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01 Jun 12 Android 4.0 tablets

Archos unveils low-cost Android 4.0 tablet for kids

An “Alvin and the Chipmunks”-themed tablet just for kids? Sounds great, but the skeptic in me says it’ll be underpowered and overpriced.

At $129.99, the Archos ChildPad definitely isn’t overpriced, especially when you consider that “adult” tablets (like the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet) start at around $200.

As for power, one could argue that younger kids don’t need much. But the ChildPad has decent specs, including a 1GHz ARM Cortex processor, 7-inch screen, front-facing camera, and Android 4.0.

In other words, it’s more than adequately equipped for the likes of Angry Birds, educational apps, music, movies, and other kid-oriented stuff. Plus, it’s modeled in kid-friendly blue and white, and it comes with exclusive “Alvin and the Chipmunks 3″ content (consisting of clips, pictures, wallpaper, and an online game).


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27 May 12 iOS, Android, HTML5? How to pick a tablet platform for your app

You’re building a tablet app, and you need to make decisions on what platforms to support. Here’s how to pick the tablet platform that’s right for you … and will result in the most sales of your app.

The choices are well-known:

  • iOS
    The acknowledged market leader for scale and monetization
  • Android
    The strong contender for second place, but with fragmentation concerns
  • Kindle Fire
    Android under the skin, but walled off by Amazon, with its own app store
  • Windows 8
    The dark horse: an intriguing option, but scale and penetration are open questions
  • BlackBerry
    The dead horse?
  • HTML5
    The one ring to rule them all … but perhaps a little lost in a deep cave in the Misty Mountains

For some people, the choice might be obvious. But sometimes there can be market advantages to targeting a less-obvious platform. Let’s look at the alternatives.

Why you would pick iOS

Apple’s iOS is the acknowledged leader in tablet sales. According to Gartner, the iPad will destroy the competition with 61 percent of sales in 2012. So it’s pretty obvious why you’d develop for iPad: that’s where the users are. Not only are the most people on iPad right now, but the types of people are attractive to app developers. Simply put: they have money and they’re not afraid to spend it. That’s an attractive user base.

Also, there’s very good infrastructure in the iOS ecosystem: coding tools, developer ecosystem, publishing and distribution paths, and monetization options.

On the downside, there is a lot of noise in the iOS world. With more than 500,000 apps for iPhone and 200,000 for iPad, your app faces some major challenges getting noticed. That said, if you are a major brand or have deep pockets, you can likely break free from the pack.

Why you would pick Android

If iPad is the leader, Android is the very strong contender … and there’s recent history to suggest that Android may not always trail iOS in the tablet market. After all, Android leads in the smartphone market, after initially trailing the iPhone. According to the same Gartner study cited above, Android will make up about 32 percent of tablet sales in 2012, growing to 37 percent in 2016.

So Android has a very significant number of users. A third of a large market is still a pretty large potential audience, and Android is expected to account for about 35 million tablets this year. (For a caveat about these numbers, see Kindle Fire below.)

There are other reasons to choose Android for your tablet app. There’s less noise in the market — fewer dedicated tablet apps — which means that yours has a better chance to be seen. In addition, if your app is well-designed and user-friendly, it will stand out in stark contrast to other Android apps, which, unfortunately, largely suck.

But also, if you want more control of what you’re developing and how to market it, the fact that there are multiple Android markets and fewer ecosystem constraints mean that you have more freedom in how to build and market your app.

Why you would pick Kindle Fire

In the Android section above, I listed a caveat, and for a good reason: the Kindle Fire accounts for easily 50 percent of all Android tablet sales. That’s one reason for breaking it out from the larger Android pack, but the more important reason is that Amazon pre-loads a Kindle-fire-specific app store on all devices it ships. The Amazon app store makes Kindle Fire a cross between Google and Apple: Android inside, but with an an Apple style, curated, send-us-your-apps-for-approval market.

That said, it’s hard to ignore two things: the sheer number of Fires being sold, and Amazon’s amazing ability to move product. With Kindle Fire users making up large percentages of overall tablet web traffic, it’s clear the devices are in use.

Pick Kindle if you’re an Android developer and you want another sales opportunity for your app, or if you think that your app will monetize better in Amazon’s garden. Content apps would seem to be a good bet with Amazon’s core user base, and some developers see opportunity in the platform.

