Microsoft has shown different versions ofWindows 8 for smartphones, tablets and PCs, which it will beginshipping around Oct. 26. Apple delivered the iPhone 5 alongwith new software for all of its hardware form factors.
Lurking behind the scenes, however, is
, which I believe willunveil a bevy of products to compete very strongly against Microsoftand Apple. I believe these products are likely to be announced asearly as October, and would be available in U.S. retail withinapproximately 30 days thereafter -- basically, by Thanksgiving.
These products based on Google software will fall into threecategories: PCs (laptops and desktops), tablets and smartphones. Letme describe them in turn:
Several PC brands that may be guarding themselves against a consumerand/or enterprise backlash against Windows 8 are likely to startproducing Google PCs imminently.
are already in production, but one can envision others joining this bandwagon.
to be the most likely ones, but others arealso possibilities, including
, just to mention a few.
Google offers the simplest possible PC software, especially comparedto Microsoft and Apple. With a Google PC, I cannot see a scenariowhere you would ever be in need of tech support. Basically, it bootsup much faster than an Apple iPad and it "just works."
Google laptop and desktop prices are and will be competitive withWindows, which means they are much cheaper than Apple. However,you also have to consider that with a Google PC you don't have to buyany additional software or service/support plans. Your lifetime totalcost of ownership, or TCO, will be a lot lower with a Google PC.
So far, Google has not marketed its PCs very well. They only recentlystarted appearing at
and most consumers don't even know that a Google PC exists, let alone why they would be better than Microsoft/Windows and Apple/Mac.
Starting this November, this is likely to change. Market share shifts typically take several years to become material, but I think it will start to become measurable in the months following these imminent launches.
Android tablets are a dime a dozen, but very few of them run the mostrecent and by far the best version of the Android operating system,the 4.1.1 version called "Jelly Bean." Starting this November, thiswill change -- dramatically. The current main 4.1.1 Google tabletoffering made by Asus has a small 7-inch screen and no cellular/LTEconnectivity.
By November of this year, we should see eight-, nine-, 10- and 11-inch Androidtablets running Android 4.1.1 (or higher) and offering cellular/LTEconnectivity from a long list of hardware makers. Most likely, theywill be offered from most of the following: Samsung,
, Sony, Asus,Acer, Lenovo,
, which is of course now a divisionof Google's. Perhaps even others.
Google's value proposition will be that these Android tablets will beoffering a more PC-like flexible operating system experience thanApple, on hardware that will be equal to -- or in some cases betterthan -- Apple, but at prices that almost approach the value offered byAmazon's Kindle tablets. The sheer diversity of form factors offeredby these Android tablets will dwarf the offerings from Apple,Microsoft and Apple.
The fragmentation among the Android smartphone experiences has becomea running joke in the industry, and even society at large. Theinterface looks different if you're buying a Samsung, HTC, Sony,
and so forth.
Even worse, the software support for any Android modelthat hits the market can best be described in one word: orphan.Upgrades are rarely seen, if ever, and if they do show up, they tendto be six to 12 months too late, which is an eternity in the computingworld.
In other words, Android fragmentation has become a total catastrophefor Google's ability to compete with Apple and Microsoft in the long term,despite that measured strictly in terms of units shipped -- 500million or so -- Google is already in the lead. In order for thislead not to collapse in 2013, Google has to change course and rightthese wrongs.
Come this November, I think we will see the first evidence that Googleis fixing the Android problem. The story here is in many ways similarto Google's tablet story.
Whereas in the past most of Google's smartphones were launched runningone- to two-year old versions of the Android operating system, this Novemberwe should see a more uniform launch of Android 4.1.1 (or newer)smartphones from a long list of hardware makers: Samsung, HTC, Sony,LG, Huawei and Motorola (owned by Google itself), just to mention themore prominent ones.
By Google inducing its hardware makers to launch on the latest versionof the Android OS, it will come a lot closer than before to matchingthe uniformity of the software experience offered by smartphones fromApple and Microsoft.
But that may not be the only benefit and trickof what Google has in mind for its future smartphones:
Whether this November or some time in 2013, Google may dramaticallyexpand its "direct sales" model of both devices and service plans.Consumers can save a lot of money by purchasing a Google Nexussmartphone from Google already today for $349 and using it with anall-you-can-eat SIM card for $30, $45 or $60 per month depending oncarrier and features. This can often save a consumer $1,080 over twoyears compared to a contract-subsidized plan, making for a huge netsavings still.
The problem for Google is that today it offers only one phone forthese attractive service plans. It's a good phone alright -- theSamsung Galaxy Nexus (GSM global unlocked version) -- but it would bemuch more attractive to have models in all sorts of sizes and shapesfrom HTC, Motorola, LG, Sony and others to do the same. This may bewhat will happen this November.
To summarize, I believe it is likely that Google will launch abroadside worthy of a comprehensive computing portfolio -- PCs, tabletsand smartphones -- this October/November that will compete verystrongly against the recently upgraded offerings from Microsoft andApple.
If Google does what I have outlined here in my suspicions andsuggestions, it will likely be taking market share on all frontsgoing into 2013.
At the time of publication the author was had positions in GOOG,AAPL and MSFT.
This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
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