As Tablets Hit the Market Casualties to Mount

Several of the eReaders have already "gone down." Most prominently the Plastic Logic's Que eReader was killed last year following the success of the iPad. (Kindle will probably be the lone, surviving eReader when the dust clears.) Now the highly funded and much-hyped dual-screen student tablet the Kno appears to be headed in the same direction. According to a report in AllThingsD:

Kno–the much-funded and high-profile Silicon Valley start-up aimed at making tablet computers focused at students–is considering selling off the entire hardware part of the business and is in talks with two major consumer electronics manufacturers to do so, according to sources close to the situation.

The company behind Kno is now going to focus instead on software for the iPad and presumably Android tablets -- if they catch on. The enterprise is a bit of a greener field than the consumer market. An article in the NY Times Sunday discusses how many of the iPad's rivals will try to win the enterprise as a differentiation strategy:

Companies as diverse as General Electric, Wells Fargo, Mercedes-Benz and Medtronic are putting Apple’s iPad to work in their offices. And as a string of devices tailored for the office enters the market — from the likes of Motorola, Research In Motion, Samsung and Hewlett-Packard — tablets are all but certain to flood America’s workplaces . . .

The new tablets are also expected to give the iPad, which has had the market largely to itself, a run for its money. R.I.M., which makes BlackBerry phones, and H.P. have long relationships with corporate technology buyers. For its part, Apple is hoping to stay ahead of competitors with a new version of the iPad, which may be unveiled as soon as next month . . .

The company, which sold nearly 15 million iPads in the nine months after the release of the device, won’t say how many were bought by businesses. But during a conference call with investors and analysts in January, the company said more than 80 percent of Fortune 100 companies were using or testing the iPad, an increase from 65 percent three months earlier. Among those companies, said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s chief financial officer, are JPMorgan Chase, Sears Holdings and DuPont.

It's very difficult to know at this point which of the iPad rivals will succeed. But at the end of the year we'll have a much better sense of the viable non-iPad tablets. HP-Palm has produced a very iPad-like device (pictured). It's targeted to the enterprise. The RIM PlayBook will also get a look from enterprises (though probably not consumers) and Samsung and Motorola's (and maybe LG's) Android tablets will be taken seriously in the enterprise if not by consumers. 

Other than the RIM PlayBook, most of the iPad's competitors are priced higher -- putting them at a disadvantage as new market entrants. I'm guessing there will also be some very inexpensive, $300 Chinese-made Android tablets that catch on mainly because of their price. The market probably has room for three to five successful full-featured tablets (both consumer and enterprise markets) and probably a couple of really cheap ones. There will be two form factors: 10" and 7".  

I also believe that at some point this year we'll see a tablet based on the Windows Phone OS. I'm guessing here but stubborn insistence that tablets can equally run Windows 7 is likely to mean that Microsoft will be completely shut out of this new computing platform. The company will probably recognize that in Q3 this year.