One caveat for Kindle Fire: be aware that Amazon does implement some questionable marketing tactics which could affect your app’s sales … such as offering it for free.

Why you would pick Windows 8

Windows 8 Tablet is a true dark horse: Currently, there are almost no sales. However, HP is restarting its tablet adventure with Window 8, and Gartner says that Microsoft will move about five million units in 2012.

That number won’t make any developers jump for joy, but Microsoft has a history of being persistent, and it’s got the largest installed base of them all with the Windows PC market. As those customers upgrade to the latest version of Windows, there’s a good chance many of them will move to Windows 8 on tablets, and you might want to be there, waiting for them, when the market takes off. On top of that, the Windows 8 platform, whether on phone or tablet, is definitely an interesting and different take on interfaces of the future.

The best reason to develop for Window 8 right now, however, might be this: Microsoft may be willing to pay you. Or guarantee a certain level of revenue.

Just don’t expect huge download numbers.

Why you would pick BlackBerry

This is a tough one. Projected sales for BlackBerry tablets are even lower than Windows 8 tablets, at under three million. And while the underlying operating system, QNX, is geekishly interesting, those numbers will not make your finance department happy.

The one reason to pick BlackBerry: similar to Microsoft, RIM may finance your development as it struggles desperately to remain relevant in the tablet space. But don’t be shocked if the platform disappears under your feet before the end of 2012.

Why you would pick HTML5

I wasn’t sure I would include HTML5 in this list, as it’s not a platform in the same sense as the above ecosystems. However, it deserves a mention.

Pick HTML5 if you believe that the app explosion we’re currently seeing in mobile is a passing fad, and that the power of the internet will eventually triumph over each niche ecosystem.

Theoretically, all the tablet platforms listed above support HTML5 applications. But while in theory there is no difference between theory and reality … in reality there is. Be aware that there are differing levels of support for HTML5.

Perhaps worse, there’s no defined distribution, marketing, or monetization model. But if you can solve those problems, you can sell your services to just about anyone: tablet users, web users, even smartphone users.

Making your selection

Ultimately, the platform you choose will determine how you build your app, and how you market it. Most importantly, it will determine who you can sell it to. Almost certainly you will choose, either initially or later in your app’s life cycle, a multi-platform strategy.

Picking the first platform well is your key to success.

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18 May 12 Magid: Android offers lots of options and annoyances

I was an Android user for years and still have several Android devices. But last October I bought an iPhone 4S and I’m glad I did. I remember the exact date I bought it, because it was the last time Apple (AAPL) updated the iPhone. Unlike Android devices, there is only one new iPhone and one new iPad a year. That doesn’t offer a lot of choice but it does make things simpler.

There are things I really like about Android, including how easy it is to configure a new phone. Type in your Google (GOOG) credentials and, within minutes, the phone downloads all your email, contact information and even some personalization features via the cloud. Some models I’ve tested even automatically imported the “wall paper” photo that I had on my previous phone.

Google offers Android to multiple vendors, so there are plenty of phone choices that all — in theory — can run the same operating system and the same apps. Partly because of the competition, there are plenty of Android phones that are less expensive than iPhones, not only for end-users but also for the carriers that typically subsidize the end-user price in exchange for signing a two-year

contract. Android is doing quite well; the latest figures from ComScore give it 51 percent of the U.S. smartphone market, while Apple has 31 percent and Blackberry 12 percent.

Like Apple, Google has amassed an enormous developer base, and there are now more than 443,000 Android apps, according to AppBrain.

There are also a lot of different devices. OpenSignalMaps, a service that helps users find the best cell phone signals in their area, has been logging devices that download its app and has found “599 distinct brands” of Android devices and nearly 4,000 distinct models.

Apple, on the other hand, so far has just one screen size for its iPhone and a single tablet screen size, regardless of which generation device you have. And, even though Apple refreshes its iPhone and iPad annually, the number of Apple tablet and phone models out there can still be counted with two hands.

Having so many Android players with so many distinct devices definitely has its advantages. Amazon, for example, was able to create its very popular $199 Kindle Fire tablet, which runs a heavily customized version of Android that not only has a distinct user interface but doesn’t necessarily run off-the-shelf Android software. Amazon created its own eco-system around the Kindle Fire with its own app store and its own rules for developers.

