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Tablets are now a two horse race

By PETER WHITE

Published: 2 December, 2011

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Sales in the US on black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, are generally considered a fantastic indicator to future sales, not only in the run up to Christmas, but for the coming year. And this year the iPad has had a run for its money from the Kindle Fire. Overnight the tablet market has gone from a one horse wonder to a two horse race.

The tablet's growth may be more gradual than most people forecast last year, but it will have a significant effect on the device ecosystem over the coming few years as vendors fight to influence the defining form factor to replace the conventional PC.

Some of the PC market will go to Chromebooks and Ultrabooks and other concepts, but right now the favorite descendant is the tablet. What the popularity of the Kindle has shown is something we should have known all along if we had listened to Steve Jobs - it's not about the device, not really, but it's about the content you can consume on the device - a content eco-system is everything.

Most tablets until the Fire, looked just like the iPad, cost the same or more than an iPad, and came without any content at all. Mistake. Now we have to look around for current and nascent content eco-systems, and regardless of what the device looks like which connects to these eco-systems, we can see that it has a huge head start.

One thing is for sure, there are a lot fewer full-blown content eco-systems than there are CE manufacturers who want to make a tablet, so this Tablet race is going to be far less crowded than many thought a year ago.

For now the market is firmly divided between Apple and Amazon - premium, brand-driven media accessory versus affordable, content-driven tool. The immediate impact of these two companies gives them a starting base which others will struggle to erode (though in the US Amazon has a credible contender in the B&N Nook tablets).

Most of the other large-screen tablets are basically iPad wannabes, without even the benefit of significantly lower price tags, but the success of the Fire shows that, if a company is brave enough to do something different, it is possible to go up against Apple, or at least appeal to a separate customer base.

This article originally ran in Wireless Watch. Email peter@rethink research.biz for the full article and a copy of Wireless Watch.

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