The tablet war, as some has called it, is heating up as a slew of tablets are getting ready to hit the store shelves including the Blackberry’s Playbook, HP’s Slate, the iPad 2 and countless Android based tablets. With so many choices it can be quite confusing.

The latest from Apple is industry darling and will dominate sales for some time to come. Towards the end of this year that very well could change as price sensitive consumers see many less expensive tablets flood the market and early adopters feel buyer’s remorse (what, you mean I can’t take a decent picture with this thing?). The other day I took the plunge and went into a Verizon store. Clearly Verizon is smitten with its new relationship with Apple and the iPad was quite prominent (same with Best Buy) but I went straight to the Android section where the 7 inch Galaxy Tab and 10 inch Motorola Xoom were on display. Within 20 minutes I was walking out of the store with the Xoom. The following is (to me) an objective look at the Xoom and comparing it to its main rival for now, the iPad2.  Note, this is based on my, albeit limited, experience with the iPad as well as conversations with current iPad owners. Without making you wait until the end to read my verdict I’ll give it up here. They are both amazing pieces of technology and there really is no winner. Instead the solution that is best depends completely on how you plan to use it.

Hardware

The Xoom and iPad2 are fairly equally matched. However, the edge here does go to the Xoom (see chart below). This actually surprises me because I truly expected Apple to wow us with the iPad2 but instead the evolution was fairly mundane. Take for example the camera. The rear camera is .97 megapixels, about the quality of an early 90’s digital camera. The front camera is only .3 megapixels. Why did Apple hold back when the iPhone 4 has such an amazing camera? Tablets coming in the next month will make these specs look pathetic in reality and we can expect the iPad3 to improve quite a bit but that is 12 months from now. So, before you go stand in line, you may want to wait another month because there will be some pretty cool innovations coming (like 3D viewing and 3D HD recording along with more 4G compatible devices).

Spec iPad2 Xoom
Screen 9.7 inch  1024 x 768 10.1 inch  1280 x 800
Camera .3 MP front, .9 rear  Yes, those are decimels 2 MP front, 5 MP rear
Processor dual core 1ghz dual core 1ghz
Weight 1.35 lbs 1.5 lbs
Wireless WiFi, 3g, Bluetooth WiFi, 3g, 4g, Bluetooth
Connections standard Apple connection to PC / Mac USB, HDMI, Bluetooth transfer
Expansion None Up to 32 Gb SD card
Memory (storage) 

Memory (RAM)

16, 32, 64 Gb 

256 Mb

32 Gb  

1 Gb

Sound Mono Stereo
Thickness .34 inches .5 inch


Winner: Android

The Environment

Apple’s iOS is considered the simplest of the OSes available. It is icon based and has been referred to as a simplistic, yet elegant launcher. You find the app you want and open it. The OS is really just a layer for the apps to reside. You don’t interact with it. The one area I have heard complained about is the notification system which, when compared to Android devices, is pretty bad.

Android is a different experience with widgets and customization based on how the user wants to interact with the device. Does that mean it is more complicated? I think that is a baseless argument. For example, my 5 year old son figured it out in the time it took me to turn around to see he had the device in hand. It was on, the lockscreen bypassed and he was reading Pulse, shortly followed by, “where is Angry Birds?” A little while later he was on YouTube watching volcano movies. To me, it has to be pretty easy for a 5 year old to pick it up and figure it out in less than a minute.

Multitasking is something Android has been able to play up since the beginning and the enhancements in Honeycomb (Android’s first tablet OS) are amazing. When you switch applications the previous remains on task. For example, I am writing this in Documents to Go and need to double check my facts so I switch to the browser. When I find the information I sometimes go back to Word to paste it and when I go back, the next website I clicked on before switching is loaded. That is a great timesaver. Also the browser’s multiple tabs can keep loading, etc. while I work in another tab. In iOS each tab has to refresh, slowing progress.