The open Android system also allowed Samsung to create a diversity of its own devices with a range of screen sizes. I like the new Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 because, like the Kindle Fire, it’s a full featured tablet yet small enough to fit in a coat pocket. And because it’s smaller and lighter, I find myself using my Kindle Fire more often than my iPad. I hope the rumors that Apple is developing a 7-inch iPad turn out to be true.

Size also matters with phones, and sometimes bigger is indeed better. If you’re using your phone to watch video or read eBooks than having a 5.3 inch Galaxy Note might be perfect.

But despite all the positives, the diversity of the Android ecosystem has it downsides. The world of Android is extremely fragmented, not only with a wide variety of hardware devices but with multiple versions of the Android operating system and — my pet peeve — customized interfaces that make it harder to switch between devices.

The fragmentation of hardware makes it harder to get everyone using the latest operating system. Unlike PCs, users can’t just upgrade an operating system at will. Users have to wait for their carrier to release an upgrade, and that can take forever. Even new phones are coming out with older Android versions with no clear update path. It’s also harder to app developers, not only because of the diversity of operating system versions but also hardware differences, including so many screen sizes.

And to make matters worse, handset makers love to customize the user interface with “skins” like Samsung’s “TouchWhiz,” LG’s Optimus and HTC Sense. Each of these skins has its pluses and minuses but I’d be happier with a single user interface from Google, which in my opinion does a better job than the hardware makers when it comes to interface design.

But despite my complaints, I remain optimistic about Android. Problems aside, diversity and openness breed innovation and, over time, I expect there to emerge a more harmonious Android ecosystem. But I got tired of waiting, which is why I bought that iPhone 4S.

Contact Larry Magid at Listen for his technology chats on KCBS-AM (740) weekdays at 3:50 p.m.

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15 May 12 Kingsoft Office for Android Brings Free Document Editing to Your Mobile Devices

A few months back I called Kingsoft Office the best Microsoft Office alternative you’ve never heard of. Now Kingsoft is making waves again with a mobile version of that impressive suite.

Kingsoft Office for Android lets you open, edit, and create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations right on your smartphone or tablet. And it’s noteworthy not just for its Microsoft Office compatibility, but also its price: the app is free.

How good could a free office suite be? In this case, pretty darn good. The app supports Word, Excel, and PowerPoint file formats, meaning you should be able to open and edit any existing documents you want to bring along.

It also lets you create these kinds of documents from scratch, saving them either to your device or any cloud-storage service that supports WebDAV. Alas, Dropbox isn’t one of them, but does — and support for that service is built directly into the app.

I’m particularly impressed by Kingsoft Office’s interface. Like the desktop version, it employs tabs for easy switching between multiple open documents. And it just plain looks nice (see below), especially on a tablet, which is where an app like this makes the most sense.

Indeed, if you’ve been wondering whether a tablet can really take the place of a laptop, Kingsoft Office adds a big checkmark to the “yes!” column. For any serious document work, I think you’ll want to pair it with a Bluetooth keyboard — but then you’re good to go (both literally and figuratively).

One note for Kindle Fire users: You can find Kingsoft Office in the Amazon Appstore, but it shows up there as a trial version. To get the full-featured free version that’s available from Google Play, you’ll need to venture into the settings, enable Allow Installation of Application From Unknown Sources, and then sideload the app. If you’re not sure how, a little Web searching will reveal the necessary steps. (It’s easy.)

If you’ve tried any of the other office-suite apps for Android, hit the comments and let me know if you think they’re any better — and why. For my money (in this case no money), the best option by far is Kingsoft’s.

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06 May 12 How Long Until Samsung Forks Android For The Galaxy Smartphone Range?

Samsung Logo Suomi: Samsungin logo

Samsung logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve not been through Samsung’s presentation of the Galaxy S III at Earls Court with a forensic filter, but one thing that struck me was the absence of Google from their presentation. By concentrating hard I picked up mentions of Android, but on the software front the dominance belonged to the ‘S’ suite of applications that Samsung describes as bringing intelligence to the technological flagship.

Which is probably the only sensible long-term approach to marketing the Galaxy brand. The S III’s tech specs are only inches ahead of the competition and I could probably make a good argument that the HTC One X is a better hardware platform that the S III.  Samsung  is the leading smartphone manufacturer in terms of  market share and there is no need to sell the handsets with the promise of compatiblity with Google’s Android ecosystem. The goal is to pull away from the crowd and stand alone.

