I started really thinking about this last night as we recorded the Simple Mobile Review Podcast. I am really starting to believe that if a major hardware manufacturer (read HP, Dell, Lenovo, etc.) releases a tablet that runs Android and doesn’t suck by Thanksgiving, they will have a real chance at taking on the iPad.
I know that the iPad has already sold over 2 million units and should sell 3 million units worldwide this quarter, however, contrary to popular belief, the iPad is not the perfect device. The iPad is expensive, it doesn’t replace anything, it’s locked down tighter than Fort Knox, and Apple’s business practices have developer’s cheering for a competitor to step in and really challenge Apple’s dominance.
The iPad is expensive
Even though the iPad is cheaper than we thought it would be when it was first announced, it does a lot less than we thought it would do when it was first rumored. I think, if honest, the overwhelming majority of iPad owners would be hard pressed to tell you that they need their iPad. They most certainly want them. They just don’t need them.
The expense of the iPad and the fact that it is more of a desired device as compared to a necessary one make it a luxury item. I know that this is, sort of, is Apple business model, however luxury items, by their very nature, are niche items. Niche items don’t tend to dominate, which, of course, is why they are niche. The perfect example of this is the Mac.
The iPad doesn’t replace anything
I’ll be the first to admit that it is not necessary for every new platform, idea, technology, or whatever you want to call the iPad to actually replace something that already exists. The iPad, however, is so close in function to netbooks, laptops, and even the iPod Touch, that I don’t believe it is afforded this exception. The only existing devices that the iPad effectively replaces are e-readers, and, because the iPad has a back light, the debate is still out on even how well a job it does in that arena.
If you need a laptop and buy an iPad, you definitely still need your laptop. If you need a netbook and buy and iPad, you probably still need your netbook. If you own an iPod Touch, and buy and iPad, you clearly just wanted one.
The iPad is closed
Clearly you can be successful with a closed platform. Apple has mastered this, however, they’ve done so with personal consumer electronics like the iPod, iPhone, and iPod Touch. The game changes as your devices get bigger, and start to look and act more like computers. It will take a competitor with legs to flush this out, but, I believe this could be the case with the iPad.
When consumers buy computers, 90% or more buy them for what they can do with the software that runs on them. Many will have issues when their choice of software is not controlled by them, but, by the manufacturer of the hardware, especially if the same software is available on an alternative platform that doesn’t dictate what you can do with your hardware.
Developers are itching for an alternative
Developers write code for a multitude of reasons. Some solve critical business issues, some provide entertainment, some for no good reason whatsoever. Up until recently developers where subject to the market. So long as there was a customer for your app, you could develop said app and attempt to sell it.
Distributors and resellers may have refused to sell your app. They may have even told you that your app should not exist. They never, however, told you that your app could not exist or be sold independently of the hardware manufacture, unless you were willing to void your warranty, often times for arbitrary reasons after they initially allowed the app. Apple regularly makes judgments for iPad users telling them what software is and is not allowed to exist.
Why An Android Tablet Has A Real Shot At Taking On The iPad
I haven’t talked about Android at all up until this point of this post, quite honestly because this post is more about the iPad than it is about Android. I name an Android powered tablet specifically, however, because Apple has tremendous momentum on it’s side. Android, as well, has a lot of momentum, is well known, and rocks as a mobile OS. Android is Open Source, has Google’s resources behind it, and most definitely has the legs to give the iPad a run. I just hope that a big gadget maker can get an Android Tablet out soon enough to actually run in the race…