The most interesting story this week in tech was one that wasn’t even properly reported. As the Apple iPad gained momentum as the de facto tablet computer, the expected competition started to slowly bow out of the race. Two of the largest technology companies in tech very quietly put their highly touted tablets on the shelf, probably never to return. It’s another sign of Apple’s current technology dominance and the inability of traditional tech companies to produce the devices the populace demands.
The first to throw their proverbial hat in the ring was Microsoft. Yes, Microsoft. The giant of yesteryear didn’t even bother to try to test the tablet computing market. Perhaps they were hesitant to go another round in the tablet computing fight. Microsoft very famously tried to lead tablet computing early in the 2000’s. At the time technology, and the market as a whole, was not ready for what Microsoft had to offer. This time around Microsoft’s offering was the much rumored Courier device. The Courier prototypes featured a twin touchscreen interface that opened and closed like a hard shelled book. Running an inventive user interface on a specialized version of the Windows CE/Zune operating system, the Courier device actually generated a lot of buzz and interest. It might have actually been competitive with the iPad. Only time will tell why Microsoft put one of its most revolutionary products in 10 years on the shelf.
The second to bow out of the race was HP. Their Slate device ran Windows 7 on a 9 inch touchscreen tablet interface. It was reported to include a 3 megapixel camera, SD card support, GPS, and 1080p playback. Another interesting project, it would seem HP just wasn’t willing to go into the tablet market when it wasn’t assured success against the iPad. It’s unfortunate they weren’t willing even make a limited run at the market and provide Windows users a modestly viable alternative to the iPad. Given the run away success of the iPad, it is understandable. It’s also understandable seen through the lense of the Palm acquisition. Perhaps HP’s plan is to move forward with WebOS instead of Windows. Or to move more into the smartphone space. Either way, its another iPad competitor that bowed out without even trying.
So what does that leave? Undoubtedly Google will bring either a company-branded tablet or one developed in conjunction with a hardware manufacturer like they did with HTC and the Nexus One. At this point, Android seems to be the only willing and viable competition to Apple and their iPhone OS powered device. The fractured nature of Android may cause some missteps along the way but it will be interesting to see if Google’s operating system (and let’s be honest it is Google’s operating system) becomes any sort of threat to the iPad.
What do you think? Will any company provide competition to the iPad? Did Apple start out so far ahead that no one will catch up? Leave us your comments and let us know.