With a likely September launch for the next iPhone and perhaps a mini iPad, Windows 8 launching with an armada of hardware in October, and Amazon to unveil a Kindle Fire 2 for the holidays, get ready for the most intense consumer battle in recent years. Which, if any, will you buy?
Preparing for Battle
The Internet is rocking with the latest multiple-source rumors of an upcoming Apple event, with speculation pointing to 12 September for the news and 21 September for a launch of the next wave of Apple hardware. That's most likely the next iPhone and the unicorn-like mini iPad.
If you scour the web, you can find pictures of (possible) bits of the new iPhone's casing put together, to give an idea of what it will look like, but the iPad mini is one of those enigmas wrapped in a mystery right now. If it exists and comes with a keen price, it will give Apple an equal footing in the battle with Google's Nexus 7 tablet, the upcoming Kindle Fire 2 and other lower-priced tablet models.
With tablets likely to be massive sellers over the holiday season, it could be Microsoft who could be the odd ones out with a premium-priced Windows RT Surface device on the market at launch. Microsoft's partners could fill in the gaps, but we'll have to wait and see on that front. It will, however, have a neat line in new accessories.
The Phoney War
On the smartphone side, Samsung has already seen great success with the Galaxy S III, and it seems the battle at the top end of the smartphone market will be renewed with Apple's next model. Other phone makers can only look in awe, hoping that, perhaps, consumers are finally getting bored of the games, and will be looking for something else, a specific feature, a new user experience or other benefit from a rival product. Will an Amazon smartphone be the one to shake things up further?
Microsoft will be looking for a huge advance on Windows Phone 7 sales with its partners' successor models packing more features, improved processor power and the new OS. But, with constant chatter of a Facebook or an Amazon smartphone, perhaps this market will be shaken up by new players or app-focused disruption in 2013.
Try this idea, if Microsoft, Apple, Google or a third-party developer creates some uber-app of such vitality that it is instantly becomes essential for our digital lives, millions of users would come flocking to that platform. Why invest billions in an increasingly sluggish hardware race, when some well-placed loose change could cause such a rift?
Will You Follow Party Lines?
Us typical buyers hold the key to any company's success in these upcoming battles. If you're happy with your current smartphone, do you really feel the need for a pricey upgrade? Will you follow partisan lines if you need to branch out for a tablet? Or, if other members of your family want to jump onto the technology bandwagon, what will you recommend? Is your life already crammed with technology that one more gadget would just be crazy.
Each one of these millions of hardware sales is someone's personal decision, and enough of those decisions can build-up and bring down companies. With the differentiators between devices becoming harder to spot, what will it take to get a potential buyer to switch or try a new product? Perhaps, when western sales start to stagnate, we'll see increasingly devious means (second-hand trade-ins, cash or vouchers to switch and so on) to close a sale. So, what would it take to get you to swap?