Does Samsung need Google?

I think it’s fair to say Android is needed, because I don’t think the alternatives – Bada, Windows Phone, or Intel’s Meltimi – are a good fit for Samsung’s current market position. That doesn’t mean Samsung need Google, Samsung needs to be in control of Samsung’s destiny as I discussed last week. That means control of the smartphone’s operating system. Not just access to the changes, but total control.

Samsung should fork Android.

Samsung should take the Ice Cream Sandwich code base and follow the path blazed by the Kindle Fire; using TouchWiz user interface to maintain continuity; and the ‘S’ apps to  form part of the core operating system; while continuing to work on the software services and cloud support to replicate Google’s services so any transition for the majority of the Galaxy users would be seamless.

And Samsung should be working on this right now to take on the next waves of smartphones due up at the end of the year. A mythical iPhone 5 is likely to blow the Galaxy S III out the water, HTC is swinging hard to reach the perimeter, and Windows 8 could have a noticeable impact on the whole mobile consumer electronics space.

Samsung is one of the leading players in the smartphone world. It’s time to grow up and own the hardware and software that is vital to the continued success of the Galaxy range. And that means putting some distance between the South Korean company and Google.

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03 May 12 How important are cameras in a tablet? (poll)


A couple of months ago, Apple made a big fuss about the greatly improved camera in the new iPad. Five megapixels, 1080p video, advanced optics, and so on.

My reaction: meh.

I need a camera in a tablet like I need a radio in a toaster. It’s just not a feature I have much use for, and in fact I’ve rarely used it at all. I suspect I’m not alone in this sentiment, as evidenced by the massive popularity of Amazon’s lens-free Kindle Fire.

And, really,
tablets make crummy cameras, at least in some respects. Whether it’s a 7-inch model or a 10-inch, you need two extremely steady hands to hold it for a crisp snapshot or a video that isn’t shaky. The big screen makes a nice viewfinder, to be sure, but I think it looks and feels weird to use something that big to take a photo.

The one saving grace? FaceTime, Skype, and other video chat apps. The bigger the screen, the better. Of course, I know very few people who actually like video calls; most folks try it once or twice as a novelty, then go back to plain old voice calls.

And, yes, there are some slick camera-drive apps that work better on a tablet. My kids dig the iPad‘s Photo Booth, and apps like FaceGoo and VideoFX Live are more fun with a bigger screen. I especially like Lego Super Hero Movie Maker, which benefits greatly from the
iPad’s spacious display.

All this raises the question: How important is a camera in a tablet? Do you consider it an essential feature, something that’s nice to have but not necessary, or completely superfluous? Vote in our poll, then share your thoughts in the comments.

And while you’re in a voting mood, share your thoughts on the best screen size for a tablet. I’m still partial to the 7-inch form factor.

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30 Apr 12 Amazon’s Kindle Fire now the #1 Android tablet

Data published by comScore shows that Amazon’s Kindle Fire has emerged as the dominant Android-based tablet. At the end of February, the Kindle Fire accounted for 54 percent of all Android tablets. The next most popular Android tablet product line is Samsung’s Galaxy Tab family, which dropped from 23 percent of Android tablets in December to 15 percent in February.

The success of the Fire is no surprise to those paying attention to the tablet market—as we wrote last year, there is healthy demand for a low-cost iPad alternative. Amazon can afford to offer the hardware at a lower price than its rivals because it can make up the difference in content sales. The key factors driving sales of the Fire are likely its low price point, the strength of the Kindle brand, and the breadth of the Amazon content ecosystem.

The rising prominence of the Kindle Fire will have significant implications for the Android tablet market. Amazon is using its own application store and a fork of the Android operating system that is based on version 2.3. As Amazon continues to advance the software in its own direction, it could reduce Google’s control over the Android tablet software ecosystem.

Third-party application developers who are building software for Android tablets obviously have a big incentive to ensure that their applications are compatible with Amazon’s popular Kindle Fire. But in order to make an application compatible with the Kindle Fire, it can’t be developed using APIs that are exclusive to Ice Cream Sandwich (the latest version of Google’s operating system).

It’s not clear yet if Amazon intends to update its fork of the operating system to bring it into alignment with Android 4. Amazon’s changes to the operating system are said to be much deeper than the kind of cosmetic changes that handset manufacturers typically make to differentiate their products. As Amazon’s flavor of the platform continues to diverge, application developers will likely follow in order to reach the device’s audience.

