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I’m really excited about Android tablets. I don’t like the iPad’s lack of flash,
no USB ports and since I don’t have a Mac, don’t like the lack of compatibility.

And I fear, in the end, I may end up buying one.

It looks as if Samsung, being released Sept. 18, and Motorola, possibly coming
in October, are being released through cell carriers. That scares me. While no
one has said so, does that mean the carriers will require data packages and
contracts in order to get the tablets at a reasonable price?

That’s how the cellphone game works. Get a phone that retails for $549 for $99
as long as you sign a two-year contract and buy a  $29.99 a month data plan.
Will carriers try the same trick with tablets — $299 with a data plan but
$699 without? And will they try to force a two-year contract on all tablet
purchases?

If they do that, these android tablets will be dead on arrival.  Consumers are getting sick of being nickled and dimed for every new gadget that hits the market. That consumer frustration helps Apple. The iPad, for all of its flaws, doesn’t require any contracts and users can buy a data plan month-to- month. That’s enough to make me
change my mind and buy one.

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.

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.

My next column for Newspaper and Technology magazine will take a look at the digital media’s rush to judgement, and how that yearning to be first can do more harm than good.

Competition among journalists is a hallmark of the profession. There’s nothing that the exhilirating feeling of getting a scoop, which is the ultimate reward for cultivating sources.

But there’s a big difference in the scoop mentality today. Just five years ago, the mainstream media could afford to sit on a scoop for a day in order to make sure every fact was iron-clad correct. Even in the days when cities had multiple newspapers, the deadline cycle meant journalists had most of the day to check facts, confirm information, and then check again.

In today’s 24-hour news cycle, with competition from entertainment sites and cable opinion shows, journalists now feel they have to rush to get information out as quickly as they can. This rush to judgement can lead to embrassing mistakes, mistakes that further hurt our credibililty.

I’ll have the full column posted in a few days.

The views expressed on this blog are mine alone.

Tiger Woods. Two words that have media jump for joy. Forget about additional troops to Afghanistan, a double-digit unemployment rate and the health care debate. Tiger getting jiggywith other women and his wife apparently going ghetto on him sent the media in a tizzy. Tiger’s answer to it all: he pled for his privacy.

Through this entire melodrama, Tiger has been right about one thing — this isn’t anyone’s business but his and his family’s.

I’m a life-long journalist who strongly believes public officials and figures should be held accountable for actions that have a negative impact on the public. I argued that point and fought hard for that principal when I served as national president of the Society of Professional Journalists. But there’s something about this Tiger business that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

He did not squander public money. He did not embezel funds. He did not have an affair with someone who could impact legislation. He committed “transgressions” that may include having sex with women who are not his wife.

The advent of the 24-hour digital news cycle and niche celebrity sites puts the private lives of public figures in the spotlight — fairly or not. I just can’t help wonder whether the constant parade of stories about his or her affair ends up demeaning a profession that has so many other issues to tackle.

The views expressed on this blog are mine alone.