If you are at a PC / Mac the iTunes integration is fantastic but you have to be there. For as innovative as Apple is I would expect more cloud-based integration such as updates, etc. For media, apps like DoubleTwist have tried to replicate the iTunes experience on Android but significantly fall short.

Speaking of media, this is another place Apple wins. The media look and feel is close to flawless. Honeycomb improves the experience a lot but still has room for improvement. I think once Google launches its music and movie service this will change. One thing I do like about media on Android is Amazon. From within the app you can browse and purchase songs (50 cents cheaper than iTunes per song and up to $4 cheaper for albums) and they are right on your phone or tablet. No synching required. Same with books.

Winner: Tie – Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Flash

This one I am going to give its own section, though it could be a part of the environment. Personally, I despise Flash and can’t wait for the world to move on to HTML 5. The problem…that move will be quite some time away. There are so many sites that require Flash it is incredible. Flash support in Android is huge because the entire web is available to you, not just the mobile versions of sites, for those that have them. Unfortunately, we are stuck with Flash for the foreseeable future so we might as well embrace it.

Winner: Android

Applications

Here the iOS wins hands down. There are 350k apps versus Android’s 150k but that is expected. This will change though as I believe there is a ceiling to how many apps any one ecosystem requires/can support. In addition, several surveys have shown app developers are more/equally interested in and investing in Android application development. On top of this, RIM just announced that the Blackberry Playbook will run Android apps. That only increases the available audience which will drive further developer interest. Still, iOS has a ton more apps available right now. I’m sure there are apps I would like to have on Android that are only on iOS but just don’t know what they might be…even though my friend James is always mentioning an app he has, each one of interest is available on Android.

Winner: iOS

As I started this post with, it depends on how you plan to use your device. Do you want to surf the web, play games and listen to music? Get the iPad2. If you, like me, want something that can almost replace a laptop without the annoyances of Windows or the premium price of a MacBook, the Xoom (and future tablets based on Android and likely WebOS and Blackberry) is the way to go. I have written this entirely on my tablet and for once, this past weekend, I didn’t have to turn on my laptop to work editing a whitepaper, emails and drafting press releases.

I would like to see more tablet specific apps but Honeycomb has only been available for 2 weeks. Luckily the phone apps scale really well. I’ve also found myself using the browser for apps like Facebook instead of the dedicated app. The full web interface is just better than what an app can provide, regardless of the platform.

The Verdict

I am sure some of you reading this fully expect me to say the Xoom/Android is the way to go but I am not. Yes I like to promote Android. Yes I can’t stand the Apple ecosystem in that you are forced to work through iTunes, there are no in app purchases, they price set vendors meaning a developer cannot offer a product or service at a discount elsewhere (many content owners such as Sony Music, Amazon and Real Networks are threatening to pull their content and anti-trust suits are in the works), and developers / content owners must fork over 30% of revenue to Apple (Google, by comparison, takes 10%). Even with all of that said, I want to be as objective as my mind will allow.

The Xoom has its issues. For one the software needs a little refinement. I stress a little. When I bought the T-Mobile G1, the first Android phone, it had issues and should not have been released when it was. After the first software update was pushed by Google and T-Mobile over the air, the phone greatly improved. Honeycomb is nothing like that. This is a beautiful piece of software and the responsiveness is amazing. When the first updates flow out for this, it will be truly amazing. Will a typical consumer notice the issues I’ve found? No, likely not. I’ve rooted my phone and run custom software on it so I am always looking out for bugs. That’s the techie in me…

The battle this year is also about the enterprise and based on what I’ve experienced so far, the Xoom is more capable. As I mentioned above, I have started to use the laptop my company provides much less. Kathy probably thinks I got this just as a new toy and she is partly right but I have used this a lot for work and as the application library grows, I know I will use it even more.

In the end, it is all about you and what you want technology to do for you and what you want to do with it. There are subtle differences there but they make a huge difference. The advancements we’ve seen in technology only means we get to enjoy the fruits of some damn smart engineer’s labor, so go out and enjoy it.

