Will Android tablets always play second fiddle to the iPad?

Moderated by Josh Gingold | March 19, 2012 -- 07:00 GMT (00:00 PDT)

Summary: Robin Harris sees the iPad continuing to rule, while Chris Dawson says Android will dominate the market's long tail.

Robin Harris

Robin Harris

Yes, iPad will rule

or

No, Android to close gap

Christopher Dawson

Christopher Dawson

Best Argument: Yes, iPad will rule

The Rebuttal

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Thank you!

    Thank you to both debaters as well as the floor. Be sure to cast your vote and then read Robin and Chris's closing arguments on March 21. I will decide who wins (!) on March 22. Thanks again.

    Posted by Josh Gingold

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Last question

    Despite any short or near terms gains in terms of market share for either device, what is your opinion on which one will likely be around the longest?

    Posted by Josh Gingold

    iPad of course

    They made the market, defined the standard, and are innovating faster than anyone else can afford. They'll stay in the lead. The race for 2nd is what's interesting. Microsoft will aim at the iPad and Android will be collateral damage. Like the iPod, the iPad will rule until something better comes along, probably from Apple.

    Robin Harris

    I am for Yes, iPad will rule

    Equally as long

    There is plenty of room for 2 platforms (or three if you throw in Windows) in the tablet/slate market. That's the beauty of market segmentation. I don't even disagree that Apple will be a market leader for a while. However, if we look at the latest superphones on the Android side, it's clear that Android OEMs are beginning to seriously innovate and the market is responding. Even the Kindle Fire, though not an awesome tablet in terms of specs, is quite innovative in some respects (especially in terms of the browser and its hooks into cloud services for rich rendering and fast loads). Neither Android nor Apple is going away anytime soon and even Microsoft has too much traction in the enterprise to be counted out of the race completely.

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for No, Android to close gap

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What consumers want

    Okay, in your opinions, what are the key market drivers for consumers? Is it any of the above (hardware, operating system, price) or perhaps something different such as the so-called Apps ecosystem?

    Posted by Josh Gingold

    Where techies and marketers disagree

    But first I have to laugh about Chris's Aston-Martin comparison. Let's be clear, Apple has 65% of the tablet market and almost all the profits. If Aston Martin had those numbers we'd be wondering how the rest of the auto industry could survive. Which is what we should be wondering about Android tablets. User experience is the key driver in a consumer market. A friend of mine, computer-phobic, got an iPad a few months ago and just loves it. It does way more than he "needs" it for and yet he is regularly thrilled to discover what else it can do for him that he never expected. There are billions more like him - and tens of millions who are mad at their PCs - who are the market for tablets. People don't care about open vs closed ecosystems or quad-core vs dual. They go for the WOW! and today, Apple delivers that and Android doesn't. And won't.

    Robin Harris

    I am for Yes, iPad will rule

    Angry birds

    I can't say that the Apps matter too much to most consumers. Can you play Angry Birds? Can you update your Facebook status? Can you tweet? Great. Either platform will handle that quite nicely. For those who can afford it, it's the hardware/software combination. Is the experience totally smooth, do videos play flawlessly, are the pixels so dense you can shine your shoes with them? For most, though, it's about the price. Can you communicate and consume content easily at a price you can afford? There's a reason that Apple kept the iPad 2 around and keeps the price of their flagship latest iPad steady at $500. And there's a reason that early high-end Android tablets with great specs but prices over $500 utterly flopped. There's also a reason that the Kindle Fire is the number 1 selling item on Amazon. The price is right. Price matters, both at the high end and the low end of the market. For all the rest, just make sure your tablet plays Words with Friends.

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for No, Android to close gap

  • Great Debate Moderator

    OS vs. HW vs. $$

    What are we really talking about here: iPad vs. Android tablets; iOS vs. Android OS; More expensive tablet vs. a less expensive tablet, or is it all of the above?

    Posted by Josh Gingold

    None of the above

    The key is that this is a consumer market. For products to be successful they have to connect with non-techie consumers emotionally. I trust that no one will argue that anyone other than Apple knows how to do this - everyone else just follows along. Yes, the market will segment. People who like looking at magazines but don't play games will gravitate to the Kindle Fire. People who hack their machines will move to powerful Android tablets. But Apple has shown it can cut prices to compete - iPod Nano - in every segment. Anyone thinking they can easily undercut the iPad is in for a rude surprise.

