Fight Club – Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Google

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The end of October is going to be a crazy time as far as the world of consumer electronics is concerned. A stampede of new products are going to be released that may or may not be scooped up just in time for the impending holiday season.  However what might be more important than pre-Christmas sales numbers is the long term impact some of these products may have on the companies that are releasing them.  So what are we looking at here?  What has come out recently or will come out in the near future that is going to be making such large waves in the tech community?

Amazon Kindle Family: Recently Amazon announced the refresh of its kindle line, a renewed “Paperwhite” E-reader ($119), a revised Fire – now in HD ($199), and a brand new 8.9 inch 4G Kindle Fire ($499).  In terms of what this means for Amazon is pretty simple.  The company is continuing to innovate on products that are decent hardware wise and pretty garbage concerning the heavily skinned Android software.  That being said Amazon has proved that it can play with the big boys when it comes to manufacturing its own products.  Not to mention Amazon knows exactly how to play to its own strengths, those being encouraging consumers to nestle themselves as deeply as possible inside the Amazonian ecosystem. The Kindle family is a positive for Amazon in that it proves Amazon can play the game, they may not be rocking boats, creating iPad killers, or instigating midnight launch parties, but they certainly have gotten some people’s attention.

Google Chromebook, Nexus 7, codename “Manta”, & LG Nexus 4:  The Nexus 7 like all Nexus devices comes with the latest version of stock Android (4.1 Jelly Bean), it is also the only tablet currently on the market to feature unfettered stock Android.  The Nexus 7 is priced at a very modest $199.  The web based OS Samsung Chromebook is really the only product of its kind for the time being and only time will tell how it will fare on the battlefield.  Its price is also very attractive, at only $249.99 one would be hard pressed to find a better MacBook Air clone. Google and Samsung will be announcing a new ten inch tablet codenamed “Manta” on October 29th, according to The Verge.  This is clearly Google’s bullet, aimed directly at the iPad.  It supposedly features Android 4.2 and a 2560 x 1600 display which is just about 300ppi, a figure that the iPad cannot boast.  Depending on the price point, Google might have something that could at least give the king a run for its money, especially among those who are itching for something a little more new and fresh than what iOS currently has to offer.  Finally Google will also be announcing it’s new Nexus phone, the LG Nexus 4, also on October 29th.  The Nexus 4 will be the new flagship Nexus phone and will also feature Android 4.2.  Its price has yet to be announced.

Apple iPad mini: Apple is almost certainly set to announce the unofficially dubbed iPad mini on October 23.  Not a lot is known about the iPad mini, but assuming Apple is smart (which they tend to be) Tim Cook and friends will price the mini at a price point that can directly compete with the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7, so in the $200-$300 range.  Many argue that Apple would be shooting themselves in the foot by pricing a tablet in the same bracket as the iPod Touch, but honestly Apple already has the PMP market completely cornered, why not make sure it maintains the same clout in the tablet market.  Apple certainly isn’t taking any real risks with the iPad mini, and at least in my opinion is only creating another product that its competitors will have to live up to.

Microsoft Surface, Windows 8, & Windows Phone 8:  Over the next month or so, Microsoft will be almost completely reinventing every single one of its flagship products save for the Xbox.  With a brand new OS, a completely revised phone OS, and an entirely new tablet which will be a direct competitor with the iPad, Microsoft seems to be going all in.  Depending on how these products fare on the market will have an incredibly large impact on the company itself.  Microsoft has priced the Surface (32gb) at a rather steep $499 which does not include the magnetic cover that doubles as a keyboard (bundle price is $599).  This price point is not the worst considering the iPad (16gb) starts at $499, but this is an uphill battle for Microsoft.  In my opinion they have kicked themselves hard for a couple different reasons.  First of all, they priced a little too high, especially when the iPad mini is about to drop at a much lower price point.  I do understand that the mini and the Surface are not necessarily direct competitors, but when push comes to shove and it comes time for a consumer who is tabletless to invest, will they purchase Microsoft’s gamble, or go with a safe and cheaper choice?  Furthermore Microsoft should have taken a hit and bundled the keyboard with the Surface at the starting price point, as it is arguably one of the most appealing things about the Surface.  Finally there will be a large disparity of price when comparing the RT to the x86 Surfaces.  The x86 price has yet to be released, but it will undoubtedly be closer to $1000. Windows 8 is Microsoft’s first really really new operating system in forever.  Nobody can truely say how a tablet/touch oriented “dual” OS with no start button will fare, but how it does will impact Microsoft’s future in a big way. If Windows 8 fails, Microsoft’s relevance will drop off significantly, and even more market share will be forfeited to Apple.  This may not be the last stand for Microsoft, but if they screw up these next months, they may only have one fight left in them.

Nobody can truly say who will come out on top in the next month or so, but we can clearly see who has the most to lose… I’m looking at you Microsoft.  Apple certainly has taken the safe road with a boring iterative iPhone 5 and a safe bet on a smaller tablet.  Amazon is looking rather safe in its corner, and Google is making all the right plays to chip away at Apple’s seemingly impenetrable armor.  I for one am rooting for Microsoft, I hope their new products are a success because from my point of view they all look really cool, but we will definitely have to wait and see.

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