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iPad notwithstanding, selling tablets is tough
Since long before the iPad launched in 2010, tablets have fascinated consumers and vendors alike. Apple introduced the Newton Message Pad in 1993. Microsoft took a run in 1991 with its Pen Computing initiative that never took off. In 2002, Microsoft tried again with its XP for Tablet PC, which did better. But it wasn’t until the iPad that a tablet with an intuitive touch interface caught the imagination, and since then it’s been an all-out rush to duplicate that success. As Microsoft launches another attempt with its Surface for Windows RT announcement, here’s a look at some of the predecessors.
Cisco announced its Cius tablet to much fanfare in 2010, shipped it in 2011 and has all but killed it in 2012. The Android-based device with a 7-inch touchscreen sought to appeal to corporate IT pros looking to promote communication and collaboration. But by Cisco’s own admission, the Cius fell victim to BYOD, the trend to allow workers to bring their personal devices to work and connect them to corporate networks. If employees could be more productive using their own tablets and phones, why should businesses make investments in similar products? The answer to that was they shouldn’t.
Announced about the same time as Cisco’s Cius, Avaya’s Flare is similar in that it is a vehicle for its software, Avaya Flare Experience. Unlike Cisco, Avaya recognized early on that BYOD was a factor in corporate device choices and created Flare voice client software that runs on iPads and Android devices. Avaya continues to upgrade these clients, with plans for extending video support to iPads, Android devices and Windows PCs within the next 18 months. The company also says it will continue to develop the tablet itself, which it calls Avaya Desktop Video Device (ADVD). But some observers say it’s not necessary long-term. "I'm surprised they haven't given up on [the ADVD] yet," says Blair Pleasant, an analyst at UCStrategies.com.
While extolled for its hardware, the responsive QNX operating system and snappy Web browser, RIM’s Blackberry PlayBook has gotten off to a rocky start. For example, in the second quarter of last year, the company sold just a third the expected number of devices, according to DigiTimes. And some users are frustrated with the company’s execution on the promise PlayBook showed, perhaps, they speculate, because it was rushed to market.
In perhaps one of the most spectacular face-plants in technology history, HP’s Touchpad launched in July 2011 only to be discontinued the next month. It went from a base price of $500 to $99 over that period. Customers said its performance was sluggish, the user interface was awkward and didn’t offer enough applications. Sales were terrible. Best Buy had 270,000 of the devices in its inventory and managed to sell only 10% at the original price. That’s when the stores started discounting them, but to little effect.