The new frontiers in personal computing have unmistakably become the smartphone and the tablet. In the smartphone arena, Apple is hampered by its reliance on AT&T, while it is enjoying a supremely successful near-monopoly in the 10-inch tablet segment.
This all changes in January, 2011. Here is a timeline for how it will likely unfold:
Jan. 3, 1pm Eastern: Verizon and Apple announce a CDMA version of the iPhone. Additional versions for T-Mobile and Sprint to follow six months later. This may put the brakes on Android's dramatic market share gains in the U.S., and shore up the competition against RIM and Microsoft.
Jan. 4: RIM provides the final details of the Blackberry PlayBook, which will be found on U.S. retail shelves later in the March quarter. This may just be the highest-performance tablet to date, and you can view the comparison video vis-a-vis the iPad here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s72rGDUn2uo
Jan. 5: Motorola announces a 60- or 90-day exclusive of the Google-optimized Android tablet, initially available on Verizon. Unlike the Samsung Galaxy Tab, which is just now becoming available on U.S. retail shelves, this one is optimized by Google for a very competitive refinement in relation to the Apple iPad. Sometime after March, other OEMs such as Dell, Samsung, Lenovo, HTC, LG and Sony Ericsson will also bring to market versions of the Google-optimized version of Android.
Jan. 6: Hewlett-Packard announces its new WebOS-based smartphones and tablets. Widely recognized as having one of the most attractive smartphone interfaces when it was first announced two years earlier, the Palm WebOS suffered from weak hardware. This time around, the smartphone hardware should be more competitive, and a tablet should complete the lineup.
You heard it here first. The new competitive reality will be announced on these four days in early January.