Nexus 7 and Surface: A bonanza for landfill miners
The fish aren't going to get on the bicycles
Comment It would be charitable (that is, untrue) to call the consumer electronics strategies of Microsoft and Google coherent today. But what they lack in coherence they make up for in er, … sheer recklessness. That's OK, then.
Both stalwarts are now in head-on competition with their customers, having launched their own-brand tablets, rather than the software for other people to make tablets. They're also diving into retail in the chase after Apple, a hugely expensive move that usually ends in tears. Amazingly, Google is actually competing with itself, as Google's new $12bn Motorola devices division wasn't involved in designing its new Nexus 7 tablet.
And if Google's own employees at Moto think they've had a kick in the teeth, imagine waking up as a Samsung planner today. You've bet big on Android and helped it become a huge platform - and Google rewards you with with a tablet that it sells at cost price. Readers with long memories will recall how American semiconductor companies called foul when Asian manufacturers dumped silicon at cost price onto the American market in the 1980s. Now America's biggest companies are dumping tablets onto the world.
There's certainly a lot of thought and care gone into Google's new seven incher: it has the power of a laptop, NFC, and with a 1280x800 display and quad-core chip, it has a lot of computing resources. But to do what, exactly? Every iPad-rival I've used has also had a lot of thought and care in it: Sony's, Samsung's, HP's Palm one (remember that?) and even RIM's PlayBook. And each time, after 20 minutes, I've put it back in the box confident I'll never want to touch it again. Pricing issues seem irrelevant if they can't persuade me to use one for free.
Without stuff to do, Tablets remain as the forgotten niche of computing - the Kindle and the iPad being the exception because of their close relationships with the content production sectors. And without content, neither Microsoft nor Google have much of a story. Google is relying on the increasingly bare public internet for "stuff", of which nothing is exclusive to Google. Microsoft has Xbox games. But neither YouTube nor Xbox access make a tablet indispensable. And "access to stuff" is simpler and easier on a Kindle or iPad than on either Surface or the Nexus 7.
Of the two losers, Microsoft's Surface looks a slightly cannier bet, because it's really a laptop - and you can still use it as a laptop replacement. Is there something I'm missing here?
I don't think so. Unless something changes, everything points to a boom in the landfill business, and those canny companies that recycle precious metals essential to sophisticated modern gadgets.
Paging Mr Worstall ... ®