    Robin Harris

    I am for Yes, iPad will rule

    All of the above

    This really breaks down to 2 business models: Apple: Sell high-end hardware to (relatively) high-end consumers Google/Android: Sell a variety of hardware from which consumers and businesses pick based on their needs and budgets and then make their real money from ads, apps, and content. Google will always have nice flagship devices, but just as Microsoft did with the PC business, they will generally leave the upper crust of the market for Apple. Would anyone argue that Aston Martin is a more successful car company than Ford or Toyota? Probably not, even if Aston Martin makes some of the most compelling, desirable cars in the world. Same goes for Apple vs. Android (or Apple vs. Samsung/Acer/Toshiba/etc., depending on how you frame the market).

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for No, Android to close gap

  • Great Debate Moderator

    The Apple factor

    So far, we haven't seen anything close to pre-sales mania for any Android devices like that which we often see for Apple products and especially the iPad. Is the excitement factor an issue long-term?

    Posted by Josh Gingold

    Marketing makes a HUGE difference

    Google is clueless about marketing and most of their resellers aren't much better. One issue is the misunderstanding of consumer needs. Sure, I use gmail and Google Docs and such, but I don't see any need to move to Android because of it. The biggest threat to Android is that Google will destroy its corporate reputation by mishandling customer data - which is ultimately the business model for Android. That's where their poor understanding of consumers will bite them.

    Robin Harris

    I am for Yes, iPad will rule

    Not in the long term

    It???s very useful for those Apple margins we keep talking about. They need the large group of Apple faithful to be willing to dump their previous generation devices and go buy new devices at launch. I happily sold my iPad 2 to fund the new iPad because, while I'm no fanboi, I knew that the screen and speed of the new iPad would be important for the way I use a tablet. However, in the long term, Android doesn't need users to be excited. It needs users to want and need a tablet and look for the device they can not only afford but that fits best with their personal and business-related ecosystems. Excitement sells 3 million iPads in a weekend. Need sells tablets to the masses and, with that, serves them ads and delivers paid content to them.

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for No, Android to close gap

  • Great Debate Moderator

    All the other devices

    Chris mentions the iPod. How important are all of the other devices such as phones and iPods that are also running on each of the two operating systems?

    Posted by Josh Gingold

    Does Kindle Fire help Android when it's hidden away?

    The larger ecosystem is important for developers, but for most consumers the iPad is a substitute or partial replacement for a notebook/desktop and a smartphone - or an iPod touch - isn't. As Apple improves the iPad's technology that will become even more obvious. That will benefit the higher-end developers of business apps, driving more businesses to go with the iPad. So no, the Kindle Fire doesn't help the larger Android ecosystem very much. It isn't just about raw numbers.

    Robin Harris

    I am for Yes, iPad will rule

    Pretty important

    They???re pretty important...if you as a consumer or business have invested in a particular ecosystem (the use of Google Docs, Amazon music, iTunes, or whatever), the temptation is to stick with that ecosystem. This is certainly an advantage for those moving from their iPods to a phone or tablet, but Google makes it very easy to get your iTunes music into the cloud with Google Play Music, erasing some of that advantage for the Apple crowd. What's probably more important is where you live and breathe -if you spend your day using Google docs, checking your Gmail, etc., then there are compelling arguments against the Apple ecosystem. For developers as well, Android offers much deeper hooks into the OS, allowing for some very creative apps that can't happen with iOS. Point being, that the cloud ecosystem of choice will be more important than the hardware ecosystem of choice. Where is all of your stuff? And can you get to it easily (and, for many people, can you get to it cheaply)?

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for No, Android to close gap

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Kindle Fire

    Much of Android???s growth can be attributed to the Kindle Fire, a low-cost tablet from Amazon. Can Amazon sustain a competitive battle with Apple which arguably has higher margins?

    Posted by Josh Gingold

    Amazon isn't competing with the iPad

    Fire is just a high-end e-reader. Amazon can offer the Fire at a loss because they've got a razor/razor blade strategy. Nobody says the Fire is better than an iPad, they just say it is cheaper. Plus they've done their best to hide Android from end-users, which is a comment on how acceptable Android is to the consumer market.

