Tablet troubles: Can anyone challenge Apple?

Tablet troubles: Can anyone challenge Apple?

Summary: This afternoon Apple is expected to announce record iPad sales. At the same time sales of competing tablets seem to be falling short of lofty expectations. Why can't anyone build a better tablet?


This afternoon, when Apple reports its latest quarterly results, the company is expected to announce record iPad sales. Analysts predict that Apple sold more than 7.7 million tablets in the first full quarter since the March introduction of the iPad 2.

At the same time, sales of competing tablets seem to be falling short of lofty expectations. At the beginning of the year forecasts for tablets were running as high as 70-80 million units. The category is still growing quickly (from a tiny installed base), but over the past couple of weeks I've heard several companies and market research firms suggest that total sales may come in closer to 60 million units. IDC, which has been more conservative, may turn out to be closest. Earlier this month the firm slightly raised its estimate for 2011 sales to 53.5 million tablets. Yesterday RIM was forced to deny rumors that sales of the PlayBook have been so slow that the company may cease production of the WiFi version (the 4G version has been delayed until the fall).

The first wave of competing tablets-from the Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablets such as the Motorola Xoom to RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook to HP's webOS-powered TouchPad--have received lukewarm reviews. Even those that get solid reviews seem to run into shipping delays or technical glitches. Toshiba's Thrive tablet, for example, sometimes fails to wake up from sleep (the company is promising a fix).

Mediocre reviews aside, there are lots of explanations for the slow start. First, rival tablets were priced too high putting them head-to-head with the superior iPad 2, though that could be changing with lower-priced devices on the way such as Vizio's VTAB and Archos's G9 series. Second, other tablets can't match the iOS application ecosystem and support for Adobe Flash content hasn't turned out to be the killer app RIM and others expected. Third, the competition lacks a compelling retail channel like the Apple Store to promote its tablets. Finally, the failure of Intel and Microsoft to come up with a compelling tablet platform to date has left device makers to try to market Windows tablets as niche products for business.

Perhaps these are just growing pains, and the introduction of thinner and cheaper tablets, with a broader selection of apps, will quickly turn things around. It took a while for Android smartphones to catch on too (remember those T-Mobile G1 reviews?). But it could also be that Apple has built an insurmountable lead in tablets.

What do you think competitors need to do to top the iPad? Tell me in Talkback below.

Topics: Hardware, Apple, Laptops, Mobility, Tablets

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  • RE: Tablet troubles: Can anyone challenge Apple?

    All I can say is I'm very happy with my 16 GB white iPad 2 with 3g. I'm also very happy in the Apple ecosystem. Now also keep in mind I'm a Windows user, I have a WHS machine, 3 WIN 7 pc's and my life depends on Excel...

    • Maybe you can explain....

      ...what in the world these dozens of millions of purchasers are using these tablets for?

      Things that make me wonder about this start with the fact that for an item that has sold so many millions I hardly see one in public. For example; iPhones, wait at a downtown street corner to cross the road and I can see many in a crowd standing there fidgeting with their iPhone but not a person hauling along an iPad. I have seen them in public, just few and far between for a item selling in the many millions.

      I do know a couple people who have bought iPads but they just have them laying around the house mostly because, to put it simply, the iPad didn't live up to the expectation they had hoped for, as in it being like a laptop, which an iPad is not, at all.

      In fact, just about anyone I have ever read about making anything close to $500 worth of use out of an i|Pad is always someone who had a very particular reason or two why an iPad is useful for them, but doesn't translate to the average person who would use a laptop.

      So your very happy with your iPad, please explain if your an "average" user without specialty uses for an iPad that has some reason or explanation as to how Joe Average could justify spending the big bucks on such a device?
      • RE: Tablet troubles: Can anyone challenge Apple?

        @Cayble On the Metro train in Washington, DC, at rush hour on any given day I can look around and see 3 to 5 iPads within 20 feet of my seat.
      • RE: Tablet troubles: Can anyone challenge Apple?

