January 11 2011
by Todd Hixon

Watersheds: Real & Wannabe

This is part 2 of my observations from CES 2011.

Year of the Tablet: Not Quite Yet

The media proclaimed 2011 the year of the tablet, and obedient to their editors’ direction, reporters found many tablets on the floor, e.g., HuffPost:  11 New Tablets You’ve Probably Never Heard Of From CES 2011.  In truth, the major companies devoted most of their booth space to flat screen TVs, 3D, and smart phones, because that’s where the money is.  Tablets were featured products for second tier companies:  Motorola, Sharp, RIM.  There was no lack of enthusiasm, however …

Photo credit: Huffington Post

Samsung Bites Apple

Samsung’s booth was bigger than my neighborhood with a broad array of products.  Their frontal assault on iOS struck me.  Samsung’s Galaxy and Nexus S are best-in-class Android phones:  beautiful hardware, snappy performance.  They have spun this platform into a 7” Galaxy Tablet and the Galaxy Player: a Galaxy phone sans cellular radio (read: iPod Touch).  Probably content and an app that competes with iTunes are lagging.  But the gauntlet is down and a real alternative to iOS is in prospect.  Considering that Apple sources two of the three major BOM items in its products from Samsung (flash memory and A4 processor), I expect this story be interesting.

Google Puts Red Dot On iPad

Samsung’s Galaxy Tablet, which claims 1m 2010 sales versus Apple’s ~8m, is a good start.  RIM’s “PlayBook” is a nice product, but, lacks an ecosystem.  The most promising tablet at CES 2011 was Motorola’s Xoom tablet running Android 3.0 “Honeycomb”.  Google chose Moto as its hardware partner to launch a reference “Google experience” for tablets.  The Xoom was under glass on the floor, but I know someone who got to play with it.  The hardware and software design are refined, and the performance is fast and silky.  With the Android ecosystem behind it, this is a true challenger to the iPad [engadget coverage here].  The red dot I refer to is the one you get with a laser sight.

Ballmer Divorces Intel

Photo credit:

The biggest watershed event was surely Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s announcement that the next version of Windows and Office will run natively on ARM.  NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang pointed out that your “superphone” is your most personal computer, and ARM will ship more processor cores this year (most of them for smart and “super” phones) than Intel has ever shipped.  Earlier NVIDIA announced it is developing ARM based CPUs for PCs (“Project Denver”).  The market has been well and truly disrupted.

The whole thing is fantastic: crowds, gadgets, the fantasy of Vegas.  Duly stimulated, it’s time to get back to building reality.

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