In December 2009, Notion Ink was the new kid on the block, with the promise of a fresh start at conceptualising and delivering a product that would be a ground-breaker in terms of versatility and openness.
Two years later, it is a has-been, having enjoyed its fifteen minutes of fame and fifteen months of infamy after numerous delays, confusing communication, a sub-standard product, and broken promises. Worse, it has been accused of blatantly lying about the state of affairs both within the firm and related to the product.
I have a Pixel Qi, wifi only Adam. I use it regularly to play some simple games and to browse Cheezburger sites. My kids play some games on it too, but after nine months of ownership, the magic of a powerful tablet has evaporated in the harsh light of reality.
Why? Partially because we had too high expectations of a device of this class coming from a start-up, and partially because Notion Ink never really delivered on the promise of its novel ideas. Eden and Genesis are the prime examples of this let-down, but I will not dwell on that today.
High expectations from the device related to many things: Pixel Qi, which was a letdown in terms of its colour fidelity, contrasts, viewing angles etc. and made sense only for a very small number of its users in temperate climes; maturity of the hardware and software to enable serious use as a laptop alternative; and the hope that all the components would work as advertised. Sadly, actual performance fell very short of the expectations, and many of us ignored and even counter-attacked the skeptics.
The let-downs from Notion Ink have been very effectively captured by J K Saur on his blog http://jksaur.wordpress.com and I do no want to repeat them.
However, the biggest failures of the device’s designer were first of all the delay in its launch and shipment, the inability or unwillingness to clearly communicate that it was a test device, and the inability to predict the emergence of other competing tablets with better specifications, better support, and better quality. Add to that the reliance on nVIDIA, a company that is infamous for its lack of commitment to openness.
Notion Ink lost the chance of being the first real tablet and a competitor to the first iPad. Notion Ink never gave us a good idea about their manufacturing capacity and tie-ups. They ended up hurting their early supporters with the delays, deception and quality problems, followed by virtually non-existent post-sales support. All in all, the whole operation started to smell like a bait-and-switch.
They still could have had a small chance of a comeback, had they better anticipated the customer mindset and capabilities of the competition. The Adam was a good competitor to the first iPad, as it provided much better connectivity options and faster performance. However, it utterly fails in face of the slim, responsive and lightweight iPad2 and the other Android tablets that have emerged as Apple’s bugbears.
I routinely travel within India and abroad to meet people, and in these meetings I see them using their iPad 2s for taking down notes, referring to documents etc., and that too without having to resort to a wall-charger frequently. On flights, I see them reading magazines, watching a movie or reading documents on the same tablets. Increasingly, I am also seeing the second generation Galaxy Tab being taken up by them, so it is not about the iPad.
It seems that the consumers strongly favour a tablet that is light and slim, easy to carry around, with a great screen, and one which offers a good amount of responsiveness. As of now, it is only Apple and Samsung that are able to deliver this, and probably Lenovo could be a good competitor. Acer, Asus etc. have tried, but their products are more bulky and tied down due to nVIDIA. It is possible that the Tegra 3 may still see good adoption, but the advantage will be with large manufacturers that have a better leverage with nVIDIA and Google. Notion Ink does not have that capability, and has shown a complete lack of foresight to boot.
Now Notion Ink is talking about the OMAP5 platform, and that is a good idea in itself. However, given that they frittered away their headstart in tablet design, they are nowhere close to developing an iPad 2 competitor by the time the iPad 3 would be launched and OMAP5 / Tegra 3 would be common among the others.
Worst of all, they have lost their most important resource – a set of loyal and trusting customers. Why? Because Notion Ink has been untrustworthy and betrayed the faith and support put up by us, and not merely with our money, but with our reputation as well.
To sum it all up, Notion Ink is destined to fade into irrelevance because of its betrayal, lack of credibility and lack of foresight. This is probably the last time I will speak of them, although I will continue to blog about the Adam for sake of providing some knowledge base for support.