News of disappointing sales for Motorola’s debut Android tablet, the Xoom, has sent the tech fraternity into a frenzy. Is this just a knee-jerk reaction, or evidence that the iPad is simply synonymous with tablets?
This week Deutsche Bank estimated sales of the Motorola Xoom, the first Android 3.0 tablet, to be just 100,000 – compared to the original iPad’s 300,000 opening weekend.
“It’s a flop”, the tech media cried. They may be right, though it’s too early to say. The more interesting question, however, is can anyone match the astronomical success of the iPad?
The iPod: a lesson from history
The last time Apple had such a huge impact was when it released the iPod. Its impact wasn’t anything like as swift, however. It took four years for 20 million iPods to be sold, whereas more than 15 million iPads have been sold in less than a year.
These are different times, of course, but if history is anything to go by the signs are ominous for Apple’s competitors. The iPod’s success in a hitherto minute market (portable music players) led to near total domination.
As of July last year, Apple commanded 76% of the US market share for dedicated music players. Its share of the tablet market now? Approximately 73%. That’s dominance.
Do people want tablets, or just iPads?
The problem for Apple’s competitors is one of demand. We know people want iPads, because they keep on buying them. But do they want tablets as a whole, and can they be convinced that they do?
What other tablet manufacturers lack is not only Apple’s brand power, but more importantly its retail store network. According to Steve Jobs, its network of stores had a significant impact on the iPad’s success. People could come try the product for themselves, with knowledgeable staff all indoctrinated into the ‘Apple way’ to explain it to them.
What do its competitors have? They’re competing for space in increasingly bedraggled high street retailers, staffed by people who – if our recent shop floor investigation is anything to go by – have little to no understanding of the products they’re selling. It’s not a great environment in which to sell your ‘big idea’.
Apple in pole position
So will the iPad go on to dominate as the iPod did? The odds are stacked in its favour, but there are some crumbs of comfort for the Motorolas, Samsungs and Dells of this world.
In Google they have a powerful ally in the battle, one that’s produced an excellent – if a little buggy – rival operating system (Android), and which has the clout to compete with Apple on its own terms. It’s succeeded in the smartphone market, with more Android phones in UK consumers’ hands than Apple’s iPhones.
Make no mistake, though. Apple is in an extremely strong position, and Android won’t make inroads as easily as it has on mobile phones. For consumers, tablet = iPad. Defeating that idea is just one of many challenges ahead.