Mobile Device War – It’s Like the 1980s All Over Again

I was a Commodore 64 boy.  I had friends who had the Amstrad 464 machine (the one with the tape drive built in).  I also knew people with a Spectrum 48.  Those were some bitter rivalries.  But it was nothing like the next generation of machines.  Atari ST owners (like me) gloated about our faster 3D graphics over the Commodore Amiga folks.  The Commodore machine had that built in MIDI interface (making it the darling of the music crowd) but that maths coprocessor was seen as a bottleneck in the gaming magazines.  We both looked on at the amazing Acorn Archimedes hardware specs but it cost a fortune and had only a few games available.  You can forget Linux VS Windows or VMware VS Hyper-V!

And it’s all starting again.  iPhone VS Andriod with WP7 trying to get involved, and Blackberry clinging onto its government/corporate market.  Android seems to be taking the lead in device sales, but Apple still has the best quality ecosystem.  Amazon could have a big say in the Android world with their App Market (note Apple are suing them over the use of that term, even though Steve Jobs used to throw “App Store” around like an insult).  The IDC talk about 2-3 years down the road is doubted by the stock markets: they’re critical of corporate leadership and are shying away from Microsoft/Nokia stock.  Check their stock prices over the last few years.

Where things are really interesting is the tablet.  Apple cannot make the iPad2 fast enough to meet demand.  The only reason their sales this year of those devices is “disappointing” is because there is a huge order backlog.  Apple are making money as if they were printing it.  Android powered devices are popping up all over.  Samsung make some interesting machines and the Motorola Xoom is a hot device for geeks right now.  Microsoft are a non-factor with Windows 7, despite what some employees have to say.  Windows 8 on ARM processor tablets could be a whole other story.  If Microsoft can get the interface right (and they have a foundation in WP7) then they can bring compatibility, integration, and manageability to the tablet in the business market.  Amazon are another one to watch.  It’s known that they are building an Android tablet.  Maybe it’s a new Kindle and maybe not.  But they could suddenly rival Apple in no time at all.  Look at how many people own Kindles.  You see them on the bus/train/plane as often as you see an iPad.  Imagine if they ran Android.  And now throw in Amazon’s App Store and their unrivalled access to content and delivery … do they suddenly become the best ecosystem out there?

So who will be the Commodore 64 of the tablet wars, offering the best package?  Who will be the just as popular but less capable Spectrum 48?  And who will be the red-headed stepchild Amstrad 464 that you were disappointed to find when you opened your Christmas present wrapping?

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