Why consumers won't buy tablets (unless they're iPads)

Why consumers won't buy tablets (unless they're iPads)

Summary: Why can't non-iPads sell? Because the consistent marketing experience from Apple is something that competitors simply cannot reproduce.

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Can anybody besides Apple can make a tablet that can sell? That question rises yet again with word that the HP TouchPad is not selling well. If this is true, it puts the TouchPad in the same camp as all other tablets except the iPad. The line from the movie "if you build it they will come" has been proven conclusively to not apply to tablets, as HP is now discovering.

Why can't non-iPads sell? It's not like products such as Honeycomb tablets or the webOS-based TouchPad aren't acceptable to the market. They may not match the iPad in every area but by and large they are mostly functionally equivalent. It seems that all of the tablets don't appeal to the same market that is attracted to the iPad, which continues to sell as fast as Apple can make them.

The only way for any tablet maker to hit big sales is to break through the mainstream consumer market. Not the techies who follow the world of tablets looking for the Next Big Thing, but the regular folks who rarely buy technology items. These millions of folks are the ones who snatch up the iPad but aren't grabbing the competing products in Best Buy or other retailers. The iPod crowd, in other words.

If you think back to the prelaunch hype of the original iPad, Apple never aimed it at the techie crowd. They didn't go after the MacBook crowd nor even the iPhone crowd. They went after the audience that had been buying iPods by the hundreds of millions. The ones who didn't care if this new large iPod could replace their computer. The crowd that had no interest in whether the iPad could talk to their computer or iPhone. Regular people were the target for the iPad, and Apple's approach has proven successful with huge sales numbers.

Sure it helped that Apple had produced a solid product in the iPad, but those who remember the product originally launched remember it wasn't perfect. The tech world jumped on its shortcomings like it does all new products, but buyers didn't care. They weren't paying attention to the tech world. They were only paying attention to the message Apple put out to the public. The same message they used for years with the iPod, for this was the audience Apple wanted to reach.

This audience had been proving for years that if a product was simple, well designed and iconic, they would buy it. They are the crowd that not only lined up in Apple stores to buy the iPod, they were the crowd that shelled out big bucks for each new iteration of the gadget. The tech world laughed at the release of each new iteration of the iPod, as the same customers kept giving Apple money to get a slightly improved version of what they already had. The Apple faithful we called them.

Apple knew it needed to set the same tone for the iPad's message, and get the iPod crowd thinking about how "magical" the new tablet could be. That message was set out in all marketing Apple produced for the iPad. Every time you turned on your TV, you got the message; picked up print publications, you got the message; stepped outside and saw huge billboards, the message bombarded you. Remember the iconic iPod silhouette ads that made millions want the iPod? That same effect was created with the consistent iPad marketing from day one.

Apple didn't stop with just the marketing; it created a retail system that gave the same message. Whether prospective iPad buyers were visiting the Apple online store or a physical retail outlet, the message was front and center. The iPad was magical, the experience with it was everything a buyer could want, it was another iconic product in the vein of the iPod. This was the coup de grace from Apple, carrying the magical marketing experience right to the cash register.

This consistent marketing experience from Apple is something that competitors simply cannot reproduce. These companies are coming from a computer background for the most part, and they are set up to market new products to the audience that buys computers. That's why promotions around most Android tablets have tried to appeal to the tech-savvy crowd. Remember the early Motorola XOOM ads? Like virtually all tablet ads, they missed the iPad target market completely.

Even if companies producing Android tablets or HP with the TouchPad get the marketing message right to appeal to the iPod crowd, and I'm not sure they can, they still fall miserably short at the retail experience. Apple recognizes the importance of carrying the promotion all the way to the register, and competitors cannot do that. These companies either don't sell tablets themselves, leaving the important shopping experience to others, or their online retail operations are falling short at committing the buyer because these stores were designed for computer buyers.

If you don't believe that, simply visit hp.com and try to buy a TouchPad. It's in the Home & Home Office section, and the first thing you see is not magical marketing, it's a small sales page that compares the two models of the TouchPad. No pizazz, no marketing, just click to buy.

