I hate taking big quotes from past articles and using them as the premise for an introduction because it feels like I'm using previous work as a crutch. That being said, I've been meaning to reference something I wrote about HP three years ago and now is as good a time as any to dust it off:

"These PC OEMs could either wait for Microsoft to deliver with Windows 7 and hope that it will be enough to compete with Apple, or begin to try and solve the problem themselves....While these are mostly unpolished attempts at freeing OEMs from being Microsoft dependent, this is just a starting point. I'm not suggesting that PCs in the future will be completely devoid of Microsoft software, there will simply be another option.

HP noticed this same Microsoft dependency issue, just like the rest of the PC OEMs and over the coming years you're going to see companies like HP and Dell become more like Apple, offering systems as complete packages of hardware and software solutions. We'll see broader adoption of Linux and open source software and finally some out of the box thinking."

The lesson I learned back then wasn't that everyone had to be free of Microsoft in order to survive in the future, but rather that you need to actually own some tangible IP in order to differentiate yourself. There's this entire category of manufacturers that I like to call glorified parts assemblers. They simply pull technologies from other companies, bundle them all together and sell the final product without contributing anything substantial on their own. These companies are the gift wrappers at the mall, they don't really contribute to the gift inside, they just make it look pretty. When times get tough, they are going to be the first to go.

It's not just device manufacturers I'm talking about either. The SoC market has over half a dozen players in it today, and based on how pretty much every market matures over time - the majority of them aren't going to be players over the long term.

I bring this up at the beginning of a HTC device review because I feel like HTC is really trying to be more than just a gift wrapper at the mall. Sure HTC makes a whole lot of smartphones, many of which look very similar and rely on the underlying hardware to make them successful, but HTC is also pretty active in software development as well. Its Sense UI started as a bandaid to fix shortcomings in Google's Android OS. Over time, as the Android experience improved, I questioned the need for 3rd party skins. Most of them are just cumbersome and don't really contribute much positively to the overall experience. For the most part I do prefer the stock Android experience. The UI skins and enhancements are generally not as polished, cohesive or functional as the plain old Android. However, as I alluded to above, the mobile market today is far from mature. There are no right answers today, only a mixed bag of attempts that make varying degrees of sense. The fact that HTC is still trying with its custom UI and apps isn't just a sign that it needs differentiation to remain relevant, but also that perhaps Google doesn't yet have all of the answers. There is room for improvement, or at least an alternative take on functionality, and HTC wants to have a hand in providing it.

Which brings us to the device at hand: the HTC Flyer. This is HTC's first tablet and unlike the Android tablets that launched last year, it doesn't suck. At the same time, unlike those that came out this year - it doesn't run Honeycomb. You see, NVIDIA was Google's target partner for Honeycomb and Qualcomm was pretty behind on porting the OS to its hardware. As a result the only Honeycomb tablets on the market today use Tegra 2.

Qualcomm is a minority shareholder in HTC and as a result the Taiwanese manufacturer tends to only ship Qualcomm SoCs in its products. With the NVIDIA option pretty much off the table, so was Honeycomb.

2011 Tablet Comparison
  Apple iPad 2 ASUS Eee Pad Transformer HTC Flyer Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
SoC Apple A5 (Dual ARM Cortex A9 @ 1GHz) NVIDIA Tegra 2 (Dual ARM Cortex A9 @ 1GHz) Qualcomm APQ8055 (Scorpion @ 1.5GHz) NVIDIA Tegra 2 (Dual ARM Cortex A9 @ 1GHz)
GPU PowerVR SGX 543MP2 NVIDIA GeForce Adreno 205 NVIDIA GeForce
RAM 512MB 1GB 1GB 1GB
Display 1024 x 768 IPS 1280 x 800 IPS 1024 x 600 1280 x 800 PLS
NAND 16GB 16GB 16GB 16GB
Dimensions 241.2mm x 185.7mm x 8.8mm 271mm x 175mm x 12.95mm 195.4mm x 122mm x 13.2mm 256.6 x 172.9 x 8.6mm
Weight 601g 695g 420g 565g
Price $499 $399 $499 $499

Yet HTC clearly saw it as very important to deliver a tablet this year. I'm getting close to overusing this quote but I will never forget what AMD's Eric Demers told me: the best way to lose a fight is to not show up. The tablet battle has only just begun and only through tireless iteration will we see clear leaders emerge, so not showing up to this early fight isn't an option for most of the players.

If you don't have the hardware platform to ship Honeycomb on time and all non-Honeycomb tablets seem to fail horribly, what is a company left to do? Try something different of course.

The Hardware
POST A COMMENT

26 Comments

View All Comments

  • wintermute000 - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - link

    unfortunately with ipad parity pricing its a fail. no 3G option either, what's the point of 7" portability if its not always on. If it had 3G for 500USD you're at least in the ballpark.

    I say this as a happy original SG tab owner (here in Oz, they dropped the full 3G toting version to 300USD briefly, sold like hotcakes, guess why). It really made me appreciate the 7" form factor in combination with always on internet (gingerbread surprisingly isn't too bad as a tablet OS, aside from some apps that were never meant for the bigger res). But its too expensive.

    wonder if the bootloader is locked. If not the 3G version could be a nice value 2nd hand pickup in 6-9 months
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - link

    What point is there in racing to get a $500 tablet on the market. The only people who are going to buy these things are the really dumb suckers. The same people who are most likely to be wiped out by the market changes coming over the next few years. $500 is way way wayyyy too much to be spending on what is little more than a toy. I hope all these companies fail, because the entire $500 tablet market is a malinvestment. Reply
  • bhima - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - link

    I can't believe they don't include the pen for that money though. It has to be hard to decide to purchase any android tab thats over the asking price of the asus transformer. Reply
  • ripBear - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - link

    SenseUI was created to solve shortcommings of Windows Mobile. HTC ported it to Android in order to create a unique offer in this platform based on the positive reviews it got from WinMo implementation. Reply
  • RandomUsername3245 - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - link

    Advertizing with audio that is enabled by a simple mouse-over means Anandtech.com has been removed from my Flashblock Whitelist. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - link

    None of our direct ads have mouse-over audio (it's a policy of ours), this must've been a network ad. Do you have any details on the ad you saw? A screenshot, description, linked URL, etc... If you can email me anything you have (anand AT anandtech DOT com) I'll send it on to our ad partner that can hopefully get it scrubbed from the site entirely.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • LostPassword - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - link

    if this thing can't even come out with honeycomb out the box, good luck getting updates. Reply
  • taltamir - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - link

    Puns are awesome, but you really shouldn't inform the readers every time you make one. Yes, we get it. And if we don't then that's ok too. Putting a (hey look I made a pun) after every one just detracts from the writing. Reply
  • Impulses - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - link

    I didn't mind this... Although they felt like the comments editors sometimes introduce into their writer's articles, except here I think it was just Anand commenting upon himself. :p Reply
  • Nihility - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - link

    It was tasteful. No problems with it here. Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now