Google Nexus 7 Sell-Out, Amazon Plans, Apple Rumors Point to Tablet Boom

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2012-07-23

Google Nexus 7 Sell-Out, Amazon Plans, Apple Rumors Point to Tablet Boom

When you go to Google Play and shop for a 16GB Nexus 7 tablet, Google won€™t let you buy one. The best you can do is enter your email address so that Google can notify you if and when those tablets become available.

However, you can still order the much less popular 8GB version of the Nexus 7. A Google spokesperson has told the press that the company underestimated the demand for the 16GB version of the Nexus 7. A Google spokesperson declined to comment to eWEEK, except to say that the Nexus 7 will be back in stock "soon." However the spokesperson would not say how many of the 16GB Nexus 7 tablets the company had sold.

Meanwhile, Staples, the office supply store that also sells Amazon tablets, is saying that Amazon is working on more tablets, including an updated version of the Kindle Fire, and apparently a 10-inch tablet, as well.

What exactly this means is unclear, but the best guess from people who are hearing the same rumors I am is that a new version of the 7-inch Kindle fire will be released in time for the holiday shopping season, and that there may be several configurations. Perhaps there€™ll be a WiFi-only version as there is now, a 3G/4G/LTE (Long-Term Evolution) version, along with a model with more memory. Then those 10-inch versions might include a WiFi-only model and one supporting 3G/4G/LTE.

Rumors about a 7-inch version of Apple€™s iPad continue to make the circuit. Right now, there€™s no reason to assume that Apple is actually doing this, but seeing the hot sales of 7-inch tablets, it€™s possible that Apple may decide it wants some of that market share. On the other hand, any 7-inch iPad will have to compete in the $250 range, and it€™s unclear if Apple really wants to play in that market. But considering the level of speculation and rumors from occasionally reliable sources, it could happen.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is launching its first corporate-branded device right into the middle of this tablet turmoil. When the Surface surfaces in late October, tablet interest should be red hot. Considering that the Windows RT version of the Surface is aiming right at the iPad, we should see a tablet tussle that eclipses any previous holiday madness. We could see tablet sales crazier than the previous insanity created by the Tickle Me Elmo dolls of earlier holiday seasons.

There is, of course, a dark cloud that goes with this silver lining. Google€™s 8GB Nexus 7 is apparently not meeting expectations. You can still buy this $199 device from Google Play with no wait time.

Tablets Need More Than WiFi Cloud Access

The reason? The 8GB Nexus 7 depends on the cloud for much of what it does, and yet without a ready connection to the cloud, it€™s not really functional. There€™s speculation that potential buyers aren€™t willing to depend on the high-speed wireless connections that are necessary to reach the cloud.

So what does this mean for Microsoft€™s Windows RT-based Surface? The version of Microsoft Office 2013 that comes embedded in the Surface is apparently the cloud-based version of Office. While the cloud-based version of Office 2013 should have at least some stand-alone functionality, the question for Microsoft and the Surface is whether it€™s enough. Will users of the Windows RT version of Microsoft Office 2013 be able to perform useful work without an Internet connection?

The possible answer is that Microsoft will follow Apple€™s lead and not require that basic productivity apps have cloud access. If you use the iPad€™s Notes app, for example, you don€™t need anything beyond the iPad itself. While it€™s not a full-featured word processing app, it will do for a lot of things, and with the new iPad, you can even use it for voice dictation.

But there€™s no indication that the Surface will come in any form except WiFi-only. Microsoft hasn€™t mentioned any carrier information or the presence of an LTE radio in the device. Perhaps it€™s in the works. But if it were in the near future, I suspect that the announcement of the Surface Pro would have mentioned that.

Of course, the Surface comes with plenty of on-board storage, so a cloud connection may not be necessary. But if the first versions of the Surface require a cloud connection to be useful, then it may not sell as well as Microsoft hopes.

Regardless of the potential success of the Surface, the fall of 2012 is shaping up to be a seriously hot time for tablets. The technology is well thought-out, the requirements for a consumer and professional tablet are known, and at least some of the patent wars are settled. Now the question becomes whether the wireless carriers are going to support tablets the way they need to if they€™re going to be the nearly universal devices that buyers seem poised to make them.

That means wireless access needs to be universal as well. Tablet users should be able to get to the Internet and the cloud from nearly anywhere. Are we there yet? Probably not, but I€™m planning to embark on a road trip to find out. On Monday evening, I leave on Amtrak€™s Silver Meteor to travel through the South looking for wireless. Who knows? Maybe I€™ll find some. I€™ll report back on that when I get to Miami.

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