The same holds true for all online retailers selling tablets. They are designed for selling computers, and expect the customer to have some idea what they want coming in. Their sites aim to help you decide between competing products, which assumes some prior knowledge. There is no sales technique at play, simple point and click to buy. Or to leave, which is apparently what most customers are doing if sales numbers are accurate.

Physical retailers are even worse for non-iPads than the abysmal mixed online experience. Go in any Best Buy or other big box retailer that carries tablets and there's no telling what you'll find. Maybe there will be a counter with tablets scattered all over. Maybe some of them will actually work. The only consistent part of the retail buying experience for tablets is that the sales reps don't know much about any of the products, much less help you decide which one is right for you. They don't care, frankly, and that message gets through loud and clear.

The sad part of this whole tablet debacle is that many of the products not selling are quite good. They are no iPad, as we are all fond of saying, but they are decent products that would serve the market just fine. That market will never end up getting near them, unfortunately, and will certainly never be shown why they should buy one.

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Topics: Tablets, Apple, Collaboration, Hardware, iPad, Laptops, Mobility

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  • RE: Why consumers won't buy tablets (unless they're iPads)

    It looks like what you are trying to say is that people buy iPads because they do not know what they are buying, while techie crowd who know what is what wont buy iPad but other producer tablets ... so I believe it's up to techies to tell people whats the difference and what they should expect from a tablet so that people should not waste their money in vain ...
    AdnanPirota
    • RE: Why consumers won't buy tablets (unless they're iPads)

      @AdnanPirota Many techies buy iPads
      IAmMarty
      • RE: Why consumers won't buy tablets (unless they're iPads)

        @IAmMarty

        Yeah, market to the lowest common denominator, alas. Techie or otherwise.

        [i]~~~~~~~~~~
        The Art of IT; Easy to enter -- Hard to master...
        ~ Dr. Dobb's

        Advertising is 85% confusion and 15% commission.
        ~ Fred Allen, American humorist (1894-1956)

        You can fool all the people all the time if the advertising is right and the budget is big enough.
        ~ Joseph E. Levine

        Advertising may be described as the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it.
        ~ Stephen Leacock

        Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.
        ~ Mark Twain[/i]
        WinTard
      • RE: Why consumers won't buy tablets (unless they're iPads)

        @IAmMarty
        I bought an Ipad, and an Ipad2 both I do not use. I do use my zoom and my asus pad alot.
        The lack of flash and the closed system is the main two reasons I do not touch my ipads anymore.+

        I dont need "Big Brother " Steve telling me what I can and can not do with equipment I own.
        rparker009
      • RE: Why consumers won't buy tablets (unless they're iPads)

        @rparker009

        If the lack of flash and closed system of the ipad bothered you, then why did you buy the ipad2 as well? Kinda hypocritical to pound on "Big Brother Steve" when you have conributed $700+ to his company with just those 2 purchases.

        Let me guess, you are taking a stand with the IPad3?
        gandalas
      • RE: Why consumers won't buy tablets (unless they're iPads)

        @IAmMarty Dumb wannabe techies buy iPads.
        blueskip
      • RE: Why consumers won't buy tablets (unless they're iPads)

        @blueskip Techies that want devices that cause very little in terms of headaches and do lots of useful things buy iOS devices. Also, the mainstream consumers that could give a darn less about sitting in a spaceship and opening 10,000 apps at one time buy iPads. And out of those millions of people that own iPads, I don't think any of them miss Flash and desktop operating systems all that much.
        Champ_Kind
      • RE: Why consumers won't buy tablets (unless they're iPads)

