And The Award For Best Vaporware Goes To…

Before we announce the nominees, let us define vaporware: the act of announcing a product or service that isn’t shipping but is intended to keep a customer from buying an alternative product or service.

So without further adieu, here is our 2010 nominees:

  • The Crunchpad/JooJoo Pad
  • Random Android Tablets (Dell Streak, Samsung Tab)
  • White Apple iPhone 4
  • RIM PlayBook

And the winner is… without even a fight… the RIM PlayBook!

This was a tough fight, I have to admit. There were some worthy competitors here. The CrunchPad, a Michael Arrington at TechCrunch production, was a full-blown court drama after all with he said/he said allegations, etc. But it couldn’t win because it really didn’t keep us from buying an alternative. It was just sad and was quickly eclipsed by the iPad. (Besides, it happened too early in the year. And you know how Oscars work: it is better to be one of the last dramas of the year than the first to win the big awards.)

The Android tablets, too, don’t quite qualify. While they have been rumored for a long time, their official announcements have come within a reasonable time of shipping (although they haven’t shipped here in the States yet as far as I can tell.) Got to give these hardware guys some credit. It is not like you can announce and ship on the same day… or at least they never have.

The white iPhone is worthy of the prize but I think it has probably cost Apple more than anyone else. After all, how many people were waiting to buy an iPhone 4 in white instead of black. (My wife is.)  This means they froze their own customers, and not competitors, which is quite not the point of vaporware. (I can only imagine how mad Steve Jobs is over this.)

And that leads us to the only true winner: the RIM PlayBook. Don’t get me wrong, it looks like a nice device. But they don’t expect to ship this thing until early 2011! That’s at least 4 months from now! 4 months in this market is a lifetime!

So we get the endless comparisons of these vaporware tablets against the first generation iPad and, at least RIM hopes, that it will keep people from buying the iPad this holiday season. I don’t think so. Customers don’t like technology products they can’t touch and feel and play with (see Google, Nexus One). And besides, as John Gruber pointed out yesterday, Apple will likely announce if not ship version 2 of the iPad by then, making all the comparisons moot.

I will say one thing: at least we have markets interesting enough for vaporware again. Vaporware was a very popular play in the 1990s as the market for computing hardware and software was heating up, then went dormant for most of the 2000s. With the rise of smartphones and now tablets, the games become interesting again!