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The other day I received a marketing email from a well respected analyst firm which I consider to be quite ahead in the area of social media. The firm was promoting its upcoming social commerce event. My area of focus now is the supply chain so the event doesn’t have direct relevance to me but nonetheless it is quite interesting–how will/should retailers and manufacturers respond to the shopper’s desire to have a personalized experience and what role will mobile technologies play. One item stood out to me and its not just this email that falls victim to focusing on one particular mobile platform.

The iPhone is without doubt an amazing device built on a solid, user-friendly platform (though you may need to stand on your head with only 2 fingers holding the phone to stay connected). It receives the most hype. As Dana Blankenhorn highlights in “Android Froyo and Why it Matters“, traditional media and bloggers jump hoops to cover any Apple announcement but seem to ignore the the developments of other platforms such as Android, Blackberry, WebOs, WinMo, and the number one OS on mobile phone, Symbian.

In no way do I discredit the importance of iOS4 and the opportunities it presents to retailers, manufactuers, service providers, etc. If you look at the combination of these operating systems, the total potential for mobile social commerce is amazing. In the U.S. alone, more than 41 million people use a smartphone (RIM still holds a commanding lead with 41.7 percent of the market). In the first quarter of 2010, more than 54 million smartphones were shipped worldwide, according to research firm IDC. From the chart below, it is clear there is more than one player.

Is the media creating an unnecessary hype that is detracting from the greater market potential or will developers overlook the hype and see the potential in the other platforms? My guess is the developer community looks beyond the hype to see the actual revenue potential available to them. In the end, this could be a three-legged race between RIM, Apple and Android. WinMo 7 definitely looks impressive but I don’t know if it really has the legs to compete, especially if what I have read about BlackBerry 6 and the shift to appease the consumer market is true.

How does this relate to PR you ask? Well, I have seen many fancy proposals and ideas surrounding campaigns and app development focused on one platform. Be aware fellow PR folks, a multi-platform/channel strategy is what you need to truly reach the mass market.

Full disclosure: I own an HTC Droid Incredible and love the device. Personally, I am all about Android but professionally I see there is a need to target multiple audiences to gain the maximum impact.

It has been quite a while since my last post. Going on six months actually. If I recall correctly from my own preachings to clients…never go silent. Oops! Once you go silent the conversation stops and interest is lost. Hopefully I still have at least one reader left out there!

Since my last post I have started a new job. I have gone corporate, focused on one goal for one company. It is quite an interesting change of pace but mostly it is a change in perspective. My role has also evolved into more than PR and AR to include advertising and some traditional marketing functions such as whitepaper development and working with the web folks to improve our SEO.

SEO is an interesting term. I have heard many call it snake oil (there are quite a few posts dedicated to this) while others swear by it. (For a laugh, check out SEO is Bull$&@*, SEO is Snake Oil, SEO is a Waste of Money).  I am not sure if I am quite sold yet on SEO. I definitely see some benefit to it but as online noise increases does SEO lose its effectiveness? I mean, how many times can you put in a term to increase your rankings against 100,000 other sites before you get penalized.  To an extent, SEO is still a buzz word, one people like to drop to sound smart. You know the type, those that use words they have no understanding of to “fit in”. (Social media comes to mind).

Working directly with the web team I have seen first hand how legitimate SEO (not the black hat mail order bride stuff) helps drive sales leads. Here are some things I have found to be effective. While they are a bit basic, you would be surprised how many companies are not engaged in these.

