No. 9 tech story of 2011: Tales of tablet triumph, tragedy

The tablet market saw some spectacular successes and unmitigated failures in 2011


This is the third post for "My personal, hand-selected top 11 tech stories of 2011." You can read the first two by clicking on the links at the bottom.


Headed into last year's fourth quarter, Apple's iPad owned 95% of the growing tablet market, according to Strategy Analytics.

But dozens of competitors, most running on Google's Android mobile operating system, threatened to challenge the iPad's dominance in 2011, just as Android-powered smartphones collectively surpassed the iPhone in sales.

That's not quite how things worked out. While the rest of the tablet industry collectively eroded Apple's market share to 66% by the current fourth quarter, the release of the iPad 2 in March rejuvenated the franchise, with a reported 1 million being sold on the first weekend they were available.

Just in time, too, because the iPad was about to be challenged by a competing tablet whose company proclaimed upon the product launch that "Amateur Hour is Over."

The company, of course, was Research in Motion, and the product was the PlayBook tablet.

Amateur hour, sadly, was just beginning, for RIM clearly misread public demand for a tablet that can download email only if tethered to a BlackBerry smartphone. Sales were poor, but RIM pretended everything was fine until it couldn't anymore.

No sooner did Apple stare down the PlayBook challenge, another 800-pound gorilla stepped into the tablet ring to take on the iPad -- Hewlett-Packard, which spent $1.2 billion purchasing the webOS mobile platform from Palm for just this kind of opportunity. Analysts touted the TouchPad as, if not an iPad killer, certainly a legitimate iPad contender.

We all know what happened next. The TouchPad was such as spectacular failure upon its release in July, it helped trigger a series of strategic decisions that eventually led to the firing of HP chief executive Leo Apotheker.

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