Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tablet Wars – iPad vs Everyone Else

A while back I put out a call to some industry captains. These are folks who have rich experiences with brands and deep knowledge in a particular industry. I invited them to do some guest lectures. Today I am proud to post the tablet-thoughts of a tech-captain. Take it away Greg.
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As someone who has been deeply involved with the high-tech industry and as an all-around avid gadget consumer, Bob asked me if I would write a guest blog about the burgeoning tablet “wars”. I'm happy to share my thoughts with you today.

Some background: At CES 2011 in Las Vegas, it seemed almost every company - and every brand- was announcing an iPad “killer”. The most serious threat to the iPad’s market share dominance was emerging from the Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablets such as the Motorola Xoom – a big winner at the show. Of course, there are others as well – the HP TouchPad, RIM’s Playbook and let’s try not to forget the Microsoft based tablets – but today we will focus Google’s Android platform.

Recently, the tone from the pundits has changed from touting the new tablets to a discussion on what they need to do in order to pose a more serious threat to the iPad. I’ve been struck by how these professional opinions often miss the key marketing components of the iPad’s success.

Communicating the Brand's Value Proposition
The Apple of today, perhaps better than any other company, knows how to create and communicate a value proposition. Take a look at the marketing of the iPad2 – everything from Steve Jobs’ keynote address, to the Apple website, to the TV commercials – clearly communicates what an iPad is and why you want one - See:

These reasons – a blend of emotional and cerebral – focus on:

• The beautiful and practical design
• The cool things you can do with it
• The ease with which you can do cool things

Marketing For and By Techno-Geeks
Next, let’s take a look at the Motorola Xoom’s Super Bowl ad:
This ad references the ground breaking 1984 ad that Apple used to launch the Macintosh. But how well does this commercial communicate the product’s value proposition? In general, I’d say it does a poor job. While it provides a glimpse of two features that the iPad does not have – 1) vector based maps (definitely a techno-geek feature); and 2) the cameras – the main message is that you should buy a Xoom because it will “empower you”. It’s not super clear what you will be empowered to do but apparently the loveliest of the drones will be impressed. I suppose the commercial is designed to appeal mostly to hardcore techno-geeks.
Let’s compare it with this TV commercial for the iPad2.

This campaign is all about the cool things you can do with an iPad. If you didn’t know why you wanted an iPad, you probably now have a good idea.
Which brings me to CNET’s Top 5 ways that Android Tablets can beat the iPad (according IDC Research’s survey of app developers – do you already sense this is going to be problematic?) Click here.

#5 More Places to Buy Apps
I really don’t understand this one – how does the consumer benefit from having more places to buy apps? More apps - yes, better apps –sure... but, as far as I’m concern having more “places” to buy apps only serves to fragment and complicate the user’s experience. (More on fragmentation below).

#4 Honeycomb OS
This refers to Google’s latest operating system Android 3.0 (a.k.a. the Honeycomb OS). It’s designed specifically for tablets and offers the user greater flexibility to customize their workspace. There is definitely a segment of the market that wants more control over their devices – and the complexity that comes with it - but I think most people are interested in using their tablets to do cool things – like consuming or creating new media.

For example: You want to watch a movie. On the iPad you can rent or buy it from the iTunes store. Alternatively you can sign up for Netflix. It seems much more complicated with Android Tablets. Netflix is not offered because of the lack of copyright enforcement mechanisms and there is nothing that rivals Apple’s ecosystem of content from iTunes and apps from the App Store.

#3 More bells and whistles
This is where the pundits and the marketing of Android tablets miss the point. It’s not about bells & whistles per se, it’s about what you can do with those bell and whistles.

#2 Control Fragmentation
Ah yes, fragmentation... Android is more open, flexible and offers more freedom to developers and hardware manufacturers. The result is somewhat chaotic with multiple versions of the Android OS competing in the wild along with the possibility that the hardware manufacturer will add their own customized skin. It’s somewhat of a mess but yes, it could be tamed. However, it will never be able to match Apple’s well developed ecosystem where everything works together seamlessly and simply.

#1 Be Cheaper
It seems competing on price would offer the best potential to vanquish the iPad. If only someone would offer a similarly spec’d tablet at a lower price, perhaps it would make a real dent in Apple’s market share. However, it seems Apple has anticipated this strategy. While Apple has traditionally charged a premium for its products – a Macintosh usually costs 2 to 3 times more than a similar PC – it has decided to price the iPad very aggressively. Clearly, Apple’s intends to dominate this market through volume and the purchasing power that it bestows.

So far we’ve covered: Product, Promotion and Price – 3 of the 4 P’s of the marketing mix. What about Place? Well, where would you rather try, buy, and learn how to use a Tablet? Show of hands please:
1) Wal-Mart
2) Best Buy
3) Rogers Wireless
4) Apple Store

Given Apple’s advantage on all 4 Ps – a superior product with better promotion, at a very competitive price, through a more convenient distribution place – I believe Apple’s dominance in Tablets will continue and that it will be next to impossible for any competing tablets to outsell the iPad anytime soon.

Think I’m wrong? Feel free to let me know your thoughts – comments make a blog interesting ;-)


  1. I think your author hit it right when he said that misses the mark.

    Tablets are new and people still have to be informed why they need them. Apple does a good job at communicating the benefits.

  2. I doubt that the Android tablets will have the same success as the Android phones. It just doesn't seem as important to be able to consume and produce content on a smart phone... but it's a different story with a tablet - why else would you own one...

  3. Can't believe it... apparently the iPad2 is already sold out (over 1 million sold since the launch).

    But, how much of this is due to good marketing and how much is simply because it's a good product?

  4. The thing about apple is that it redefines (and creates) new categories. I wonder how much longer that innovation engine will continue if Jobs isn't there.

  5. I agree with JIII: will all the talented people at Apple push themselves as hard if Jobs isn't around?

  6. You forgot to mention the customer testimonials and guided tours that Apple uses on their website - they are so good at making you want to buy their products (almost too good).

  7. Hey, I think Amazon finally cracked the code with the Kindle Fire. It can do all the important the things an IPad can do, it has a great content library (movies, books, magazines and music) and... most importantly it only costs $199!

  8. The sales of the kindle fire has dropped off significantly. Seems the greatest competition for the new iPad is... the previous version of the iPad !