Steve Jobs, in Apple’s most recent earnings call, took an aggressive dig dig at the company’s competitors who are poised to enter the tablet space.
“Their manufacturers will learn the painful lesson that their tablets are too small and increase the size next year, thereby abandoning both customers and developers who jumped on the seven-inch bandwagon with an orphan product,” said Mr. Jobs.
As Apple’s April-released iPad has done tremendously well, other companies have been scrambling to inject their own tablets into the market. Samsung’s Galaxy Tablet, a 7-incher that runs on Google’s Android OS is set to go on sale by Verizon on Nov. 11. Likewise, RIM, maker of BlackBerry, is releasing their own 7-inch tablet, dubbed the Playbook, in early 2011.
These devices are noticeably smaller than the iPad, which boasts a 9.7 inch screen–a difference in size that, in Jobs’s audacious opinion, renders the Samsung and RIM tablets “dead on arrival.”
Despite the iPad’s head start and Jobs’s tendency to not mince words, several reviews, opinions from developers, and tech-analyst outlooks make it seem that Apple’s CEO may be jumping the gun. Here’s a quick round up of what I’ve found.
Reviews of the Samsung’s 7-inch Galaxy S tablets have been predominantly positive. (Playbook Reviews have not yet occurred)
- The professional reviewers over at Engadget had this to say about the size: “What’s more impressive are the apps Samsung built specifically to take advantage of the screen size…” which is an Interesting comment considering Jobs (above) said that 7 inches was not an optimal size for “great apps.”
- TabletPCReview.com had this to say about the size: “The tablet’s dimensions ((7.48 x 4.74 x .47 inches) are ideally suited for one hand use, keeping the other hand free for key control and screen manipulation.” This too is a poignant point because I seem to recall several reviews slightly chaffing the iPad’s needing two hands to hold it.
- Darren Cross, head of business development for the movie ticketing service Fandango, told the Wall Street Journal today that he thought Jobs was jumping the gun: “”It’s great that the iPad is doing so well, but it’s not like little league baseball. I’m not going to call it because it’s the fifth inning.” So, we know at least the developers over at Fandango will be building apps for the 7-inch tablets.
- The same article in the WSJ sited Cameron Clayton, senior vice president of mobile and digital applications for the Weather Channel, as saying they would be developing an app for the Galaxy Tab and the PlayBook, as well as other seven-inch tablets as they’re announced.
- Reports such as this one by ComputerWorld have shown that developers are anxious to get their apps in any product, and they’ve been practically lining up in anticipation for the Playbook. “Although the full application development story is still being ironed out for Research in Motion’s newly announced Playbook tablet, developers are anxious to get their hands on one and start building anyway.”
By my own estimate, the 7-inch tablets will lure several gaming developers too; especially since they are supportive of Flash, which Apple is not.
Analysts seem to disagree with Jobs’s statement as well, siding with developers and saying the iPad broke open the slate market but did not fully encompass it.
- According to Jeff Orr, analyst for ABI Research, in the WSJ, “It’s a false statement to say developers are not interested in the Android platform.”
- The Journal also points out that Morgan Stanley estimates that about 13 million Apple tablets will be sold this year, out of 15 million total tablet sales world-wide. However, “Apple’s number will rise to 30 million, while non-Apple tablets will skyrocket to 20 million.” What this points out to me is that Jobs’s comments seem a little off when rival tablets are skyrocketing to 20 million.
Given these opinions, I really don’t see Samsung and RIM rushing back to the factories to stretch their tablets to match Apple’s 9.7 inch device. It’s clear that with the iPad’s head start, Apple will likely reign supreme in the tablet market. However, the 7-inch devices will carve some niches all their own. I think they’re here to stay.