More than a year after the iPad launched the media are still getting excited about ‘iPad killers’ which then sink without a trace.
Hyperbolic ‘sales’ figures (seemingly actually distribution figures) are repeated without question, tech specs are lauded and then, suddenly, all goes quiet and the great new device is quietly forgotten.
I think those who say consumers aren’t interested in tablets, they simply want an iPad are broadly right but I also think the iPad wannabes have no idea why that’s true or how to make their products compete.
The iPad is a simple device.
The adverts for it sell it based on what it does, not what’s under the glass. Even Apple’s tech specs page is written in a way which won’t scare or confuse potential buyers.
When you see an advert talking about watching newspapers and listening to magazines it tells you that the device in question is for doing things on.
How it does those things isn’t important:
Note the line about technology getting out of the way and compare it to the approach adopted by rivals.
This advert for RIMs BlackBerry PlayBook is as interested in the ‘how’ as the ‘what’:
Worse, the ‘how’ is centred on a web technology loved and demanded by web developers and content distributors but not the average web user.
When Apple first announced the iPad its detractors thought a lack of Flash would be a major hurdle. Today, despite the sales of millions of iPads, its rivals are still trying to build an entire platform on the availability of Flash.
It’s worrying that the mindset hasn’t budged an inch despite the evidence that Flash isn’t a deal breaker for the legions of ordinary people giving their cash to Apple.
Even if RIM believes there’s a group of people not rushing out to buy an iPad because animated adverts don’t work on it, the availability of Flash on Android devices means it’s not a unique selling point.
Worse, it means RIM has to compete for the attention of those who actively don’t want an iPad and do want Flash with a range of devices from multiple manufacturers.
So what does the PlayBook do that an Android tablet can’t do? We don’t know because RIM are too busy having a pop at the market leader to bother differentiating their device from their actual competitors.
And talking of having a pop at people, I’m still no clearer what the point of this Motorola Xoom ad is other than to alienate everyone who ever bought an iPod – a group which includes a sizeable number of Windows users:
Instead of getting their knickers in a twist over Flash, Apple’s rivals need to focus on what the iPad can and does do.
Where’s their GarageBand or iMovie? Where’s their answer to Pages, Numbers or Keynote – apps which work with the same formats customers are already using on their laptops and desktops?
And then there’s the content.
Motorola, Samsung and RIM are good companies with innovations and successes they’re right to be proud of. Much as I love my iPhone, nothing comes close to a BlackBerry for speedy, on the go email.
But none of them come to mind if you’re asked to think of a major player in digital content. Apple is known to non-Mac users for iTunes and its iPods. Its App Store towers above all others in marketshare and range of apps.
Its iBooks app is less trailblazing as I’ve noted elsewhere.
People know that if they buy an iPad they’ll always have access to a source of high quality content to enjoy on it.
These are the areas rivals needed to focus on while they readied their hardware for market. They’ve had a year to learn that hardware specs and web techs aren’t what sell tablets to consumers.
An inability or unwillingness to see the world as it is today means they’ve instead stayed in their comfort zone of CPU speeds and port types.
In doing so they’ve allowed Apple to enjoy virtually the entire tablet marketplace and opened the way to an unlikely but potentially more successful competitor: Amazon.
The online retailer owns the highly successful Kindle, has its own MP3 store, its own movie service and even an appstore for Android.
It’s also heavily rumoured to be launching an Android tablet later this year.
Experience of selling digital content gives Amazon a huge advantage over other would-be iPad slayers and its pre-existing customer base gives it access to millions of credit and debit cards whose owners already trust it.
While the chances of the Amazon tablet overtaking the iPad have to be slim, it’s very easy to see it dominating whatever ‘not iPad’ market exists.