Monday, February 7, 2011

Tablets: Overpriced, Overhyped, and the Next Big Fad

It's been my desire to purchase an Android tablet at some point. I thought about how wonderful it would be to stream videos, play Angry Birds on a huge screen, read e-books, or listen to music. Up till this point, there hadn't been many Android tablets worth a damn.

You see, the iPad hit it big and helped kick start this little tablet revolution. Tablets aren't a new thing by any means. They've been around for quite a while. They were mostly relegated to running Windows horribly since it wasn't optimized for it or proprietary software for businesses of varied purposes.

I really hate Apple. I really do. It's not their hardware because their hardware is top notch. It's not their software because iOS and OS X rarely ever encounter the problems that Windows or even Android would have. No, I think it's their attitude and marketing hype. Apple has always had this yuppie, self-important attitude that they knew technology better than everyone else and that they have been the cutting edge. They then play into this and hype their products to their Apple zombies to buy up.

The iPad is the result of these attitudes. See, the iPad, while well constructed, is nothing more than a large iPod Touch. Does it have its uses? Of course, Apple has a good relationship with many developers that helps them create wonderful programs for it. Is it, dare I say, magical? Hell no.

Apple has this horrible trait of taking existing technologies and packaging them together with their software and calling them revolutionary. They're not. As I said, tablets have been around for a good long while. Apple simply polished up a turd and sold it to their zombies. Of course, the iPad sold big so now every one wants to get in on the tablet game with Android, the main competitor to Apple right now.

Here's the problem: there's no consistency or quality control. Apple controls every aspect of their hardware and software. This gives them a very polished and worthwhile product. Android, being the wild west of software development, has produced so many low end junk tablets it's horrifying. A good deal of these come from China, but even those produced outside of China were terrible. They are cheap, but they run outdated versions of Android that haven't been optimized for tablets on crappy hardware. They are a consumer's worst nightmare.

Out of a sea of early tablets, only a couple have been worthy. First is obviously the Samsung Galaxy Tab. The size is a bit small but the hardware is worthy. Problem is it requires a contract and even then the subsidized price point isn't that great. The second is the 7 and 10 inch variants of the Archos line. They are very affordable at around $300 with no contract, but suffer a bit in the hardware. The hardware is still pretty good but not high end.

So now to the real point of this post. Browsing the forums that I usually do, I noticed that the Motorola Xoom had been rumored to be $800 with a requirement to purchase at least the first month of data. This is just a joke. Yes the hardware for the Xoom is the best in class at the moment and Motorola has a great track record with their products durability.

The problem is that tablets in the form that the iPad has dictated are media consumption devices. A laptop is a productivity device. A cell phone is a communications device. The prices of these devices are extremely affordable. A low-end but usable laptop now runs at around $400 for 15.6" of screen real estate while smartphones can cost nothing on contract and usually peak at $530 or so for unlocked ones. These devices are a part of your everyday life.

Tablets, however, should be something of an impulse buy or present for that media hungry loved one. No matter how you spruce them up, they're not going to replace a laptop or a smartphone. This is not to say that they can't have productivity or communications features, but that's really not their intended function. So when I could get both a laptop and cell phone for less than the cost of a Xoom, I have to wonder what they are smoking at Motorola.

See the Xoom comes in just below the highest costing iPad. Note that I said "highest costing". The iPad has several variants that you can purchase, some without a contract. This is why the iPad sells so well. The lowest one costs only $500. A fairly hefty price, but leaps better than the Xoom. Just about every decent Android tablet that has been released has been forced into a contract. No intelligent consumer is going to buy an Android tablet with a contract when they have an Android smartphone with WiFi hotspot capabilities. They are already paying for one data plan, why add another?

No, tablets are a fad right now. They are media consumption devices no matter how productivity applications you put on them. They're too expensive right now and the manufacturers and carriers are working together to force consumers into contracts in order to make them more affordable. I'll get a tablet, but not until they are in the $400 or less range without a contract. Most of the guts of these tablets are based on the same chipsets as the cell phones so there's no reason for them to be this much. So guys, but you're going to have to con someone else.

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