    Robin Harris

    I am for Yes, iPad will rule

    Sure, because it's all about content for Amazon

    The hardware is absolutely secondary for Amazon. Apple makes plenty of money from iTunes and the App Store, but they're cash cows are their high-margin hardware offerings. For Amazon, they just need to get devices into as many hands as possible and the revenue will flow from there. How easy is it to just grab that latest book, shop from the integrated apps, or watch a movie for free with that Prime membership you paid for? It's a different approach, but one that can be just as (if not more) successful than Apple's. Robin's points about music players are important here. Everyone just listens to music on their devices now, regardless of where they bought them. iPods are toys for kids now who can't afford a phone. Much of our music (and, in fact, movies and other media) just live in the cloud now. Amazon's huge investments in the cloud bear this out.

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for No, Android to close gap

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Speaking of business models

    Which is more important, market share or revenue?

    Posted by Josh Gingold

    Neither

    In terms of creating great, must-have products, Apple would argue for revenue and more specifically, gross margins. Their gross margins have powered their investments in CNC milling, laser cutting, specialized semiconductors and advanced flash technology as well as allowing them dominate the supply chain for everything from flash to displays to air freight from Asia. But in the tablets case you'll see market share and revenue and GM tied together. Apple is and will remain the low-cost producer, which allows them to offer more for the money while keeping their margins high. You saw the success of this strategy with the iPod, which is the right market to compare tablets against. Android's success - such as it is - in smartphones is only because it was free and available. But in tablets there is one company with most of the market and everyone else will be fighting for scraps, as they did in music players.

    Robin Harris

    I am for Yes, iPad will rule

    Market share, FTW!

    It takes longer, but ultimately the largest market share will win out. Market share translates to monetization in big ways, especially when you're Google and rely on ad revenue from the mobile platforms or you're Amazon and rely on content sales. Sure, Apple has amazing margins and is both a Valley and Wall St darling, but in the long run, Android, with the potential for much larger market share, will fund both OEM and content/ad provider revenues in much more significant ways.

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for No, Android to close gap

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Windows 8 slate

    What about the Windows 8 slate? Does it have the potential to be a disruptive factor in the tablet arena?

    Posted by Josh Gingold

    All potential, no kinetic

    It is never wise to count Microsoft out, but their tablet strategy has many problems. They lack the tight integration of HW and SW that Apple excels at. They have little control over the hardware quality of their reseller's products. Their ARM-based products won't have the advantage of the huge Windows ecosystem. I think they'll have decent software, but the hardware won't measure up to Apple's because their resellers don't have the margin dollars to invest in great technologies as Apple does. Android is the likely victim as Microsoft's muscle sucks the air out of the Android business model. If there were a server market for tablets Android might win. But this is a consumer business.

    Robin Harris

    I am for Yes, iPad will rule

    Outside the enterprise? Negatory

    Microsoft has built a very impressive, highly function, and very successful enterprise ecosystem. Within that, Windows 8 slates absolutely have the potential to push Android and Apple aside (or at least be a competitor), where management and interoperability are key. However, on the consumer side (and also taking into account the power of consumerization), Windows 8 slates don't stand a chance. In fact, the consumerization issue will ultimately mean greater success even in the enterprise for Android and Apple than Microsoft will be able to generate with Win 8. Windows 8 slates will be a player there and will drive better management features across the board, but I don't believe they'll ever dominate.

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for No, Android to close gap

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Obvious question, but...

    ...where does The New iPad fit into this equation?

    Posted by Josh Gingold

    New iPad shows how weak Android tablets are

    The New iPad sold 3 million copies in 1 weekend. Android tablets total from day 1 is 12 million. Game over. The iPhone comparison is flawed: smartphones were an existing market. Apple (re)invented the tablet.

    Robin Harris

    I am for Yes, iPad will rule

    I love my new iPad, but...

    The price point for Apple's products is not sustainable once you get past the technorati, early adopters, and top 10% income brackets. Lower cost options, as well as more hackable, customizable options will eventually be demanded and purchased by the market. The new iPad sets the bar in many, many ways. However, 10" isn't optimal for some people, the Apple ecosystem isn't optimal for some, a closed development platform won't work for others, and $500 and up won't work for many more. Apple will and always has pushed the envelope on features and UI, but plenty of other competitors have been quite able to grab the mass market.

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for No, Android to close gap

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Welcome to The Great Debate!

    Robin and Chris, are you ready?

    Posted by Josh Gingold

    Ready!

    Got my iPad handy!

    Robin Harris

    I am for Yes, iPad will rule

    Ready!

    Born ready, in fact :)

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for No, Android to close gap

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Okay, let's begin!

