Friday, 1 October 2010

Tablet Wars - iPad vs the Playbook

The problem with brand new shiny toys is that after a short while they are not so new and not so shiny. This is pre-built into all of us when as children we realise that our new toys from birthday or Christmas within a couple of weeks are not so new and not so shiny due to excessive use. After that something else invariably catches the eye and becomes the next object of desire.

Some have argued that this is what keeps the world economy turning and they may be right but its especially true with technology. A couple of years ago you could sit in a coffee house playing with an iPhone and feel the envious stares at you. Today there are no stares as everyone is playing with their own smartphone from various makes and the iPhone seems, dare I say it, a bit old.

Luckily I have had the pleasure of feeling the stares again for the last few months as I have sat working on my iPad. I have even happily given people demonstrations of the shiny toy as I do truly love it. However, as with all new shiny toys, when one stands out other toy makers up their game to get a piece of the action.

First against the iPad were the Galaxy Tablet from Samsung and the amusingly named Streak from Dell, although its 5 inch screen puts it on the small side. Last week however a more serious contender was announced; the Playbook from Blackberry.

Blackberry is a major player in the smartphone market. In the US in July, according to figures from research firm Comscore, they lead the marketplace with a 39.3% market share followed by iPhone at 23.8% and Google Andriod phones at 17%. Blackberry has also traditionally been the business smartphone of choice and its this market, rather than the consumer market, they have targeted this new tablet computer at.

The new Playbook comes with a 7inch screen and front and rear cameras allowing video conferencing and has been geared for the high security network systems that businesses like. Unlike some of its competitors it has no 3G capabilities but does have wifi and Bluetooth. Although they have not announced a price it is expected to be high especially as they described it as “professional grade” which means “we are going to charge a lot for this”.

Some analysts are predicting that sales of the iPad will reach 12m by the end of this year. Hewlett Packard CEO Todd Bradley said last week in a speech announcing its own tablet effort, that they believe that the tablet market will be worth $40bn a year in a next few years. So its pretty obvious why manufacturers are looking at how they can get a slice of the pie. Blackberry is hoping that its business relationships will help them gain a big slice of that pie. Calling a proposed serious business machine the Playbook rather than the rumoured Blackpad or Blackbook I would argue however was one big mistake.

Still whatever happens, the coffee houses of the UK will soon be filled with people surfing the web and checking emails on screens large enough to actually read what they are looking at. It is even rumoured that Aldi are going to launch a branded version. You could argue these are just toys but if you are a website owner you should be quietly pleased that more people can access your site wherever and whenever they want. More importantly on a screen they can actually see what you are offering.

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant

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