You heard it here first: Before long, everybody's going to have a tablet computer.
The latest entrant in this exploding market is the Google Nexus, a 7-inch gizmo roughly the size and price of Amazon's Kindle Fire. If you thought that Google was already in the market for tablets, you weren't imagining things. Google makes the Android software that powers bigger tablets made by manufacturers such as Samsung, Sony, Motorola and Asus.
But those devices haven't made much headway against the 800-pound gorilla, Apple's iPad. So Google apparently decided to jump into a different segment of the market and take on the iPad from underneath.
This means the tablet market is starting to get crowded at both ends. Analysts expect the Nexus, which will go on sale in July, to be a "media" tablet similar to the Kindle Fire, meaning it will be optimized for reading, watching videos and listening to music, with less of an emphasis on third-party apps. That makes sense for Google, since the Nexus could guide users to Google services like YouTube, the Google Play media store (similar to iTunes), and Google Maps. Amazon uses the Kindle Fire to a similar effect, though it emphasizes shopping, since that's Amazon's forte.
The other new tablet on the way is the Microsoft Surface, targeted more squarely at the iPad, which starts at $499. The Surface will aim to best the iPad in a couple of ways. There will be a built-in keyboard and a stand for propping it up, which are extras on the iPad. The Surface will also run Microsoft programs like Word and Excel, which require workarounds on the iPad. And the Surface will run Adobe's Flash animation software, which Apple doesn't allow on any of its computers.
That means there ought to be vigorous competition at just about every price point. But while analysts tend to focus on product-to-product matchups, it's also worth thinking about where the whole market will head in a few years' time.
Computing costs continue to come down at the same rate they have for years, which means that iPad-quality devices, now priced as a premium product for business users or affluent consumers, will probably become more of a mainstream product, the way smartphones are now becoming ubiquitous. Microsoft could speed up that likelihood if it significantly undercuts Apple on price, or introduces a mid-range product somewhere between the Kindle Fire and the iPad. Before long, there could even be a Nexus-quality product for less than $100.
So beyond the new competition we'll see later this year, I'm wondering about a few other things that seem likely to change. Will we still need smartphones once everybody's carrying around a tablet that's basically a smartphone on steroids? Is there a place in all this for Barnes & Noble's Nook, which is similar to the Nexus and seems increasingly isolated?
Will there be yet another new thing in tablets, or are we entering a more mature phase of the market in which improvements will mostly be incremental? And does Apple have any more tricks up its sleeve, such as an exceedingly premium iPad, with new capabilities that will justify a higher price?
It's fun to watch, because of all the innovation (and copying of innovation) that competition begets. It's also great for consumers, who are the ultimate winners. The tablet revolution is now just another digital trend to take for granted.
Rick Newman is the author of Rebounders: How Winners Pivot From Setback To Success. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman.