The huge IFA conference in Berlin just wrapped up, and I was struck by one
thing: most of the Android tablets to be released in Q4 this year will be
released outside of the  U.S.

Toshiba announced it will release its 10.1-inch tablet in European, Middle
Eastern and African markets, but was silent on when it would come to the U.S.
Viewsonic’s 7-inch tablet has received some early, strong reviews, but U.S.
consumers won’t be able to get it here (unless they order online, of course).

While no one’s saying so, this appears to be a reaction to the iPad’s strength
on the U.S. market. While many analysts thought that Android manufacturers would
try to roll out their devices in time for the holiday shopping season, it looks
as if only smaller players (Archos, for example) will do so. (Rumors persist that
Motorola will be out in a few months, but I’ll believe it when I see it).

In the end, it probably makes sense for Android manufacturers to wait until Q1.
By then, they should be in a better all around position — from a technical,
product and marketing standpoint — to make a splash.

That is, of course, unless Apple decides to announce its iPad V2 in Q1. Then all
the media hype goes back to Apple

That’s the question now that Barnes and Noble has announced it will sell its
lowest price e-reader, the Aluratek, for $99. This comes on top of the price
drops for the Kobo, Kindle and Sony products just to name a few.

This all makes sense as the market continues to grow. As e-readers become
cheaper to make, manufacturers can drop price and go after a segment of buyers
who think price, first — and in this economy, who care what the logo says as
long as you get what you want at a price you want to pay?

Does this mean Amazon should be wary? No. The Kindle is a better product and
offers more product than anyone. Their buyers are more likely to be swayed by
product reliability, functionality and depth of offerings. They’ll still be
e-reader king for a long time coming.

But I do wonder: with the Christmas season upon us, will other manufacturers
drop below $99 in an effort to corner that low-priced market?

Samsung has announced it will release its 7-inch Galaxy tablet September  2, first in Europe and then in the U.S. shortly thereafter. This  development signals the real start of the Android tablet invasion.  (Sorry Joo-Joo and
Augen; while they and other Chinese knockoffs are  already available, they haven’t captured the buying public in any  meaningful way.)

Before the end of the year, Motorola, Toshiba, HTC, Notion Ink and Asus  should all have Android tablets available. Media reports say HP will be  out Q1 2011. Will any of these challenge the iPad? I think it’s unlikely  that any one,
single device will unseat Apple. But, look for the  totality of Android devices to out sell the iPad within a year.

Why? Shear numbers. There will be at least a dozen Android tablets on  the market within six months, and their combined sales should overtake  Apple. Of course, Apple will do what it always does — adjust to market  conditions in an attempt to keep its product at the top of the heap.

Interesting times ahead.

PC  World has a terrific piece that lists 32 tablets that could hit
market over the next six months. It gave me a case of deja vu.

When Amazon launched it’s first generation Kindle in November 2007, users rushed to stores and plucked the then pricey gadget off the shelves. It was difficult to find a store that had one readily available, and customers often had to wait weeks for one to come in. By the time other companies launched their devices —
months later — Amazon had cornered the e[-reader market. Now, roughly six of every 10 e-readers sold is a Kindle. With prices dropping and technology improving, there’s no reason to believe Amazon will lose its market grip in the e-reader segment. Sony and Barnes and Noble will gobble up much of the remaining market share, while other e-reader manufacturers will close up shop (RIP Que, COOL-er and IRex)

Fast forward to April 2010. Apple launches its first generation iPad. Users rush to stores and  pluck the pricey gadget off the shelves. It’s difficult to find  a store that has one readily available, and customers often have to wait  weeks for one to come in. There are no other real competitors in the space, so the iPad dominates and could sell 8 million units in 2010. By the time other
companies launch their  devices — between now and the first quarter  — Apple will have cornered the tablet market. There’s no reason to believe Apple will lose its market grip in the tablet segment anytime soon. While a couple of Android devices will make it (Motorola has the best chance, given its partnership with Verizon) most other tablet makers will will close up shop .

Interesting how history repeats itself.