If Google wants to keep its own variant of Android relevant on tablets, the search giant will need products that are capable of competing with the Kindle Fire. Google is reportedly planning to launch its own low-cost Nexus tablet, possibly this year. Such a device would be aimed squarely at competing with the Kindle Fire rather than more expensive devices. Google has recently been working to strengthen its own content ecosystem and streamline its various media stores. It’s an effort that could help it pursue the same model as Amazon, where content sales are used to subsidize the price of the hardware.

It’s worth noting that other major Android manufacturers are starting to enter the budget tablet market. Samsung recently launched the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, a seven-inch tablet that retails for $250. The device, which comes with Ice Cream Sandwich and Google’s application store, compares favorably with the Kindle Fire. Although it’s not quite as cheap, it has slightly more RAM and some of the performance and technical advantages of ICS. Such products could help Google keep its own flavor of Android competitive on tablets.

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29 Apr 12 How a Non-Tablet Changed the Tablet Market

What does it say about the market for tablet computers that the best-selling tab running Android is not really a tablet.

It’s an e-reader that was invented to help sell the public on e-books, whose components don’t have to be manufactured, printed or mailed but retail for close to the same price, vastly increasing profits to booksellers like Kindle developer Amazon.

The leading Android tablet is actually Amazon’s Kindle Fire — an e-book reader built up into a general-purpose tablet that became the main competitor to Apple’s dominant iPad immediately after the Kindle Fire was launched in November 2011.

Within three weeks after launch, the Fire had grabbed 14 percent of all tablet sales, compared to 57 percent for iPad, according to iSuppli Market Research.

By the end of February sales of Kindle Fire had grown to 54.4 percent of the Android market, up from 29 percent at the end of December, according to sales tracking analysts ComScore.

Kindle Fire’s best feature is its ability as an e-book reader, according to reviewers. It is much more, however. For a list price of $199, customers get a seven-inch display, 8GB of RAM, free storage on Amazon’s cloud, WiFi and USB connections, the ability to run any Android-compatible app or game and automagical connections to media (for which you can pay Amazon) including e-books, music, movies and anything else you can find on the Internet.

Fire’s list price is $430 lower than the list price of the latest edition of the iPadand $249 less than Amazon’s discount price for a new 10-inch Samsung Galaxy tablet and $50 less than the 7-inch Samsung Galaxy.

Price alone makes Kindle Fire a good competitor for the higher-cost Android tablets, but a rumored upgrade with a 10-inch display will improve its chances even more. Comscore estimates that 10-inch tablets sell 39 percent more than seven-inch tablets, regardless of manufacturer or other features included.

Amazon may also come out with a six-inch version to expand options for readers even further.

However, the Fire won’t make much more progress against iPad, iSupply predicted. Of the 124 million tablets iSupply predicts will be shipped this year, 52 percent will be iPads.

The newest iPad’s high-resolution display and momentum as market leader will keep the iPad at the top of the heap iSuppli predicts for 2012, while now-discounted iPad 2 models will compete directly with the lower-end, lower-cost Kindle Fire.

Best-Selling Tablet is Not a Tablet?

The oddest-seeming factor in the market-share battle is that tablets act as often as BYOD work devices as they do conveniences for home users – not a role most users or manufacturers expect an e-reader to fill. Barnes Noble’s Nook, in fact, does not even try to fill that niche. It remains a specialized reading machine, but still lists for $249.

Kindle Fire’s price, easy access to a huge library of media, weight (14.6 ounces) and ultra-fast browser make it very attractive to tablet users, but function for function is more competitive with the Nook, according to analysts quoted in a September, 2011 Computerworld story.

Kindle’s Silk browser can be installed on any Android machine, however; users can root Kindle Fire the way they can any other Android device, to add or get access to 5GB more storage space on the same machine, expand the list of file types it can handle, add far more useful apps than an e-reader supplies, and replace its utilitarian interface with something more attractive.

Plus, refurbs are now selling for less than $150.

That sounds an awful lot like a full-function tablet to me, except for the price, which makes Kindle Fire waaaay more attractive to anyone but a dedicated iOS user than any other tablet on the market, even though it was designed as an e-reader.

