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Microsoft to Reveal Tablet; Apple Speculation Now Shapes the Industry

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According to the New York Times (s nyt), tonight at Microsoft (s msft) CEO Steve Ballmer’s CES keynote address, he will unveil an ambitious new tablet device that’s the result of a partnership between Microsoft and HP (s hp). Citing people familiar with Redmond’s plans, the NYT describes the tablet as a “novel take” on the format and says it will possibly be available mid-year. Right around when Apple’s (s aapl) iSlate is rumored to also be available.

It’s just the latest in a recent crop of PC tablet announcements, all seemingly stemming from the desire to beat Apple at a game no one is actually sure they’re even going to be playing yet. Apple’s influence and consumer cache is now so powerful that the competition doesn’t want to be stuck endlessly going after an iDevice-killer, and are instead trying to beat Cupertino out the gate.

Little is known about what exactly Microsoft will be unveiling today, but the information gathered by the New York Times suggests that it will be competing with the Amazon Kindle as well as with whatever Apple has in store:

My sources, however, say that Mr. Ballmer will show the as-yet-unnamed H.P. device, which will be touted as a multimedia whiz with e-reader and multi-touch functions.

That sounds pretty much in line with the rumors currently circulating about what Apple’s iSlate will also be packing. In fact, if I didn’t know any better, I’d think that Microsoft had been following the speculation and theorizing about what Apple’s new wonder device would eventually look like as closely as I had, and then had rushed a rough approximation of that same device into production to match or possibly beat Apple’s supposed timeline.

The key to whether Microsoft’s risky play pays off or not will depend on a few key factors. First is price point. The latest rumors put the Apple tablet somewhere around the $1,000 mark. The JooJoo, by contrast, is currently selling pre-orders for $499.00. I’d expect Microsoft’s offering to be closer to the JooJoo in pricing, but to offer a lot more in terms of functionality as well. In fact, even if this new slate device doesn’t threaten Apple’s plans, expect it to all but eliminate demand for the JooJoo.

Never before has a company had the kind of power that Apple now wields. Simply by planting a seed about a potential upcoming product development, they can change the direction of an entire industry. Imagine if the Mac maker was never even planning on creating a tablet to begin with, but just wanted to seem like it was to draw competitors into a a money and time-wasting vortex in a market that really has very little growth potential. Probably not the case here, but scary, nonetheless.

21 Responses to “Microsoft to Reveal Tablet; Apple Speculation Now Shapes the Industry”

  1. Ninja Rabbi

    anyone who thinks that the tablet paradigm for mobile computing is speculative has their head up their ass. Apple was the only maker that considered the user experience when designing their products. everyone else just followed their lead. Now Google has enough cash to take that concept of superior user experience design and development and run with it on their own. and because money is no object they welcome any comparisons to Apple. In fact the market was searching for a true competitor to Apple. Google does not need to sell super computers or servers. The personal mobile market will be lush.

  2. It’s certainly true many companies have made tablets/slates for a number of years now but obviously nobody has gotten it right…yet. I don’t think it’s just the design, or UI, or apps that are lacking. I think it’s the CONTENT! Sure, Apple has a thing for great UI, design, and the like, but it’s Apple’s content deals with TV, movie, and recording studios, publishers, and other media providers that will set this device apart.

    You can create as many tablets as you like but without having everything in place, they will be worthless.

  3. Thomas Verschoren

    I think the last conclusion of the article is a bit harsh:

    It’s not because Apple won’t bring out a tablet, that the work and efforts of the other companies are in vain.

    I mean: they can still succeed in a market where Apple isn’t playing, and an Apple Slate release doesn;’t automatically imply a succesfull new market.
    Although they probably will…

  4. All the talk and speculation won’t mean crap if they keep putting netbook spec’s into these “tablets”. When I think of a tablet at say 10″, I’m thinking a media player, something that I can watch online video with (Hulu, Youtube, Netflix) aside from downloading and storing content on. HD capable resolution a decent battery life. I don’t need a full blown OS, I don’t need it to do “everything” my laptop/desktop does. I just want it to handle web content/media well.

    I personally don’t care who makes the thing, as long as it’s not an underpowered, overpriced pc of crap as the current netbook market is.

  5. Michael Tomlin

    “Amen. The fanboys get a little breathless sometimes.
    Billy G. was raving about tablet computers almost ten years ago”

    There’s a big difference between tablet form factor and tablet computing. Billy G. raved about keyboardless laptops running Windows. They were as big as laptops, less powerful, had no keyboard and were more expensive; they offered nothing new.

    The Newton could’ve been considered more of a tablet computer, because the interface was designed around using a stylus and gestures. Even the operating system and CPU were specifically designed for mobile computing.

  6. “Microsoft didn’t just talk about making tablets ten years ago; they made ‘em. Now, they didn’t catch on like Gates hoped, but you should give the nerd credit where it’s due.”

    Apple didn’t invent phones, touch technology, or mobile operating systems either, but they somehow integrated them into an amazing device that is still unparalleled in the smart phone market. I expect the same to happen when it comes to tablet computing, as well.

  7. Tablets have been around for a while of course, but no one has done it right and it has not been done to the point of influencing the entire tech industry. This is the power that I think is being reflected in the article here and to criticize reality as being “fanboyish” is utterly naive.

  8. Nashgul

    “Billy G. was raving about tablet computers almost ten years ago.”

    Yez, that is the M$ / IBM way of “doing” marketing.

    Talk and talk and talk and talk about stuff. There is a name for that you know.

    In the other corner we have Apple, with the “we have no comments on future products”.

    Talk is cheap.

  9. On top of what Daniel said (which is correct), there has been talk about the Courier just about as long as the current round of iSlate rumors have been floating around. It’s a little ridiculous to put all the credit in Apple’s hands.

  10. Ehhh… the entire industry has been moving towards tablet computing for a few years now. Apple didn’t create this drive. Others may have put extra resources into tablet type devices in order to get to market around the same time as Apple, but that’s about it.