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4/7/2011
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Apple Tizzy Effect Blinds And Bewilders

BYTE Mobile Radio takes on this week's mobile news.

Call it The Apple Tizzy Effect.

My colleague Fritz Nelson coined the term while guesting on this week's edition of BYTE Mobile Radio, co-hosted by Craig Johnston and me.

This so-called effect runs through every major mobile story we discussed on the show. Apple competitors including Google, Acer, Microsoft, and Motorola are so freaked out about Apple's gigantic lead in the tablet and smartphone sectors that they're just making a lot of silly, knee-jerk decisions.

Take Motorola. Analysts this week reported that initial sales of its Xoom are miserable. To wit: One investment bank estimated that fewer than 100,000 Xoom units have sold through during the device's first five or six weeks, an astonishingly low number compared with the millions of iPad 2s sold in less time. The Xoom, the first tablet to sport Google's Android 3.0 operating system, is languishing despite gigantic marketing pushes from service providers AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

Is it a lack of apps? At first glance, well, yes. But why is there such a lack of native Android 3.0 apps?

Here's why: Google rushed Android 3.0 to market, still hasn't issued a broad SDK to developers outside its inner circle, and hasn't managed to create excitement around the flagship Xoom device.

Why would Google push ahead in such a muddled way? Verdict: Tizzy Effect.

Even Microsoft isn't exempt from the spell.

This week, in way-prematurely leaked screens showing Windows 8, Microsoft shows it's trying on a tablet look and feel. This begs a ton of questions.

Why are leaks coming out so early when Windows 8 isn't expected until next year? Tizzy Effect. Microsoft has to show it's in the game. But it isn't in the game yet. And the plan isn't working.

Craig, Fritz, and I had various theories about the Windows 8 leak and what they mean. But we did agree on one thing: Microsoft is disoriented by its own lack of response to Apple's success. Although Microsoft has previously announced plans for Windows 8 to run on an ARM processor, the image of Windows 8 scrunched into a tablet still strains credibility.

The Apple Tizzy Effect has given Acer a case of the vapors as well. Its CEO resigned last week after a scuffle with the board over whether Acer should focus harder on tablets or play it safe in the PC world. Acer seems adrift, first announcing it will take on Apple but later issuing statements that it's a PC maker first and foremost.

Just when the tizzy talk began to abate, Craig shared news about RIM's upcoming smartphone, which apparently will feature a touch screen despite that screen's tiny size. Oh, no. Hello? It's as if the non-Apple hardware world has lost its head.

Competition and choice are good for consumers and enterprises alike. But nothing good will come out of slapshot reactions, leaks, mixed messages, and rushed products. Everyone needs to take a breath.

For our take on each week's mobile news, listen to BYTE Mobile radio here and at www.byte.com.

Until next week, for TechWeb, InformationWeek, and the upcoming BYTE.com, I'm Gina Smith.

Follow Gina at @ginasmith888, Craig at @ibanyan, and Fritz at @fnelson.

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