        @IAmMarty
        Not so . Any self respecting techie would not buy an ipad as it is so limited in what it can do and just basically not compatible with what real techies do. It seems the most i see using the ipad are people in their 50's and kids who parents give them money for whatever just to make sure jr has a new toy. the ipad comes with the stigma of over priced yuppie toy that people love the name more then functionality. i have manmy different tablets and found the Samsung tab line, Xoom, Asus ,Toshiba Thrive and iconia tablets all out do the ipad 2 at lower costs. the ipad is just so dorky and yesterday while over priced for the typical apple user who is not very tech minded.
        Fletchguy
      • RE: Why consumers won't buy tablets (unless they're iPads)

        @@rparker009<br><br>So if we are to believe you, you went out and bought the first gen iPad which you claim you don't use. You then realized it did not offer Flash and that Apple was a closed (well integrated, vertical approach) company. But after learning this for the very first time (yeah right), you still went out and purchased the iPad 2 from the same company, which you also don't use??
        dave95.
      • RE: Why consumers won't buy tablets (unless they're iPads)

        @fltechguy [b]Not so . Any self respecting techie would not buy an ipad as it is so limited in what it can do and just basically not compatible with what real techies do. [/b]

        Oh, like what exactly? What can it not do that the other tablets can? Flash? Please... there IS a reason why flahs blockers are the top downloaded/ most popular browser extension/add on. So barring Flash what else?[b]

        It seems the most i see using the ipad are people in their 50's and kids who parents give them money for whatever just to make sure jr has a new toy. [/b]

        Funny most of the people I see with iPads are in their 30's... and I see a lot more iPads in the wild than any other tablet. Next.[b]

        the ipad comes with the stigma of over priced yuppie toy that people love the name more then functionality. [/b]

        Now THIS is the ABAer in you just bursting at the seams...[b]

        i have manmy different tablets and found the Samsung tab line, Xoom, Asus ,Toshiba Thrive and iconia tablets all out do the ipad 2 at lower costs. [/b]

        Outdo how? [b]

        the ipad is just so dorky and yesterday while over priced for the typical apple user who is not very tech minded.[/b]

        I find it quite amusing that manufacturers are doing their best to emulate the success of that "dorky overpriced yuppified outdated" device... so much in fact that Samsung slavishly copied it right down to the packaging.
        athynz
      • @Fletchguy: So you are the buyer of all the Android tablets.

        @IAmMarty

        <i>"i have manmy different tablets and found the Samsung tab line, Xoom, Asus ,Toshiba Thrive and iconia tablets"</i>

        Wondered who the individual was that bought all the Android tablets. So you are saying it takes multiple tablets to get anything done on the Android tablets? You can be a techie and not believe tech has to be difficult, hard to use and a PITA to configure.
        Bruizer
      • Well...

        @IAmMarty to be fair, until recently there really hasn't been any serious competition for the iPad. The Xoom was completely overpriced and the original Galaxy Tab was also a little to expensive and for a long time both were tethered to an expensive cell carrier with expensive data plans. Pulling out these marketing and financial disasters it is safe to say Apple has had a good 2+ year head start on this market. Yet, with Android phones gaining in popularity, and Android tablets finally becoming a viable alternative, I think you will see that within the next couple of years Apple's dominance will be put in its place. Why? Because people will not want to buy apps to support two OSes and with Android taking lead in the cell phone market, it is natural consumers would buy something they can load all their current paid apps on as well. Does this mean Apple will be filing for chapter 13? No, of course not. However, it is very VERY likely they will no longer have the strangle hold they do now...unless they win these bogus law suits and block all manfacturers from making tablets.
        ExploreMN
      • Why Techies Are Not Big Fans of the iPad

        @athynz
        You're right that it's generally not anything to do with Flash that makes techies not big fans of the iPad. Rather it's because it has no USB host capability, no flash memory card capability, no mass storage mode for connecting to a computer, and no ability to load apps from other sources than the app store.
        CFWhitman
      • @Fletchguy

        "the ipad comes with the stigma of over priced yuppie toy that people love the name more then functionality"
        ...
        "i have manmy different tablets"

        Ya just gotta love people that in one paragraph talk about what a waste of money it is to buy an iPad, and then in a later paragraph brag about all the tablets they own, figuring we'll just assume that throwing hundreds of dollars after hundreds of dollars after hundreds of dollars on different tablets is a wise use of money.
        baggins_z
    • RE: Why consumers won't buy tablets (unless they're iPads)

