Lenovo further fragments Android tablets

Lance Whitney for CNET:

Lenovo is hoping to shake up the tablet market with three new devices scheduled to hit its home base of China as early as December. Ranging in size from 5 to 10 inches, the new tablets will be branded under Lenovo’s LePad name in China but will be known as the IdeaPad in other countries, follow-ups to the currentIdeaPad K1.

I can’t see how Android tablets will ever stand a chance with strategies like this.  Lenovo plans to carpet bomb the tablet market with 5, 7, and 10 inch devices, but how do developers deal with an ever increasing collection of form factors, screen sizes, and capabilities?

Apple store within a store, circa 2011

Best Buy is putting a lot of emphasis (and money) behind the notion that they are an authorized Apple reseller.  TUAW reports:

The retailer’s latest ad focuses on a customer who just discovered Best Buy sells all the hottest Apple gifts. The edgy commercial pits the customer who purchased all her gifts from Best Buy, against Santa who arrived too late to put anything under the tree.

This “store within a store” concept is nothing new, but the first time around in 1997 it was Apple trying to get noticed for having a retail presence in, of all places, CompUSA.

Review: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

This week I finished the official biography of Steve Jobs, written by Walter Isaacson.  A popular biographer of Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin, Isaacson was given unprecedented  access to Jobs and conducted over 40 interviews over the past several years.  He apparently had permission to interview and quote current Apple executives, as well as any personal or professional contacts from Jobs’s past.  Steve asked for no creative control aside from the design of the cover, and never read or commented on the finished product before his passing in October.

So why does this book fail?

As John Siracusa argues in his latest weekly podcast, Isaacson seemingly does not grasp the history and significance of the past 35+ years of technology, and even worse is that he doesn’t attempt to learn more about it.  The list of technical and historical inaccuracies is long.  The book claims that when Jobs first returned to Apple in 1997 he was immediately referred to as “iCEO,” despite the fact that both the iMac and all subsequent “i” branding were still a year away.  Isaacson also states very matter-of-factly that Apple didn’t really use the NeXT OS as a radical break from the classic operating system, but instead used parts of it to “evolve” Mac OS 9 into what we use today.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The transition from 9 to X was more like a brain transplant, with a Classic compatibility layer on top to run some of the older software.  These examples may seem like small nitpicks, but there are plenty of others just like it throughout and they point to a big-picture issue in the telling of this story.

At times, Isaacson’s style reads more like an outline with details filled in as opposed to a well-conceived story.  Perhaps the accelerated release schedule was partly to blame (the book was originally slated for a 2012 release but was moved up once Jobs’s health issues became dire).  Occasionally sentences felt copied and pasted from earlier in the book to reinforce a point, and topics that were deserving of depth received very superficial treatment.  The section of the book that seems the most researched is also the period of history that’s been written about many times before: the early days of Apple.  Isaacson had plenty of excellent resources to draw information from, but the end result feels more like a rehash than anything truly new and insightful.  Conversely, once we arrive in less traveled waters (the highly secretive Apple after Jobs’s return in 1997) Isaacson bounces quickly from one topic to the next, some lasting no more than a page or two.  To me this reinforces the point that even though the author was given a wealth of new information, he lacked the context to weave it all together.

As an aside, I feel that Isaacson did the book a disservice during his promotional interviews: namely, he gave away some of the best and most poignant moments he shared with Jobs.  If you’ve seen the 60 Minutes piece on Isaacson and Jobs, then you can go ahead and skip the last two pages of the book.  He practically recites it word for word on the air.

Despite its size the book is a relatively quick read that serves as a broad strokes approach to the subject, but that’s overshadowed by the fact that Isaacson wasn’t up to the challenge at hand.  He had the access to Jobs and Apple that other writers could only dream about, and now that Jobs is now gone there’s no chance for a do-over.

The iPad sky is falling. Again.

Rick Aristotle Munarriz at The Motley Fool surmises that with the Kindle Fire hitting the market, Apple’s free-wheeling iPad heyday is just about over:

Apple had no problem selling $500 to $830 iPads when all of the major manufacturers were in that ballpark, but there’s a new line in the pricing sand. If Apple’s response is to simply roll out a seven-inch iPad early next year at $299 — and perhaps shave its flagship design by $100 each — that may be enough to at least keep it in contention.

Either way, it’s time to kiss Apple’s healthy iPad profit margins goodbye.

It was this time last year that Munarriz also declared that the iPad was doomed because Barnes and Noble was about to unleash the NOOKcolor:

I don’t think that even the mighty Apple saw this coming.

Barnes & Noble introduced its NOOKcolor yesterday. The device is a break from the color-less e-readers on the market, where keyboards take up a good chunk of the viewing space.

The biggest reason for Apple to worry is that NOOKcolor is priced at $249, half of the ransom commanded by its entry-level iPad.

The term “ransom” should tell you all you need to know about Munarriz’s attitude toward Apple’s tablet.  Obviously he feels that it’s exorbitantly overpriced despite the fact that devices at similar and cheaper price points have gained little traction in the market.  This time around it’s the Kindle Fire that will supposedly cut the iPad down at the knees.  Early reviews for the Fire have been generally mixed, and most stress that this is not an iPad replacement.

Apple has dominated the tablet space so far because there simply hasn’t been a compelling alternative.  Now with the Kindle Fire we have what seems like a competitor, but more so for the iPod touch than the iPad.

Kindle Fire vs. the iPod touch

Andy Ihnatko has posted a very thorough review of Amazon’s new Kindle Fire.  What’s interesting is that he feels that the Fire doesn’t compete directly with the iPad (he claims they compliment each other), but rather the iPod touch:

There are two odd men out in this new post-Fire world. The iPod Touch was once the go-to device for people who wanted a nice multitouch device without buying a monthly 3G service plan. Today, well, $199 buys you a hell of a lot more tablet from Amazon than from Apple. Though the Touch still makes plenty of sense for gaming, for the high-level mobile apps that are only available for iOS, and for the intimate connection that iCloud maintains between your Mac and your mobile devices.

It’s well worth the read if you are in the market for a not-quite-an-iPad-but-more-than-an-iPod.