It seems that every week there is some article on yet another iPad Killer. Whenever I hear this, two things happen: I groan, and I vomit a little in my mouth. I get that these articles capitalize on the popularity of the iPad, and other companies are jumping on the bandwagon also because of the popularity of the iPad. Companies just don’t get it.
The iPad is a beautiful device. I’ve had it for 6 months now and find that indeed it has a place between my mobile phone and my laptop. However it’s going to take much more than just a super awesome touch based tablet to take down the iPad.
The beauty of the iPad is that it’s much more than just the iPad. The iPad is really just a gateway to Apple’s money making machine. Through the iPad I have access to Apple’s immense library of music and movies through iTunes, Apple’s massive collection of apps in the App Store, and now Apple’s growing library of books in iBooks. It’s a whole ecosystem. If I went with another device, say a Windows tablet or Android tablet, currently I would need an account to buy music (Amazon mp3), a separate account to buy books (like Kobo etc), and another account to buy apps (Google). With Apple, it’s all tied to my iTunes account and it just works. They make it really easy and sweet to buy content. That is why the iPad is optimized for consumption and not for production. Any tablet device seriously thinking about toppling the iPad better have all these things. And this is not something easily done since it took even Apple over a decade to build all this up and build a brand and mindshare.
Another thing Apple has done better than any other device manufacturer is to embrace designers. This was a fortunate side effect from designers adopting the Adobe software + Apple hardware combo. This is why there are so many gorgeous apps in the Apple App Store. For example Microsoft has never been able to crack that egg. Even though the Microsoft stack has been adopted in the enterprise, they’ve never embraced designers until lately. Their attempt at that with the Microsoft Expression Engine is not likely to turn over any designers any time soon. Designers have been using the Adobe suite of graphic tools for over a decade. I myself have been using PhotoShop for over that long and don’t foresee switching anytime soon. I’m not the only one.
Why are designers important? For one thing – gorgeous apps. Consumers will buy well designed applications. You only need to look at the Apple App Store’s top sellers and compare it to the Droid Marketplace. The App Store’s top sellers list is filled with beautifully designed apps whereas the Marketplace list various game emulators. It’s pretty clear to me that the demographic of the Android platform is mostly developers, engineers and tech geeks. I think it reflects the culture of the two companies pretty well. Apple is about design and Google is mostly an engineering company. Google has been described as antidesign if anything. That’s fine but at the end of the day ugly apps just won’t sell.
All that aside, there’s really no way to tell who’s going to win in the long run. The Androis OS is quickly gaining marketshare and will continue to do so as more and more phone manufacturers and tablet manufacturers adopt it. Who’s to say that other companies might not be able to address the issues I’ve mentioned and eat into Apple’s marketshare.
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