This Week in Tablets: 6 Key questions for the rest of 2013—and beyond

November 9, 2013
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Mid-November? How did we get here so quickly? The last 10 months feel like they’ve passed in a blur, and now we’re on the fast track to January 1, 2014.

Right now, most of the major tablet releases are set, and for the next few months, we’ll sit back to tally the results. It’s not a stretch to assume that by the time we enter the new year, not much will have changed based on market share or sales.

In other words, Apple will have sold millions of iPad Airs and iPad Minis. The Android OS will continue its surge in consumer tablets. And Windows will continue to claw its way forward, but will still lag the leaders.

This said, there’s still some mystery around a few bigger topics that go beyond 2013. We may have to wait a year—or more—for answers to the below questions, but each will go a long way towards defining winners and losers for the rest of this year and the next.

On with the list:

When will Microsoft release Office for the iPad?

It’s easy to assume that Office for iPad is an inevitability, but it has taken Microsoft some time to put this thing together. Mark my words: The moment Microsoft releases the productivity suite, it will become an immediate best-seller at whatever price point they choose. At which point Microsoft will contemplate why it didn’t release the bundle sooner. The bigger question from my perspective is: Will Microsoft also release a version of Outlook for iPad? Given the present difficulty integrating Google accounts into Outlook’s calendar, I’m not so sure.

How big of an impact will Nokia have on Microsoft’s fortunes?

Given Nokia’s popularity outside of the United States, is it possible that a Nokia-manufactured Windows RT tablet—designated the Lumia 2520—could help spur Windows device sales? Is it possible the device could do the same here in the States, with AT&T’s and Verizon’s backing? We’ll begin to find out as soon as November 22, by all accounts.

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What will the killer second screen gaming app be for Xbox One?

This is a tough question to hypothesize over. Xbox One and PlayStation 4 both launch in the next three weeks, accompanied by a slew of new games releasing on each platform, many of which have second screen tie-ins. Microsoft’s SmartGlass solution offers a wide range of options for players, as does Sony’s PlayStation App. Ultimately, these are just frameworks for developers to operate in, however. We’ll likely see fairly rudimentary second-screen implementations this year—meaning context-sensitive tips and simple, asymmetric gameplay—as developers and publishers wrestle with the hardware in first-generation games. By next year, however, we’ll likely see major breakthroughs of the gameplay and non-gameplay variety.

When will Nintendo release its library to iOS and Android?

Given Nintendo’s Wii U sales woes, the company appears to be hurtling towards a big decision: Release another new hardware console—or a significantly retooled Wii U—as soon as possible, or begin to consider alternate options for revenue during this Gen4 console cycle. The company could reap a fortune by releasing some of the classics in its library to iOS or Android, but has thus far resisted such temptation in an effort to incent first-party hardware sales. Expect this to change by late 2014 in some sort of experimental fashion.

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When will Apple launch a new product line?

The billion dollar question is how long Apple will wait before diving into one of the emerging categories of non-traditional computing, such as wearable devices or TV or something else entirely. My bet is that Apple will continue to play the waiting game for all of 2014, and be content to sell millions of phones and tablets. I can see an Apple TV refresh, but that’s it. Ultimately, we may all want something new from the company, but until there’s a discernible need, Apple can afford to wait. I think.

How will Samsung’s Galaxy Gear sell?

It’s not exactly received rave reviews, so I’ll be curious to see what kind of numbers Samsung’s smartwatch generates. My bet? Not too many, possibly not even 200,000 units sold. The bigger question here is whether the device will generate enough of a ripple effect that it stokes down-the-road demand for other devices in this category, like the Pebble.

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