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  • The Apple Killer Reality Check

    August 19th, 2010

    You just know that some members of the media are waiting for Apple to fail big time. Just the other day, I read a piece suggesting that the iPad had begun to cannibalize sales of new Macs. How did they know? Well, the sales growth rate wasn’t quite as high as they might have expected. On the other hand, except for sales to businesses, PC sales have barely grown at all. Is that also due to the iPad?

    Now I actually do think that the iPad has the potential to knock the bottom out of low-end PC sales, particularly netbooks. Why buy a crippled note-book computer when you can have, for a little bit more, an iPad? Sure, Apple’s hot-selling tablet computer may not perform all the functions of a regular PC. But since a netbook is extremely crippled anyway, it ends up being a poor alternative.

    Besides, how many PC note-books get ten hours battery life anyway and just look cool? I’m asking.

    Now it’s also true that there are loads of so-called iPad killers on the horizon. The ones that seem to get the highest credibility will feature Google’s Chrome OS. Of course, there’s no evidence that Chrome is any good for anything. It’s a fledgling operating system, and I can’t imagine Google or any company is capable of building a decent operating system starting with version 1.0. Even the original Mac OS had its problems. The iOS, scaled down from Mac OS X, is at version 4 now, and there are loads of improvements from the original.

    There is no credible reason to think that Chrome will enter the world as the OS that will trounce the iPad. Even if it’s mostly a scaling up of Android, there’s no guarantee how good it’ll be or what level of acceptance a tablet featuring that OS will receive.

    That’s doubly true for the HP/Palm WebOS and there’s no reason to take a mobile Windows 7 seriously. Microsoft has never demonstrated that it can build a credible smartphone OS. These days, Windows Mobile simply isn’t competitive. It may well be that BlackBerry OS 6 will have problems too, unless, of course, RIM can overcome the lukewarm reception to the Torch.

    The other problem the industry has is that Apple is moving iPads as fast as they can build them. Yes, the wait time is a “mere” three to five business days now, as the product spreads around the world. But that doesn’t mean demand has slowed. It’s just that Apple has begun to catch up with demand.

    And, in case you’re wondering, getting an iPhone 4 is still hit or miss. Apple continues to quote a three-week delay, and there are suggestions that vaporware white version won’t be around till some time in the last quarter of the year, not that it matters.

    Unfortunately, some members of the media treat the success of a mobile gadget that competes with something from Apple as a given. It doesn’t matter how good it is; existence is everything.

    Also, there’s no reason to assume Google can suddenly become a software development powerhouse, simply because the Android has done all right. Remember that the people Google hired to get the job done were already experienced at building a mobile OS. It didn’t spring from nothing.

    On the other hand, I wonder how Google TV might fare in the real world. Yes, they have some high-profile partnerships, such as Sony and DirecTV, but the content creators are so far staying away, and with good reason.

    You already have decent set-top boxes for cable and satellite TV systems, even before you consider TiVo. The best of the bunch can easily schedule TV shows, even for an entire season, and add your favorite movies. The interfaces, while sometimes clunky, are good enough to get the job done.

    So where does Google fit in? What good is a Google TV anyway, and how many people will seriously consider adding yet another box and remote?

    From what I’ve read, Google TV will, in part, replace a set-top box, and add Internet capabilities, perhaps similar to the failed WebTV. It will also give Google plenty of display space in which to display targeted ads, which is their only real source of revenue for developing such product concepts.

    In the meantime, there are reports about an updated Apple TV, dubbed iTV, which will reportedly be patterned after the iPhone or iPod touch. It will use the iOS and rely on wireless networking to transfer content to your TV set. However, the success of such a device again depends on partnerships with the entertainment industry. If you can’t get the shows and movies you want, what’s the point?

    At the same time, the content delivery business is getting more crowded all the time. Netflix is working hard to add newer films to its streaming movie service. You can receive that content on a number of Blu-ray players, a few TVs, and, of course, your Mac, PC, or mobile device. You don’t need a new set-top box. So where goes Google TV fit in?

    At least Steve Jobs admits that the Apple TV concept has loads of hurdles to overcome before it exits the hobby category. Too bad the rest of the consumer electronics industry isn’t taking the hint.



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