  • Understand your key words, what prospects are searching for and incorporate these terms into your site. Don’t go overboard as many small companies tend to do. Keep it real.
  • Content, Content, Content. What is your industry talking about? What are your customers’ pain points? Create educational (not sales) material that addresses these. While the material will likely be in PDF format, make sure to create plain text abstracts for each asset. These are more easily indexed.
  • Get rid of PDF news releases. For one, opening a PDF is a pain unless you have a new computer. Offer the asset as a new, stand alone page. You can offer the PDF version for download but it shouldn’t be the main link.
  • Keep the conversation going. Don’t do like me and fall off the face of the earth for 5 months! Want to incorporate social media into that ongoing conversation? Check out this post from Steve McAbee over at Wunderkind, “Developing a Social Media Plan: Research, Strategy and Tactics.”

Just a few thoughts following my hiatus from this blog. I will try to post at least every two weeks to keep things moving and share my personal insights into what I believe to be relevant in the PR and marketing world and the role technology plays.

Wunderkind Public Relations announced today findings of a research project into the social media engagement of Georgia’s top companies. The 2009 Social Media Engagement scorecard takes a look at the top 25 public and top 25 private companies in the state and basis their engagement level on the use of five tools: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Blog, and YouTube. The research gave these 50 companies a D grade meaning, on average, each company used 2 of the services. Only 4 scored a perfect score.

Social media is still new to the corporate world, especially those in B2B circles. While the score was low, it does show companies are engaging and testing the waters to determine how this medium will provide the greatest return on investment. Some which scored low may never reach a perfect score because services like Facebook don’t reach the audience they need. Either way, there is a lot of room for growth and as more companies test the waters each will figure out how social media can impact them and the best way to create an online dialog with customers and prospects.

Here are some of the stats from the scorecard:

  • LinkedIn is far and away the most popular social networking service; 96% of all companies have a LinkedIn page, followed by Facebook (42%) and Twitter (38%)
  • Only 9 companies received a SME score of 4 or better
  • CEOs lack engagement with an average SME score of .26
  • 12 companies have a dedicated YouTube channel while only 7 have a blog
  • Only 1 CEO contributes to the company blog
  • Private B2C companies led the pack scoring a 3.2 on the SME scale while private B2B companies trailed with a mere 1.6
  • 33 of the 50 companies on the list are B2B
  • 1 company is completely disengaged

Disclosure: I am employed at Wunderkind Public Relations and participated in the research.

I am an avid iGoogle user and like the ability to browse headlines and get a quick grasp of the top stories from around the world. I see this as akin to walking around the corner to the newsstand and reviewing the cover stories and newspaper headlines to determine what to buy. The beauty of the web is most of the content is free and I can click through to as many stories as I have time to read.

A recent report from research firm Outsell says that 44% of Google News visitors never click on a headline to read further. Typically, people have Google News or iGoogle (substitute your site as needed) customized to the topics they are most interested in. If people are not clicking through on stories relevant to their interest, does that mean headlines aren’t interesting enough for today’s digital society or they do not have the time to read more? Either way, reading headlines does not equate to reading the articles. Hopefully this does not lead to headlines that are more sensational just to get people to click through.

Another development this week comes from the New York Times Company. Not too long ago, my boss Steve McAbee wrote about the a Forrester report, Publishers Need Multichannel Subscription Models, which concluded a majority of people view the web as a free service and are unwilling to pay for online content. Well, it appears NYTimes.com will give it a go in 2011 with a metered approach. It will be quite interesting to see how successful this is and if more news organizations implement a similar model.

What does the media consider a solid pitch? This is one of those questions that I am often asked. The answer…well, there really isn’t one single answer. No silver bullet that guarantees success and definitely no template that can be mass produced and then BCC’d to the world. Reporters, editors and bloggers are individuals that have their own unique perspective on the world and the subjects they cover. Research, understanding and patience are what you need (unless you are pitching a new technology that will end our dependence on oil).

I bring this up because 1) I was recently asked this by a client and 2) I just read Tom Foremski’s Silicon Valley Watcher article, “The Killer Pitch? – When PR Agencies Can Do This – Look Out!”. In this article, he discusses how some reporters are now judged not by the quality of their work but by the amount of traffic an article can drive to the site. To meet this need, the PR pitch is evolving to clearly state the PR practitioner/story will help generate site traffic.

