This Week in Tablets: Apple can’t lose, but Google and Microsoft sure can

February 18, 2012

Winner: Apple

Let’s see…Apple stock broke $500 for the first time, the company skated past injunctions aimed at halting iPad shipments in China based on a previously settled lawsuit, and another week's deluge of iPad 3 rumors ensured that Apple dominated the spotlight.

And the week's capper? Apple dominates headlines for its desktop OS when it announces that ‘Mountain Lion’ will ship this summer—and borrow features and functionality from the iPad and iPhone.

Maybe that’s why chief executive Tim Cook was in such a good mood that earlier in the week, he gave kudos to Amazon. Well, kind of.

The way things are going for AAPL, I’m going to have to go out of my way to find reasons not to include them here. One of those reasons may be rearing its head sooner rather than later, however.

The big question is this: When will awareness of and disdain for the unsavory labor practices at Chinese factories like Foxconn reach critical mass? I’m betting right around the time iPad 3 is released.

Winner: Future Publishing

This week, the UK publisher divulged that an independent audit revealed that its T3 iPad app was downloaded almost 270,000 times in 2011. Paid downloads totaled a whopping 16,180 for December alone.

That’s solid growth, and is probably a great lesson for print magazine publishers everywhere. (Full disclosure: my most recent job was at Future’s US division, running Maximum PC.)

The big question is this: why haven’t all magazine publishers put all of their wares onto Newsstand?

Winner: Nature

Most of us would agree that as a general rule, the less paper we print, the better. When Morgan Stanley reported that the adoption of tablets in the enterprise is leading to a decline in printing, TabTimes was enthused. One of the inherent advantages of using a tablets is the absence of paper.

According to the report, 46% of surveyed tablet users reported they printed “somewhat less” or “significantly less”.

Morgan Stanley also said that demand for printing and writing paper has dropped 9% since the iPad was released in April 2010, which begs the question: Are companies in the printing category due for a shakeout?

The loser? A two-way tie between two heavyweights

It’s not every week that two AAA software releases get tainted by marketing stumbles and miscues.

Loser 1a: Google Android. This week, our optimism regarding the potential unification of the highly fragmented Android OS via Ice Cream Sandwich was destroyed by early rumors that Google will be releasing version 5.0 of Android, dubbed Jelly Bean, this summer.

If rumors are to be believed, the Android team is rushing to get Jelly Bean out the door in order to beat the release of Windows 8.

Does the Android team realize how ridiculous this news sounds to non-journalist tablet and smartphone users, most of whom haven’t even gotten their hands on Android 4.0 yet?

Loser 1b: Microsoft. Is that really the new Windows logo? Yes. Yes it is.

It's not ugly, but nothing about this logo feels immediately inspiring. Nothing about this logo conjures the Metro interface either. Metro is vibrant and colorful.This is flat and monochromatic.

If you ask any tech magazine publisher on the planet, they’ll tell you that the old logo, in most of its iterations, was money in the bank for magazine sales. Put it on the cover of your magazine, conventional wisdom said, and people will respond to it.

So what to make of the Windows 9 logo? Perhaps Microsoft’s new retro design is ahead of the curve, and it will prove eternal.

The truth is that whatever I think, the public's reaction was tepid at best. Even the comments at the bottom of Microsoft’s own Windows blog, where it was announced and explained, is receiving tough love.

For what it’s worth

The big news this coming week is RIM’s rumored February 21 release of the PlayBook 2.0 operating system. This is the make or break moment for this tablet. A well-received release could rejuvenate sales, particularly when combined with the $199 price point. We’ll soon know for sure.

On the horizon is the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, which begins February 27, 2012. Lots of tablet news should come of MWC, including Microsoft’s public debut of the Windows 8 consumer preview. 


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