Jag Venugopal's Blog

July 6, 2011

Why the current crop of iPad competitors will all fail

Filed under: Digital Living — Jag @ 6:56 am
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Finally, various competitors to the iPad are out, more than a year after the launch of Apple’s game-changing tablet. From being an initial skeptic, I have now become a full-fledged evangelist. The iPad has become my primary browsing and email device.

 There are a number of competitors to the iPad; unfortunately, all the below efforts are doomed to fail, unless they make drastic changes in their approach.

  • Motorola’s Xoom
  • Samsung Galaxy
  • Acer something-or-other
  • RIM Playbook
  • HP Touchpad
  • A rumored Microsoft competitor based on Windows 8

 A professor of mine once said that to beat an entrenched product in the marketplace, it is not sufficient that the new entrant be incrementally better — it has to be better by an order of magnitude. To that, I would add the following:

  • If the new entrant has the same feature set as the incumbent, then the pricing must be drastically lower, to induce consumers to change their preference
  • If pricing is the same, then the product must be significantly better

 Unfortunately, with all of these tablets, neither of the conditions for success hold. They’re usually just the same cost as the iPad or more expensive, without being as good as the current leader. That’s a sure-fire way to get totally ignored. Android may one day be a great tablet operating system, but in its current version it does not beat Apple’s iOS in anything. Proprietary OS’es such as RIM’s QNX or HP’s WebOS are doomed because most developer momentum is likely to fall behind either Apple or Android, which at least has a strong presence in smartphones.

 I’m no fan of Microsoft, but I’m thinking that if Ballmer gets his company’s act together he might just be a contender. Microsoft already has significant tentacles into the enterprise, and a tablet with Office, Sharepoint, and access to corporate applications might just work. And no, it cannot be a reworking of the late lamented TabletPC. It has to be an entirely new, light product, with content and communication, that plays well within the Microsoft Enterprise ecosystem.

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