Today in Connected Consumer

Less than a week after the iPad went on sale we are well and truly into the Tablet Era. Yesterday, HP leaked details of its upcoming iPad challenger, Slate, complete with a side-by-side comparison of features. Today, research firm DisplaySearch revamps its notebook and netbook forecasts to take account of expected tablet sales. Other analysts are already calculating the transformative impact of tablets on service providers like Netflix. If nothing else, the iPad has already changed the forecasting game.

Can Anyone Compete With the iPad?

The pressure on Apple’s rivals from investors and analysts to do something to respond to the iPad will be intense. Whether there’s anything they can, or even should, do is another question.

Today in Connected Consumer

For all the hype around the iPad, other hardware makers and software developers are not conceding the tablet or mobile apps market to Apple. Leading netbook-maker Asus says it plans to introduce “at least two” tablets this year, probably running Google’s upcoming Chrome OS. Meanwhile, both Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows 7 Phone mobile operating systems are making inroads on Apple’s iPhone/iPad platform, at least among developers. Maybe mobile won’t turn into a one-horse race after all.

Today in Connected Consumer

No one has yet proved that tablets can be a successful mass-market product, but that isn’t stopping the rush to try now that Apple has introduced the iPad. Yesterday, Amazon acquired New York startup Touchco, makers of multitouch displays, touching off speculation that the Kindle maker will soon introduce a touchscreen e-reader to compete with Apple’s tablet. This morning, Sony all but announced that a tablet is in the works, telling analysts, it is “very interested” in the market. And, in an extraordinary op-ed in the New York Times, a former Microsoft VP says Microsoft could have owned the tablet market by now if only it didn’t suck so much.

Today in Connected Consumer

I’m no economist, but the big crowds and buoyant atmosphere around CES certainly seemed like a good sign for the business, if not the rest of the economy, and a welcome change from last year’s somber gathering. It almost didn’t matter that all three of the trends at the show – 3DTV, e-book readers and tablet PCs – were almost certainly being oversold in terms of their near-term consumer appeal. It felt good to see people hyping stuff again.

Today in Connected Consumer

Considering that Apple neither exhibits at nor attends the Consumer Electronics Show, it sure manages to cast a big shadow here in Las Vegas. Rumors of an upcoming Apple tablet have sent rivals scurrying to announce their own tablet plans before Apple even confirms the rumor. CES is lousy with all manner of thin, touch-screen devices running both Windows and Android despite no proven consumer demand or even a clearly defined product category. Mere word that Apple might call its device the iSlate has everyone now calling their “tablet” a “slate.” Meanwhile, the iPhone app store has become the new paradigm for every device here worth its Ethernet port.

Today in Cleantech

Really, Steve?  Like many, I was prepared for Steve Ballmer to deliver a solid competitor to e-book readers and beat Apple’s rumored tablet to the punch the form of the sexy Courier concept. Instead, we got a Windows 7-powered, iPhone-esque tablet, that while inoffensive, looks as awkward making an appearance at CES as Ballmer’s way of holding the device. Chalk this one up to an opportunity missed.

Today in Connected Consumer

Although it’s likely to get most of the headlines, 3DTV won’t be the only Connected Consumer action at CES this week. A host of hardware and chip-makers will be looking to steal a march on Apple’s anticipated iSlate announcement on Jan. 26. Connected set-top boxes should be in abundance, complete with app stores, while the Open Mobile Video Coalition hopes to make news with its mobile TV platform. My own dark horse for an important headline: Meaningful steps toward adding portability to movie files.