As Tom points out, just a little boost in traffic can increase a story’s ranking where a news aggregator will pick it up and, well, the rest is history. The issue now is, was the story really worth it or did we create buzz for the sake of creating buzz? That is a philosophical question I just don’t have the space to answer here (though would be a good follow-on post).

Is this the way of the future? There are still publications/sites that seek quality journalism and a quality pitch that understands the reporter’s needs. What I think will be interesting is when a publication or reporter outright says you need to help me drive traffic if you want me to cover your client. Now that would be a scary admission I hope not to hear.

Technology is in a state of constant change. Always advancing. Simplifying yet complicating our lives at the same time. Predicting what will happen in the tech industry is next to impossible. Heck, by Hollywood standards we should all be conversing with HAL (for almost 10 years). Clearly, HAL is quite a ways off and I certainly do not see us flying around on interstellar missions anytime soon.

So, what does technology hold for us in 2010? Well, I’ve scoured the net looking for some of the predictions I find the most fascinating, off the wall or that just plain make sense. Anyone who knows me knows that I just can’t talk about technology (or really anything) without putting forth my own opinion. So, here are 5 thoughts from me. I then provide several links to stories and reports that cover more predictions and probably have more data than I to back them up.

In the meantime, if you have some of your own predictions, we would love to hear about them.

Cloud Computing, SaaS, Hosted Services, pick your name. SaaS is everywhere, and while the hype has been around for a really long time, it looks as though SaaS gained more than just air time in 2009. 2010 could be the year it becomes legit. I remember when I first got into telecom and there were ASPs popping up left and right touting the benefits of the hosted application model. Unfortunately for them, the market wasn’t ready. It appears now, more than a decade later, companies are willing to hand over control and procure software and services off-premise.

Green/Sustainability. Regardless of your views on the global warming debate, the movement to develop and implement green technology is about more than just saving our planet, it’s about the money that can be saved and made. This is why I see the green topic keeping its momentum. Companies who are going green are saving a lot of money in reduced energy consumption. They are making money as consumers are lured by the idea of green products. Investments in green tech start ups will continue as the market asks for more ways to reduce energy consumption and stay ahead of government regulations.

Mobile Wars Heat Up. As the launch of the unlocked Google phone nears, AT&T and Verizon continue to argue about which is better–3G coverage or 3G experience, and Sprint decides what to do with itself (hopefully not merge with T-Mobile), the wireless industry is going to become even more competitive with even greater focus on devices, applications and the almighty enterprise dollar. Will Android or iPhone make significant inroads on Blackberry in the enterprise? It is hard to think this industry can become more cut-throat but I think they have quite a bit more in them, especially when you throw in WiMax and providers touting alternative high-speed wireless services.

Online Content Remains Free. Against the best efforts by several publishers, consumers will reject the notion that one has to pay for online content. It has happened before and it will happen again. The idea the Internet is free is one that will not be easily broken, especially in a down economy.

Social Media. The social media scene will continue to grow as more people discover its abilities. This will lead to the need for even more powerful (and paid for) tools that help us manage the vast amount of information streaming from multiple networks. Some will get completely lost in the noise while others identify how to build awareness and develop a conversation through social media.

Crystal Ball Resource Center

Not the First, Not the Last, Technology Predictions for 2010 – Carmi Levy’s smirky (which is probably why I liked reading the story) look at 2010

Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2010

IDC’s Top 10 Predictions

5 Predictions for Enterprise Technology in 2010 – Miko Matsumura’s SOA Center

Lundquist’s 10 Tech Strategies for Building a Successful Business in 2010

Will 2010 bring a wake-up call for cybersecurity? – Federal Computer Week’s Rutrell Yasin’s look at security and the government

2010 Technology Preview – A look at the upcoming developments in the mainstream PC market

Have links you would like to add? Let me know and I can add them to the list.