to initially be in short supply based on production numbers). If you already have the first generation iPad, I would recommend you wait unless you really, really want a camera, or you need to upgrade your memory, 3G card etc. If you are looking for a reason to just throw $500-$800 more out the window, just so you can say you have the latest and greatest, I would say wait for the iPad 3 because I have a feeling that one will be worth the wait for everyone.

iPad 2 – Game Changer or Bridge Builder?

It is the eve of the iPad 2 announcement.  Tomorrow, Apple is set to unveil the next generation tablet.  When the iPad was originally announced last Spring there were a few things I immediately did not like about it, which prevented me from taking the plunge and purchasing the attractive device.  For starters, there was no camera.  How can you have a tablet with such potential and not include a camera?  Other areas I was not impressed with included lack of memory and a USB port.  As hard as it was, I made it a point to wait for Apple to make its next inevitable move, which would be to offer a second generation product, much improved and at a lower cost. 

So here I sit, the eve of  the iPad 2 announcement and surprisingly, I can say, I will not be in the running to purchase one.  There are a few reasons, which have led me to believe this is not the time to pull the trigger on the new iPad.  Most importantly, I won a first generation iPad!  Now, you might be saying to yourself, of course you’re not getting an iPad 2,  if you already won an original iPad, but consider my options.  I certainly had the opportunity to sell my winning iPad, bank the money and wait for the iPad 2, knowing it was going to be announced in a few weeks.  But that wasn’t even a serious consideration.  You see, there is something more going on here.  I read an article on another blog that pointed to a little conspiracy theory and after reading some other sites and digesting the information, I also have a gut feeling Apple is up to something more in the coming months. 

For starters, let’s look at what people are speculating will be improved with the iPad 2:

  • Rear and front facing cameras –  if this is not included, I would suggest everyone dump their Apple stock now;
  • Quicker Processor and more RAM – I believe it;
  • Thinner device – of course this is going to happen – you already invested in a case(s) for the first one, so now you will need to get a whole new slew of case(s)…someone has to keep the case companies in business;
  • More Memory – maybe this will happen;
  • Verizon and AT&T compatible for 3G ready devices – absolutely;
  • USB port – keep praying;
  • Better resolution – maybe, but not the Retina display like the iPhone…not yet;
  • Better speaker – likely;
  • improved iOS – it’s coming and will likely be announced tomorrow for all devices, but won’t ship with the iPad 2;
  • Lower price points, with starting price at $300 – been there, done that with the iPod Classic – this is likely, although I could see $449 as the starting price. 

Overall, even if everything listed above was to occur, which it won’t, Apple still is in a position where the tablet competition is getting hot and heavy and they need to make a big move with a new and much more innovative iPad.  I believe that iPad is out there and being worked on, but it is not the iPad 2.  The iPad 2 to me sounds more like bridge work to the real next generation iPad 3!  The iPad 2 sounds like a device that will target people who were on the fence and needed that extra push, like me (of course, prior to winning my original iPad).  At this point, I rather take my first generation iPad and ride it out until the iPad 3 is released. 

This takes me to a conspiracy theory I read on another Apple blog, Macrumor.com.  Apple’s release cycle for the iPods is in September.  It has been rumored that they might want to put the iPad on the same release schedule as the iPods.  The thought is Apple will release a quick fix iPad this March and then follow-up with the true next generation iPad 3 in September, when the other iPod devices are released.  Take into account that Apple has already said the iPad 2 will be in short supply at lauch due to “processing” delays, this fits into the conspiracy theory very nicely.  Why produce millions and millions of iPad 2s, knowing another device is on the horizon?  Especially when you know it won’t be improved enough to make people want to upgrade from the $500-$800 device they bought just last Spring. 

Whatever the case, the conspiracy theory is just that – a theory and the iPad 2 details haven’t even been released yet.  There could be no truth to the theory at all and the iPad 2 could have a feature that allows it to do your laundry, clean dishes and vacuum the house.  That would be an innovative game changer to say the least.   

I look forward to what Apple has in store for us tomorrow.