Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The iPad is dominating the tablet industry, but why?

The tablet industry has become a crowded market with the release of Android tablets such as the Galaxy Tab 10.1, the Motorola Xoom (pronounced "zoom"), and Asus's Eee Pad Transformer. No doubt that these tablets have some very unique qualities to them that make them great products, but there are some things they've taken a page from Apple's iPad. That's understandable since consumers have had this high expectation that whatever functionality exists on the iPad, exists, or at least should exist, on the other tablets. There is some logic behind why the iPad is dominating the market, and then there is simple luck that Apple just happened to have.
There are some factors that make it quite clear why Apple is winning in the tablet space right now. They really made the iPad into a very profitable and successful product in the iOS family of products. The quality and size of the display, the multi-touch technology, the operating system (iOS specifically designed for iPad), tablet-designed software development kit (iPad SDK), and the price are all key parts of why the iPad is selling in numbers dramatically higher than their Android tablet competitors. If Apple took even one of those elements out of their product in the first generation, then the iPad predictably wouldn't have been such a success as it was and still is today.
Of course, luck was also involved in the iPad's success. Apple got in at the right time, and the right place. That feels like luck to me because nobody can really predict what is going to happen in the tech industry a year from now or even a month from now. The industry is too unpredictable. If you were to tell me in 2008 or even 2009 that Apple was going to release a tablet called the "iPad", I would've though you were insane!
Now let's compare Apple's iPad to the competitors. Unfortunately, Android, despite having a "tablet-optimized" version, still hasn't mastered multi-touch. Apple is still the palpable master of multi-touch software and hardware. Yes, Google's Honeycomb version of Android, which is known as the "tablet-optimized" version, handles display sizes really well and the multi-touch isn't bad necessarily. It's simply imperfect, compared to the iPad which seems pretty darn close to perfect. I also consider the sheer fact that there are too many screen sizes for Android tablets, that "tablet-optimized" applications will not run perfectly of most of the devices because the variety of display sizes divides the tablet industry up into many fractions. If we had a set standard for tablet display sizes, then maybe this "fragmentation" issue with Android wouldn't be as big of a deal.
Let's imagine for a second that a consumer just bought an Android Honeycomb tablet. They will be bitterly disappointed to discover that the selection of "tablet-optimized" applications is terribly small. In essence, the quantity of apps that could use utilize the large screen size of the device, is quite low. That consumer would feel discouraged and would have feelings of regret. That consumer next time, might've considered an iPad, since the number of tablet applications for the iPad, is much higher.
Price was another area in which Apple was and still is quite innovative in. For a Wi-Fi only (no contract with a wireless provider) 16GB iPad would cost you $500. Most people can't complain since I don't know anybody who would use up all 16GB. And for most people, they're surrounded by Wi-Fi hotspots most of the time, so they don't need 3G (or wireless provider) connectivity. Much to the industry's surprise, there's only one tablet that has been priced similarly to the iPad. The Samsung Galaxy Tab, which has a 7-inch display, but does not run Android Honeycomb, is $500. Everybody else has to play catch up to Apple and Samsung, the two price leaders in the tablet world.
If the prices for these tablets would drop, and manufacturers improve on some of their lacking areas, then I think Android tablets could eventually meet parody with Apple's iPad. But for the time being, we'll just have to be patient and make due with the iPad.

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