In a rare alignment of technology and marketing muscle, there will be a major face-off in the tablet world tomorrow. Nokia will unveil the first Windows Phone phablet while Apple unveils the next generation iPads in a quest to maintain its dominance.
But Microsoft has the most to lose as it tries to boost interest in the Windows RT operating system with the arrival of Surface 2 devices on the shelves.
A Fat Tuesday for Tablet Fans
If you love gadgets then you have probably had Oct. 22 circled on your calendar for quite some time. Naturally you'd have known the date for Apple's next iPad reveal well ahead of the masses. Nokia's Abu Dhabi event has been the subject of much discussion and Microsoft announced the sale date for Surface 2 tablets last month.
Tablets are very much the market to be in. Gartner reports the tablet market has grown 42.7 percent year-over-year and forecasts another 50 percent growth in the next year. That compares to an 8 percent decrease in personal computer sales and fewer sales of mobile devices. Gartner's analysts predict smaller screens and mid-market prices will drive future sales of tablets.
The Nokia event will be live-streamed from Nokia's conversations page, with several other devices on show. We're still waiting to see if Apple will deign to stream the iPad event with the rest of the world. For now, we know it is being held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Fransisco, a location from which events have been streamed before.
Microsoft will likely hold launch events at its major flagship stores. If you're picking up a Surface tablet, report in and let us know if there are crowds excitement or any sign of bolstered activity on the streets.
The competition for these new devices has never been more intense. Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX is already out there in 7-inch form, with the larger 8.9-inch model to come on Nov. 7. We also see Google doing a roaring trade in Nexus tablets. With an unbridled stampede of low-budget Android tablets from almost every retailer, box maker and white-label factory, tablets are now plentiful and cheap. Each party has its own major challenges ahead.
Consumers Control the Future
Apple maintains its premium prices are justified by its ecosystem and hardware quality. But there is speculation it could drop prices on the original iPad mini to create a lower entry point. The much-expected iPad mini with retina display is likely to take over at the $299 mark. That upgrade to retina will make a great temptation for the holiday sales.
That might not be the case with its new larger brother, with its iPhone 5S-like massive processing power boost. We wonder if few will see that as a pressing need for an upgrade. Many users are still happily running the latest apps on third-generation iPads. Since little new software demands 64-bit power, sales might not be as spry as hoped.
Nokia, on the other hand, has great expectations to meet as the steadily growing army of Windows Phone users look for the flexibility that Samsung Galaxy owners enjoy across a range of devices. The 1520 phablet will offer more screen real estate but will need a price point to generate interest from more than loyalists.
Nokia's partner-in-phones, Microsoft, has the most urgent mission on its hands. It's trying to recover from the Windows RT launch woes and the new issue with some Surface RT tablets failing to upgrade to Windows 8.1. However, the positive reviews for the new hardware leaves only few sticking points for users brave enough to venture outside their current environment.
Do you feel the need to upgrade or is your current tablet adequate for your work or home needs? Does any particular device seem more attractive? We'll be keen to test them out, with the new iPads likely to go on sale Nov. 1, with the Nokia following a week later.