    IDC claims that Android will overtake iOS on mobile media tablets in worldwide market share by 2015. Do you believe it and why?

    Posted by Josh Gingold

    IDC has been wrong so many times. . . .

    Like the PC and music player markets, tablets are a winner-take-all market. That is the vendor who wins early - like Microsoft on PCs and Apple on music players - tends to win long term, because the infrastructure that builds up around the winner makes it the long-term choice for business as well as consumers. Apple has shown it will cut prices when possible to grow market share. Android - and IDC - can't count on "cheaper" to win the day.

    Robin Harris

    I am for Yes, iPad will rule

    The proof is in the iPhone pudding

    That's still 2 years away, which is forever in tech-land. It took a couple years for Android to overtake the iPhone in terms of market share and the same will be the case for the iPad and the tablet market. Ultimately, the promise of inexpensive tablets and many channels (Samsung, Toshiba, Motorola, Acer, etc., etc.) will bring the Android market share ahead of Apple. Apple can't compete long term with so many different channels, although it will obviously have huge success and margins in its single OEM approach.

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for No, Android to close gap

Talkback

172 comments
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  • I think we pay too much attention to horse races

    The better question for consumers is "which device best serves my needs and wants?".
    John L. Ries
    Reply Vote I'm for No, Android to close gap
    • Agreed

      The BYOD is a fairly recent trend for smart phones and tablet computers. This trend was given quite a boost from the iPhone and iPad. In the consumer area, Apple will probably dominate but in the enterprise business there are other computing needs not met. The iPad is now in its 3rd generation but without some features I would have liked to see like the ability to add an SD memory card to increase storage. I think an Android based or even Win 8 based tablet with more flexible options would give iPad a run for the enterprise business market.
      sboverie
      Reply Vote I'm for No, Android to close gap
      • iPad will rule business

        Not sure why people still think iPad can not be used as a business platform. I have used this for the last two years with a app called Citrix. IT runs perfectly and keeps getting better. Adroid OS does not work well with Exchange servers. Which most companies use. I run 65 Driod phones and all of them have problems from missing emails, calenders, contacts and the dreaded mutiple email bomb that there is not fix for. I have twenty iphone 4 that I have not had one single problem with. Not one. The OSi vs A OS is night and day. OSi is smooth and it works with exchange and the A OS is unpolished and you expect updates every five months.
        The bigest problem for Droid lovers is that there are twenty to thirty phones and tablets that they never can get around fixing and updating the firmware. With Apple it take one firmware for all my apple devises. Just one. The ease of Apple products can not be matched...
        ser182
        Reply Vote I'm for Yes, iPad will rule
      • iPad is better suited to corporate use

        With the ability to customize your tablet (Apple has software for iDevice provisioning and management), and especially with the LACK of external storage etc. the iPad is more suited for the tightly controlled enterprise environments.

        The business environments wants stable, no surprises platform. There is only one such viable at the moment: the iPad.
        danbi
        Reply Vote I'm for Yes, iPad will rule
    • For a customer, yes

      For a developer, it is very important to pay attention to the horse race.
      Michael Kelly
      Reply Vote I'm for No, Android to close gap
      • I'll agree with that

        But there is a need for cross-platform toolkits in the mobile space. Just because portability is anathema to commerical OS developers doesn't mean that application developers should cooperate.
        John L. Ries
        Reply Vote I'm for No, Android to close gap
    • Well Stated

      I get tired of all the fanboys from all sides who denigrate the others products for no reason than they are choosing sides. John L. Ries nailed it...which device best serves my needs? I use a Windows 7 notebook for my business, an android phone and an ipad for light internet and entertainment. In each category, I have found these items to be the best fit for what I use them for. YMMV, but to rule out an item simply because you don't like the company that made it is simply a close- minded, short-sighted way to live your life. Personally, I love that I have options, and can take the time to make an educated choice.
      robbys22
      Reply Vote I'm Undecided
      • I agree but how many

        people actually buy based on their needs?
        Right now I suspect it is well under 50%.
        rhonin
        Reply Vote I'm for No, Android to close gap
      • Right so

        But the question here, to you is: would you use rather an Android tablet instead of the iPad. Why yes, why not?
        danbi
        Reply Vote I'm for Yes, iPad will rule
      • Prices are within the whim range

        @rhonin
        A need is not needed.
        Patanjali
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided