Hold on to your wallets folks, a new crop of mobile devices is imminent. Just in time for the ramp up to holiday shopping, Apple is expected to announce its long-anticipated 7-inch iPad Mini (or whatever it will be called) tomorrow. That event is also rumored to include an interim refresh of the flagship 10-inch iPad in addition to other a couple of other PC-related hardware announcements.
Right on the heels of Apple’s tablet unveiling Google and Microsoft are holding dueling press events a week from now. Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 event will be held in San Francisco and Google’s Android meeting in New York. Journalists and bloggers are being forced to choose which one to attend — at opposite ends of the country.
New York vs. San Francisco
Danny will be in New York in the Android playpen and I’ll be in San Francisco covering the Windows Phonathon. While Microsoft’s event will focus on smartphones and its new OS, Google is expected to show off both smartphones and tablets.
The Next Web has posted on what it thinks Google will announce in New York:
- A new 32GB Nexus 7 tablet (and a version with carrier connectivity)
- A new 10-inch Nexus tablet made by Samsung
- Android 4.2 OS (apparently intended to match some of iOS 6′s features)
- New Nexus “quad core” flagship smartphone (made by LG)
Apple Mini vs. Kindle Fire vs. Nexus 7
The $199 Nexus 7 has sold well and the new Nexus tablets should also do well — if aggressively priced. Price has been key to the success of the Kindle Fire and the Nexus 7.
One rumor over the weekend suggested that Apple would sell its smaller iPad at $329 to start, partly in an effort not to undermine the $299 iPod Touch. But less expensive 7-inch tablets from Google and Amazon could keep consumers away from the “iPad Mini” if it starts above $300.
Indeed, I don’t think Apple can’t price an entry level Mini model above $250 if it wants the device to be competitive. We’ll see tomorrow.
Surface RT Sellout
Meanwhile last week it was reported that Microsoft’s initial run of Surface RT tablets have sold out in the US. The company is hoping that these new Windows 8 tablets, together with Windows Phone 8, make it competitive in the mobile device segment. Remarkably Microsoft is now the underdog vs Apple and Google.
The Surface sell-out, whether created by Microsoft through artificial scarcity or a genuine reflection of interest, does suggest consumer demand, which is positive for the company. Microsoft saw its Office and Windows OS revenues decline last quarter ahead of the Windows 8 rollout.
It’s not clear, however, what Microsoft will be showing off next Monday, given that the company essentially revealed all the features of Windows Phone 8 back in June and showed off its Surface tablets at roughly the same time. Indeed, if there’s nothing new to see Microsoft may lose the “coverage cycle” to Google. Media magnet Apple will itself only have a scant week to play up its new devices before Google and Microsoft’s events.
Windows Ecosystem Disruption
The hardware environment is more competitive and dynamic than ever with more consumer choice and more price competition. The Windows ecosystem, once unassailable, is now being disrupted. Microsoft’s entry into the hardware market (tablets now, smartphones later) is an effort to inject itself back into the consumer discussion and regain some measure of control. (In the US Microsoft’s smartphone share is now at roughly 3.6 percent according to comScore.)
The Surface RT tablet matches the iPad’s $499 entry level price. Indeed, Surface RT is more like an iPad than a full-fledged Windows computer. Surface Pro will be more “robust” and carry a higher price tag, much like a conventional laptop (above $600).
However Google and Samsung last week introduced a refreshed Chromebook for $249 and a 3G version for $329. I couldn’t help thinking that this pricing will get attention and may cause some people to buy a Chromebook instead of a traditional laptop or perhaps even a higher priced tablet.
Yet how many devices can one person own: three . . . five . . . seven?