      @AdnanPirota <br>no, that's not what he is saying. he is actually saying that apple marketing is genius while everyone else s marketing sucks!!<br>and with this i will have to agree. the point is due to apples marketing, people know what they are getting, but with other marketing its unknown. haha you got it backwards!
      rocketboy5114
      • RE: Why consumers won't buy tablets (unless they're iPads)

        @rocketboy5114 Really, what was the last iPad commercial you have seen and how often have you seen them?

        Apple's products sell on brand recognition.
        slickjim
      • RE: Why consumers won't buy tablets (unless they're iPads)

        @Peter Perry

        I see iPad commercials quite often (ok, i see them fly by when fast forwarding through the TiVo).

        And what you're saying is that a commercial, such as this one, showing you some actual usage of the thing doesn't help sell them?

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_gQHtXsLtU&feature=channel_video_title

        Notice its a bunch of different clips of people doing some useful stuff with it. Not one guy with ADD loading up as many apps as he can, just because (while he's sitting in some futuristic ship type thing).
        tk_77
      • RE: Why consumers won't buy tablets (unless they're iPads)

        @Peter Perry
        Another in your long history of assertions you make with ZERO evidence. You can point to NOTHING that bolsters this claim that people buy Apple based only on brand recognition. In fact, the data show the opposite. As does basic logic, which admittedly you have a problem with.
        First, there was no brand value when the first iPods came out. Apple built the brand by the quality of the product. When the first Windows version came out, there was even less brand recognition. Again, Apple had to build the brand up from the bottom.
        Your statements to the contrary are just misinformed.
        Likewise when the first iPhone came out. The majority of purchasers were non iPod-owning Windows users. This is STILL the case, per se. The numbers make it impossible to be otherwise.
        And while this is slightly different for the iPad, the iPad itself is a "brand new" brand, and only took off due to what Apple produced. Certainly you are not going to try to claim that everything Apple makes sells well, and takes over the market. If you are, I will gladly posit counter examples to prove you wrong.
        .DeusExMachina.
      • RE: Why consumers won't buy tablets (unless they're iPads)

        @Peter Perry
        Peter, you must not be watching these ads. Apple's ads for the iPad are all about what you can do with the device. You can play music. You can edit videos. You can play games. It's a list of use cases.

        Contrast that with Moto's XOOM ad that told you that if you bought a XOOM, an alien pod would engulf you. Who wants that? Samsung is out there now talking about "superior multitasking." That might play on ZDNet, but most people have no idea what multitasking is and don't relate that to any reason to buy something.

        It's not just that The Other Guys' ads suck. It's that Apple's ads are really very good. They <i>sell</i>. They do that by telling people -- very specifically -- what the device can do for <i>them</i>.
        Robert Hahn
      • RE: Why consumers won't buy tablets (unless they're iPads)

        @rocketboy5114:

        Apple marketing is quite compelling. It's also consistent when compared to other device makers. My wife (not a techie at all) will be familiar with the Apple iPad, Nook, and maybe 1 or 2 laptop brands....that's all. She would be the type of consumer that would be interested in the product she has seen the most (iPad) in adverts. It won't be until she sits down and tries to use the device when she realizes that it may not have something some other tablet device has that would work best for her --- and then some product/brand rage would ensue --- until I figure out some kind of "work-around". She frequents a lot of sites that use Flash --- I hate going to a site & seeing that broken icon atop a blank/desolate page or where you know something is supposed to be playing --- and if that's not available, she'd just return the device and look at something else.

        I, however, wouldn't bother with the iPad unless we were planning to purchase an Apple laptop or desktop, so they would compliment each other. I don't like iTunes so much either --- would have to get an iPod or iPhone --- so I wouldn't have to convert my huge music library to the Apple music format b/c we listen to MP3 files and they're easier to share with others.
        jlt0x