It has been a very busy season for the tablet business. In the summer of 2012, Google launched the Google Nexus 7 device.
In September, Amazon launched three new tablets, including a high end model with LTE, and two e-readers, moving Amazon into the Apple iPad end of the market (larger screen) for the first time.
In October, Apple is expected to launch its first “seven-inch” device, while Google is also expected to launch a 3G version of the Nexus 7 in October as well.
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Barnes and Noble will refresh its Nook in October 2012 as well, some predict.
All of that activity shows the growing consumer acceptance of tablet devices, the evolving market share fight between suppliers and a threat to fortunes of traditional PCs.
The new flagship is the Kindle Fire HD family, which takes Amazon out of its low cost niche and gives it a full range of tablets in both the seven-inch and 8.9-inch form factors. The Fire HD with built-in LTE (initially provided by AT&T) marks Amazon’s entry into the higher-price tablet segment.
Amazon also is offering a new packaging for mobile broadband access, charging $50 a year for LTE, for an allowance of 250 Mbytes a month. That level of consumption means most heavy users will still be relying mainly on Wi-Fi, but most heavy users already do that, one might argue.
It’s actually a clever bit of marketing: Amazon gets the “LTE glow” at minimum cost.
There are two other Fire HD variants. The first retains the usual budget pricing and seven-inch screen, costing $199 for 16 Gbytes of storage and $249 for 32 Gbytes.
Apple will launch next in October, with an expected iPad Mini unveiling. That will move Apple into the seven-inch segment of the market for the first time.
So the fall of 2012 marks the first time several of the leading suppliers have had to acknowledge that the tablet market includes a couple of segments, distinguished largely by screen size.
Edited by Brooke Neuman