        @Cayble Do you take public transportation. Living in NYC, I look around, and I can spot quite a few in transport. Granted, they aren't as popular in public, but everyone I know that has one, loves it.

        People in NYC, I assume, are more hesitant to bring it out in the open often just because of crime.
      • RE: Tablet troubles: Can anyone challenge Apple?

        @Cayble Each persons needs or wants are going to be different and anybody that bought any tablet thinking it was a laptop should have done more research before buying. I could give a whole list of reasons why the iPad is worth the money to me but I would be wasting my time. What I want or need does not necessarily mean anything to you and if you are set on being against the iPad you would dismiss them no matter how valid they were.
  • The way to challenge Apple is not to imitate it

    Apple has got good at maintaining its first-mover advantage. Companies that really want to challenge need to get into a new category with a compelling product _before_ Apple does, not simply imitate.
    • RE: Tablet troubles: Can anyone challenge Apple?


      Very True!
  • RE: Tablet troubles: Can anyone challenge Apple?

    As some have said....there is no tablet market, there is an iPad market. Similar to the iPod.
  • RE: Tablet troubles: Can anyone challenge Apple?

    Think back to another time, where a certain company spotted Apple in big lead in an emerging computing market... hmmm, the tablet race will begin to heat up as soon as Microsoft arrives with Windows 8. If Microsoft and its army of developers and boat loads of cash can't create a compelling platform to the iPad, Apple will rule for awhile because none of these other me too tablets currently offer anything that the iPad doesn't already have.
    • RE: Tablet troubles: Can anyone challenge Apple?

      @rwalrond You don't remember it the same way I do.
    • RE: Tablet troubles: Can anyone challenge Apple?

      Have you seen where WP7 is today? MS is actually making more money from Android.
      • Message has been deleted.

    • Just like the Zune....

      The same thing was said about the Zune too.
      linux for me
    • RE: Tablet troubles: Can anyone challenge Apple?

      @rwalrond Didn't we hear the same thing about WP7? How has that worked out so far? I am not saying that they won't be a big success I am just saying there is no guarantee.
  • Message has been deleted.

    Linux Geek
    • Message has been deleted.

  • No

    There are only going to be 2 types of tablets that will have a chance at any measure of "success":
    * Inexpensive Android tablets that will make no profit (assuming Apple doesn't sue every Android maker into oblivion). They will be hated by everyone who buys them.
    * Expensive Windows 8 tablets that will see small sales to the few who need the extra utility not offered by the iPad. They will be loved by everyone who buys them but will not "challenge" Apple because Apple will not field a competitor to Microsoft in this market.

    HP and RIM will both leave the tablet market within 2 years (HP may build Windows 8 tablets though).
    • RE: Tablet troubles: Can anyone challenge Apple?

      @toddybottom Sorry, but Windows 8 tablets will be no more expensive than iPads, and they absolutely will compete in the same market.
      • Very doubtful ....

        @JoeHTH You forget that any Win tablet will have what is known as the Microsoft tax (cost of the OS license). With razor thin revenues at iPad cost, that tax will surely add $50 to $100 to the total cost.
      • RE: Tablet troubles: Can anyone challenge Apple?

        @JoeHTH I agree with pricing, the bottom end won't be any more expensive than an iPad, although decent performance models will be more expensive.

        But they won't be competing in the same market - there will be some overlap, but the Window tablets bring many things that severly restrict the Apple (and Android) tablets.

        We need IP-65 and IP-69 compliant tablets for some tasks - I can't see an iPad working, after being drenched in animal blood, then hosed down with a high pressure water jet.

        Likewise, other tasks we have require full Java capability, which neither iOS nor Android can (currently) offer.

        There are lots of vertical markets, where the iPad and current Android devices can't compete.

        The "cheap" Windows 7 tablets, using Atom technology are too underpowered and aren't doing MS's reputation in this direction any favours.