Anyone surprised that Plastic Logic’s Que never got off the ground and has been killed hasn’t been paying attention for the last, oh, 18 months. Plastic Logic has a well-oiled publicity machine that resulted in a lot of terrific press, but no results. And there-in lay a cautionary tale — don’t get out in front of yourself.

But while Que has gotten a lot of press, there are several other e-readers that have bit the dust. IRex folded last month, only to come back as IRX technologies. COOL-er went under, which is too bad because that was a cool litte machine. In the tablet world, the Augen 7, K-Mart’s $150 toy, was much hyped but never shipped, and probably won’t be given it’s troubles with Google.

The dead and the dying are littering the e-reader landscape and that should be no surprise. Expect further fallout as Amazon keeps lowering its device prices and garnering even more market share.

(The views expressed here are mine alone.)

The fallout in the e-reader market has been happening for more than a year now. Once respected e-readers such as Cool-ER have closed up shop. Others, like Plastic Logic’s Que, never got off the ground. In the midst of all of this. Amazon found a way to stay fresh, released a $139 wi-fi e-readers that sold out in days.

The question remains: what’s the future for single-use devices? As prices continue to drop — to below $100 — will e-readers be able to hold market share?

Probably — until multi-use tablets start coming in at under $199. That’s still a year or so away. That gives e-reader manufacturers a chance to continue to re-invent themselves, just like Amazon did.

For a while there I was posting regularly and had quite a few followers. And then baseball season got in the way. So now, I’ve vowed to recommit and keep this blog going. Three postings a week. Minimum. Stay tuned.

Several of you who routinely read my blog posts have asked why I’ve stopped. It certainly isn’t for lack of interesting things happening in the world. It’s been more a function of time. For those of you who try to blog regularly, you know how time consuming this can be. But enough of the excuses: let’s give this another shot. Here are some random thoughts:

  • Reports seem to indicate that the publishing industry — especially newspapers — is rebounding a little. Revenue projections look better; the advertising slide won’t be as bad in 2010 as it was in 2009. But this should provide little comfort since the traditional sources of revenue aren’t coming back, and publishers are still having a hard time finding new revenue streams.
  • The iPad’s taken everyone by storm. I’ve seen it, used it, and it is a nice device that will have value among a certain segment of the population. But how popular will it be long term? In the end, it looks to me to be a niche product.
  • Tablet computers are getting a lot of press, just like e-readers were a year ago. And, a year from now, some other device will overshadow tablets. It’s the way of the tech world.

I’ll explore all of these in more depth in the weeks ahead.

Fox News — which claims it’s a real news organization and points to its slogan “We report, you decide” — has decided to hire Sarah Palin as a news “commentator.” This is the same Palin who falsely claims that current health care reform bill working its way through Congress contains provisions for death panels. The same Palin who accused Obama of “palling around with terrorists.” The same Palin who has recently agreed to speak at the first Tea Party convention.

Palin’s politics are fine. Everyone has a point of view, and she has hers. Okay. But it’s one thing to have a stated point of view, and another for an alleged news organization to hire someone so conservative she would make Jim DeMint (R-SC) seem liberal.

It’s time to stop pretending. Call Fox for what it is: a mouthpiece for the right. Apologies to the serious journalists who work there.

The opinions on this blog are mine alone.

Here’s the big wish: a limited anti-trust exemption for publishers.

The industry needs this. Badly. In an era in which technology has changed — and continues to change — information delivery, publishers won’t be able to survive if they can’t get together to discuss how to fairly price their products in this new world.

Right now, publishers can’t do that. They can’t get in a room and set the prices they would charge manufacturers for making content available on e-readers, for example. Instead, manufacturers set the price — and it’s a low ball price that doesn’t reflect the value of the content.

Publishers can’t get together and pick a preferred search engine that would access to all content for a price. Publishers can’t get together and discuss whether pay web sites are a good or bad idea.

Technology has changed everything. It’s time for a small change in the anti-trust statues so publishers can extract fair market value for the content they produce.

The views expressed on this blog are mine alone.