Monday, July 4, 2011

iPad : Tablet :: iPod : MP3 Player

Another tablet launches, and hit-hungry web "journalists" ask breathlessly whether the iPad is finally done for. According to AllThingsD, the newest HP tablet uses an LG display akin to that of the first-generation iPad and lacks a GPS, allowing it to trim cost to $306.65 for the version it retails for $499. Electronista reckons that this puts HP's current product's parts costs (not including marketing, assembly, licensing, etc.) at $17 less than that of the iPad2. The device is a bit thicker, lacks the breadth of available applications, doesn't support HD video capture, hasn't got a rear camera, and the top user review at cnet reports the device "freezes often [but] otherwise [has a] nice interface". But the most damning indictment of the new tablet isn't something one can cure with a product refresh: it isn't an iPad. John Paczkowski of AllThingsD went beyond JadedConsumer's previous comparisons between Apple's iPad strategy and its prior success with the iPod in declaring that Apple has already succeeded in redefining the tablet product category to the point that consumers want iPads (instead of "tablets") in the same way they began shopping for iPods (instead of "MP3 players").

If Apple's steady state in the iPad market – ahem, sorry, the tablet market – comes to rest north of 70% as it did with the iPod mark– so sorry, I meant the music player market ... then Apple will be sitting pretty on a high-margin and huge-growing consumer segment with international appeal. And Apple's tech is uniquely suited to meeting international demand by supporting international needs of developers. The things that made Apple's iPhone easy to sell internationally make its WiFi and 3G-capable tablet-market-redefining iPads a cinch for international sales. DisplaySearch's forecast suggests Apple's touch screen supply control will leave it in control of the tablet market through 2011. Control of the tablet market didn't mean much a few years ago, but since the launch of the iPad the segment is looking to eclipse notebook computers in worldwide unit volume, according to UK researcher Canalys – with every two tablets costing notebook makers a unit of lost sales. So strong is this trend that Gartner has lowered PC growth forecasts based on tablet cannibalization. Counting tablets as PCs as Canalys does, Apple has grown the market and has become the fourth-largest PC vendor by worldwide unit volume.

I've got a friend who's never synched either of her family's iPads, and a few months ago I sat agape wondering what century she lived in. Yet, with the iCloud announcement, Apple has signaled the view that she isn't expected to, need not be inconvenienced to do so, and should never have to bother to do so except wirelessly from the device itself. Between Apple's online application store, cloud services, and computer-free device synching, Apple stands to improve the stickiness of its products and the value they offer customers in the form of convenience.

Apple is owning this market.

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