Why does the e-reader thing matter?

First, because people buy hardware to have access to one app or function, then take the other things it can do as an additional benefit.

Kindle Fire was designed small, for a market that demands electronics be cheap, light, easy to use and have ridiculously long battery life.

Building extra functions on top of a platform meeting those requirements gives you a high-performing tablet that can do more than just display e-books.

Downsizing a “real” computer to a tablet, or even building a giant smartphone both leave designers stretching their existing designs to meet the potential of a new size, or dumbing down all the specifications they consider standard.

That ends up delivering either a big phone with lousy battery life and iffy touchscreen control, or a dumbed-down PC that is more appropriate as a way to fill in for the PC when a user can’t sit in front of a laptop, which is the way designers at PC companies appear to think of it.

Second, a machine designed for the computer-illiterate to operate without a manual is guaranteed to be more reliable and easier to lean than even a simplistic smartphone interface.

That combination – a surprisingly rich set of functions, a simple, fast interface and a price so low nothing else even competes with it – are what pushed Kindle to the top of the tablet market.

Its users still seem to see it as an e-reader with extra richness than as a tablet for general computing, however.

Kindle Fire Splits Tablet Market into Tabs and Almost-Tabs

Despite its success in the U.S., Kindle Fire hasn’t taken off overseas. Part of the reason is price. Most of the reason is that, overseas, the Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime and other streaming media services that make Kindle Fire a good media tablet even for non-e-book readers, aren’t available.

Is that a problem?

Yes, if Amazon wants to take over the top tablet spot from Apple.

No, if you look at it from a customer’s perspective.

Kindle Fire isn’t competing for people who would otherwise buy an iPad. It’s competing for people who want to read e-books, but don’t to waste time and money on a single-function device.

They’re far happier to get something close to an iPad-quality machine for the cost of an e-reader; in making that choice, they expand and enrich the market for tablets – beyond the limited number who would pay $500 to $700 for something less capable than a laptop, while providing something very close in power to a laptop at the price of a decent Android phone.

The question isn’t whether Kindle Fire will continue to lead the Android market.

The question is whether Nook will morph into a tablet that can compete with Fire, and whether Samsung, RIM, Lenovo, Acer and other tablet makers will take note of the Kindle Fire equation and try to offer their own iteration.

Given the historical inability of PC makers to squeeze premium features into smaller boxes at lower prices (doing it at the same or higher prices is a different market entirely), I doubt they’ll be able to match the Fire any time soon.

Barnes Noble could compete by beefing up the Nook. But it’s already working at a deficit, trying to sell a less-capable machine in competition with a powerful one whose price is artificially low because the manufacturer subsidizes the cost in order to sell more books and other media.

In e-reader quality, accessibility and usability, Barnes Noble might hope to compete with Amazon. It can’t compete with Amazon’s deep pockets and drive to make the Kindle Fire as inexpensive and easy to use as possible.

It also can’t compete with Amazon’s ability to sell a product that’s neither fish nor fowl, while getting customers to appreciate a little something in between because it’s better and cheaper than either a traditional e-reader or a full-scale tablet.

Unfortunately for makers of full-scale tablets, no one buys a tab for the power it packs.

With the exception of size, which Amazon will solve with a 10-inch version of Fire, the Kindle Fire compares favorably with almost all the features of the leading tablets.

It will continue to do so, I think, leading the non-iPad tablet market by underpricing everything else available, while not really competing with the iPad because it’s not as powerful and (more importantly) isn’t a Mac.

Odd as it seems, the market looks as if it will remain divided, for the near future, into three segments: basic e-readers, tablets with a range of features, specifications and prices, and iPads.

Nooks will continue to lead the first category.

Kindle Fire will lead the second. iPads, for the foreseeable future, will lead the third, probably until laptops evolve into tablet formats, or smartphones evolve into something that makes tablets unnecessary.

Predicting winners and results of competition in any tech category is a losing prospect. Even when you’re right, development moves quickly enough that you can’t stay right for very long.

In this case, though, until some major new change in the size, portability and cost of everything on the market except Kindle Fire, the only two questions prospective tablet users have to answer are:

  • iPad or not-an-iPad


  • Kindle Fire or something more expensive?

