lovehate: Did Microsoft and HP just kill the iPad?

Over the past week many of the "tech" blogs have been all abuzz over the fact that Microsoft discontinued its Courier tablet device and HP discontinued its Slate tablet device. And the general idea is that, due to the iPad's unbelievable success, Microsoft and HP have decided they cannot compete.

Perhaps, however, they are sharing the most brilliant piece of anti-Apple strategy in the past decade.

The fact that both companies announced their discontinuation within a day cannot be coincidence. While both companies obviously acknowledge that Apple got their "next-gen" tablet to market first and has captured the early-adopter market share, this alone would not be a reason to withdraw.

While the basic tenet of competition breeding innovation generally holds true, what happens when there is not a glut of tablets on the market like everyone predicted at CES? If the market doesn't become about tablets filling up the aisles and virtual aisles for the rest of the year, how many people are going to feel like they're missing them? It becomes harder for Apple to market themselves as a "premium" device when they are the ONLY device.

Have Microsoft and HP effectively killed the long-term future of the iPad by not feeding into the market? The historical pre-iPad rhetoric about tablet computers was that nobody really needed one. By jumping into the fray, HP and MS would validate that not only is the format viable, but that it is necessary. When thinking back to the Lenovo hybrid laptop/tablet that looked so cool at CES, I wonder why anyone who is not an Apple devotee would choose to buy a crippled limited device when a fully-functional laptop can be had for the same price? 

Instead of tablets, don't be surprised to see lighter laptops with rotating touchscreens at a $499 price point and, guess what, there are "apps for that", including everything you currently have on your computer. And these will all be "laptops" or "hybrids", but they will avoid the tablet moniker like the plague.

The initial wave of iPad sales has run its course. iPhones continue to hold market share because the market has demanded everyone own a mobile device, and if one has to have one, why not adopt the status symbol that is the iPhone? At this point, if anyone stayed out of the cell phone market, the evolution of demand for the devices would ensure multiple manufacturers filling in the void.

The tablet market has not been proven yet, but given every big supplier throwing their hat in the ring with advertising blitzes a-plenty, a demand would start to be created by playing one against the other. While certainly not without risk, a concerted decision by Apple's competitors to leave them completely alone in the tablet market could very well be the iPad killer.

After all, how many people bought a Segway?

lovehate: Macolytes Drool for The Apple Strudle... I mean Tablet

Is everyone heading down to the Great Outdoor Sports Equipment Supply Depot to get their backpacks ready for a three week stint in a line outside their neighborhood Apple Store to wait for the new iTablet? Have you borrowed your sci-fi geek friend's Dune-inspired Fremen suit so that you can filter your own urine and sweat and not give up your spot in line? Why are people so excited for a fragile 11" piece of vaporware?

I just don't get it. I do have issues which make me question why I would EVER want one of these rumored devices and, by extension, why anyone else would.

First Issue: iPhone OS - I can't imagine having a big screen version that merely echoes the functionality of an iPhone. The iPhone OS is neat, but if this device is going to replace a netbook, I have the feeling people will want to run more than one application at a time. Notice how the iPhone commercials never say "there are Apps for that." To promote this as a slogan would imply that you could run "apps" and not "app". A tablet will HAVE to get a better version of the iPhone OS if it's going to be used for anything useful whatsoever.

Second Issue: form factor - Why on earth would I lug around an 11" version of an iPhone/Touch. The iPhone fits in my pocket. I would have to buy some sort of European carryall to accommodate this funky new device to do the same things I do with a pocket-sized gadget. And while I admit that I sometimes wish I had a bigger keyboard on my iPod Touch, larger screen buttons won't convince me to switch. In addition, think of one of the most popular additions to the iPhone 3GS: video. Picture yourself holding an 11" slab up in front of your face to take a picture or shoot a video. And I can't foresee holding this up to my head to answer a phonecall.

Third Issue: price - A high GB iPhone, without a subsidy from a mobile provider, can cost upwards of $699. A 10" screen tablet would have to cost, being generously frugal, between $1000-$1200. Assuming there's Bluetooth with the new device, a funky iEar could be packaged with the device in order to allow a mobile subsidy to apply. Maybe a $100 belt clip could be sold as an accessory and it would look like you had a digital picture frame hanging from your waist. I have a tough time justifying a $300-$500 netbook when I can buy a full laptop for between $500-$600. Apple never does things on the cheap, and I can imagine this might the most expensive Strudel... I mean Tablet... on the block.

If a netbook was originally meant for someone who didn't need a laptop, but wanted to stay connected to the net in a slightly larger form factor, who will the tablet be for - someone who really doesn't need an Macbook but wants to stay connected? Because from what I can see, the Macolytes who would buy the tablet would also own the Macbook Air and Apple TV and the iPhone and a black turtleneck and a polished aluminum MacMini with an etching of Steve Jobs profile. The iStrudel doesn't replace anything except cash from your wallet with air.