There’s something magical about the combination of a good brand and a low price point.
To date, I have been an unabashed iPad fanboy. Not because I think that Apple necessarily makes the best product, but they do make one that’s incredibly intuitive to use and simply works, all the time1. And, as others have pointed out, at length, much like with the iPod, Apple didn’t create a tablet market, they created an iPad market.
Huge difference. And that difference is felt keenly by everyone trying to get an Android tablet to market that performs well.
I’m sure they’re very nice devices, the Android tabs. I’ve seen a couple (like the HTC Flyer or the ASUS Transformer) that have been mighty tempting, and I love my Android phone. But, being a guy very much in favor of Cloud Computing, I like the iPad’s philosophy and aesthetic more. Every decent specced Android tablet has done it’s best to be a laptop replacement, while trying to retain the iPad’s aesthetic. And it doesn’t work. Adding ports for flash storage and USB devices adds bulk and gives the gadgets a cheaper feel. Depending on which manufacturer you choose, you get varying degrees of performance and consistency, based on how well that company’s custom UI and non-deletable bloatware play with the Android kernel. The iPad, by contrast is just a slab; no ports, no bells and whistles, no bloatware, no lag. Am I sacrificing a few things with the Apple architecture? Absolutely. Customization is crap, I can’t play flash video or load flash webpages2 and I’m bound within the moated keep of Fortress Apple.
Thing is, and this is coming from a guy who fully supports the open source and loathes the notion of walled gardens, things inside that Fortress work really, really well. So no, I haven’t been able to justify buying something that kind of, mostly, almost works as well as the iPad, but costs as much, just to support the success of an “open” OS.
That might change after today.
“Why, Walrus,” you ask, “what happened today?”
Well kiddies, you should have watched the video up top before you started reading, but I guess I can fill you in.
Amazon, which is pretty much the only tech-ish company left that can challenge the total hegemony of Apple and Google, announced their 2011 fall line-up.
There was a refreshed Kindle Classic for 79 bucks. The new Kindle Touch (woot!) for 100 bucks. And…
Duh Duh Duh
The Kindle Fire, the much-anticipated Android tablet, coming in at an astonishing 200 dollars. The Fire runs a forked version of Android 2.1 (Eclair) but looks and performs (apparently) nothing like any Android OS you’ve seen thus far. It’s built into what looks suspiciously like the exact same hardware as the Blackberry Playbook3, which is fine by me, as that was one of the few tablet form factors I liked.
And it’s 200 dollars.
I’m guessing Amazon is counting on all that built-in proprietary infrastructure, linking to all of their services and products, to help offset the cost of that incredibly low price tag.
And you know what? I’m okay with that. I’ve given the Apple App store my money for a few years now, and there doesn’t appear to be any solid indication that they’re going to be rushing the iPad 3 to market before Christmas, so….
Yeah, I think I’m going to do it. At 200 bucks Amazon has launched a device that is essentially disposable tablet technology in a form factor that I really dig. That gives me enough incentive to at least try one. It may be the bump that’s needed to create an honest to goodness tablet market, rather than the one where everyone scrambles to copy Apple and cries their way into defunct-hood.
Sorry HP. That was mean.
1When I say “all the time” I don’t literally mean all the time. I’m sure people have had bad experiences and I’ve had to do one hard reset in my tenure with the device, but it does have an excellent fail-to-win ratio on consistency.
2A lack that won’t be an issue for much longer. The people have spoken and Adobe is working on a replacement for Flash, called Edge, which is good, because Flash is slow as molasses and drains battery life faster. A note to Android evangelists; saying your product supports Flash and calling that a feature rather than a drawback, is akin to me saying my foot works well with dinosaur teeth; doesn’t get stuck or anything. HTML5 is the new standard. You’re going to have to deal.
3Which, after a bit of digging, makes sense, as the Fire and the Playbook were both made by the same manufacturer, Quanta.