Read more of Kevin Fogarty’s CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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28 Apr 12 Android this week: $399 Galaxy Nexus; Metro UI vs Android; Kindle Fire rules

Next week the talk of the Android world is likely to be Samsung’s new Galaxy S III, but this week kicked off with a $399 Galaxy Nexus. The GSM handset — which works on both T-Mobile’s and ATT’s voice and data networks — is now available directly from Google. The company added a new Devices tab to the Google Play website where people can purchase the Android 4.0 smartphone.

Google attempted direct smartphone sales in January of 2010 with its Nexus One phone, but the effort wasn’t a raging success in the U.S. where carriers have the upper hand. The operators pay a large portion of the device cost directly to the handset maker and then make up the difference (and more) in lengthy voice and data plan contracts. Google has no wireless service to offer, so at that time, the $529 Nexus One was typically bought by geeks such as myself. (I still have the phone and I certainly got my money’s worth out of it.)

At $399, the Galaxy Nexus might gain a little more traction with mainstream consumers, but it’s likely that the same geeks interested in the prior model are the bigger audience. The phone appeals because of it’s dual-network capability, pure Android 4.0 experience and — perhaps most importantly — isn’t controlled by the carriers. Google will push software updates direct to the GSM Galaxy Nexus, meaning they’ll be sent quicker as there is no carrier testing or customization involved. The phone also includes Google Wallet pre-installed; notable as Verizon’s Galaxy Nexus handset doesn’t support the service.

While folks debate if the Nexus is a good deal at $399, another debate is rising: Will Microsoft be successful with its Metro UI? The answer to that question could affect Android device sales in the future. Microsoft is following Apple’s lead with a more consistent user experience between traditional and mobile computing.

Apple is bringing iOS elements and mobile data into Mac OS X while Microsoft is using the Metro UI — first seen on Windows Phone — to Windows 8. That could create a halo-like effect for Windows users who turn to Windows Phone in lieu of Android. Google still has an opportunity to merge systems of its own: ChromeOS is still maturing and Google could work to do some merging between it and Android. I’ll be looking to Google’s I/O developer conference next month to look for clues that might suggest just such a strategy.

Speaking of strategy, Amazon’s seems to be working well when it comes to Android. The Kindle Fire is reportedly outselling all other Android tablets combined. That’s an amazing feat for a device that’s roughly 6 months old.

The data hit this week from ComScore, with Amazon accounting for an estimated 54.4 percent of all Android tablet sales in the U.S. Part of the reason has to be the low $199 cost, while another is the lack of a monthly data plan needed, since the Kindle Fire is a Wi-Fi only device. And the range of easy-to-access content is a another likely factor. It may not be a pure tablet to some, but for many, the Kindle Fire is the only Android tablet they need.

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27 Apr 12 Kindle Fire taking over Android side of tablet market, report says

The Kindle Fire appears to be burning up its competition — on the Android side, anyway. Inc.’s tablet computer is catching on in a big way, having grabbed 54.4% of the Android tablet market by the end of February, the fourth month that it was on sale, according to new data from comScore Inc. That represented a near doubling of the Fire’s Android market share since December, when it was at 29.4%.

In a way, the Kindle Fire is gobbling up the small fish in the pond — far outpacing Samsung’s Galaxy Tab (15.4% of Android), Motorola Xoom (7%), the Asus Transformer (6.3%) and others by Dell, Lenovo and Sony. 

But the big fish remains Apple’s iPad, which, according to the market research firm IDC, controlled about 55% of the entire tablet market as of the fourth quarter of 2011, with Android tablets accounting for about 45%.  In its release Friday, comScore declined to offer more recent overall market share numbers, so we don’t yet have an up-to-date snapshot of the broader tablet battle.

However, if the iPad-Android market split has stayed close to 55%-45% in the last few months,  that would mean about 30% of tablets currently shipping are Kindle Fires, putting the Fire an increasingly close second to the iPad.

That may make dismissing the Kindle Fire more difficult for Apple, which sold close to 12 million of its new iPads in the device’s first quarter on the market, a strong showing but not a record for iPad sales. In February, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook dismissed tablets like the Kindle Fire as an inferior competitor.

“A cheap prod­uct might sell some units,” Cook said at the time. “But then [consumers] get it home and use it and the joy is gone. And the joy is gone ev­ery day that they use it and they wind up not us­ing it anymore.”

Whether or not they’re using the Kindle Fire after they take it home, however, consumers certainly appear to be buying it.


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