In the next few months1 we are set to be introduced to a multitude of new tablet devices from many different companies. These are all seeking to grab their share of the enormous market that Apple has found2 with the iPad. With that in mind I want to take a look at what a tablet will need to be competitive and what it will need to be better than the iPad.3
To Compete / Be Equals
- Battery Life needs to be the same or better than the iPad’s 10 hours.
- The polish of the OS needs to be of iPad standards.
- There needs to be plenty of Apps for people to choose from.
- It needs to be simple.
- It needs to feel snappy.4
- Competitive pricing.
Pretty simple list of what a iPad rival would need to compete. The bottom line is that at this point all that any rival device needs to sell is to match some of the bigger features the iPad offers. This is of course not the only way to compete with the iPad, much like how Android smartphones started off against the iPhone – a competitor of the iPad could start off by selling OK devices at a much lower price point.
This, though, is dangerous territory as it could easy place the iPad as the premium tablet and the new entrants as the budget tablet. The budget tablets could gain more market share over time, but it will not get the profits of the premium brand.
We see this happening right now with Android/RIM/Apple. Apple has a very small share of the market by unit sales with the iPhone, but they have the biggest share of industry profits.
To Be Better
The way I see it is there are only two ways to be better than the iPad:
- Beat Apple at its own game.5 This means creating a better experience starting with the OS all the way through to the hardware.
- Change the game – don’t try to be better than the iPad, instead redefine what tablet computing is.
Out Appleing Apple
Most would think that you are doomed to try this – I think it would be foolish not to try and do this. I think that a company would be more than able to out Apple-Apple by pairing Android OS with a custom skin (read: Sense UI type skin) and pairing it with meticulously designed hardware. In fact Google and Android developers have really done all the software work.
All a company would need to do is create some seriously bad ass hardware (maybe something with more battery life, lighter, and less glareiffic.6 You pair that hardware with the Android OS and then work to optimize the two so that they fall in love with each other. Price it $50 below the iPad and you are set.
Ok I am over simplifying, but the concept is really that easy. The hard part is the execution (that is always the hardest part). I could see a small independent coming along to try and do this, but of the existing players in the market I don’t really see any of them capable/willing to do this.
Changing the Game
There are so many ways to do this that I can’t possibly know them all or list them all for that matter. I am talking about repositioning what we define a tablet to be. Here are a few ideas to illustrate this point:
- Make something that is so incredible at creating art that iPad apps can’t compete.
- Make something invaluable to business people.
- Perhaps two screens really are better than one.
- Perhaps bigger is better.
- Perhaps smaller is better.
These are just a few of the thoughts off the top of my head. What is important is that whatever you do needs to be done well and marketed as a new type of device, not an iPad competitor. Imagine when the iPhone was introduced if it was marketed as just a better Blackberry and not as a ‘revolutionary’ new phone – who would have bought something that was ‘just a better Backberry’? I wouldn’t have.7
Now I have most certainly over simplified how easy it is to make a good iPad competitor. The thing that really bugs me though is that even with how obvious all of this is to most of us – they are foreign concepts to companies that seek to compete with Apple. Why don’t they take the extra time and care to make a product that actually stands a chance at being better than the iPad? Why is it that these companies always seem to rush products to market well before they are ready?
Really the next year, but there will be some on sale for the holiday shopping season ↩
Note: that being better and selling better are two very different concepts. ↩
This is not the same as having fast hardware, rather how the device actually runs during normal usage. ↩
Out Apple, Apple if you will. ↩
On a separate note my Spell check hates these words I make up ↩
That may not be true. ↩