Thursday, June 9, 2011

Tablet Wars: Lost before it's begun...

So I've posted this same sentiment on various blog/tech sites... why don't the competitors price their tablets LOWER than the iPad 2?

Do they really think they can charge the same (or in the Xoom's case... more) than Apple and actually get customers to try out their product? Let's see, you are fighting against great marketing, brand recognition, fan loyalty, a huge app market, a consumer-friendly UI and widespread retail ubiquity (both for product and accessories) and you think you can price your product the same?

No wonder most of the "better" tablets have continued to fail to gain the market share to be called a true iPad alternative. Let's look at the list:

Samsung Galaxy Tab 7": Ran phone UI, was priced the same or more to begin with and did not come out with a WiFi only version until a few months ago.

Xoom 10": More like Boom. I don't think I need to detail the problems other than (1) Priced MORE than the iPad 2 and (2) The WiFi version also came out later.

ViewSonic G-Tablet 10": Virtually no retail presence, does not ship with Honeycomb, priced $100 less but hardware isn't exactly "quality".

RIM Playbook 7": Nice quality tablet, but no native email/calendar hampers it. And priced the same as iPad for a smaller form factor... huh?

Acer Iconia A500 10": $50 less than iPad 2, good hardware and design but less battery life, bigger and heavier.

Asus EEE Pad Transformer 10": $100 less than iPad 2, good hardware (although build is a bit plastic-y), great battery life, bigger and heavier. This is one of the few tablets that were very hard to find in the initial release due to its price and ability to become a netbook (with $150 add-on keyboard dock). The problem here is retail presence, while the techies are aware of it, the average consumer is not.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1" (version 2.0): So upon seeing the new iPad 2, Sammy went back and re-did the Tab 10.1 to be thinner and lighter... which was a good move... but... there were some sacrifices. One of the things the Android tablets like to emphasize is the ability to have external memory (via SD or micro-SD) and external ports (HDMI/USB)... the new Tab has neither. Boo. AND... they priced it the same as the iPad 2. Yeah... they learned to make the hardware better (which by the reviews is excellent) but they forgot about making the price cheaper. And... only available in one store in NY on their release date, will be in other stores by June 17. An 8.9" version will be out but pricing has not been specified (it better be cheaper).

HP Touchpad 10": There is an overall agreement that webOS (formerly from Palm) is an excellent OS with a very friendly UI. The big knock is could HP be too little too late? While they have a better retail presence than the other companies... can they effectively market the Touchpad better than Apple? And without the app market of Android or iOS... they are already behind. So what do they price it at? Yeah... you guessed it... the SAME as the iPad. Bleh. Out on July 1st but I'm not expecting a big rush for this one.

Then there is gamut of cheaper Android products at all different form factors and more coming out... Vizio is supposed to be coming out with a $349 10" tablet.... we'll see what the specs look like.

Personally, I bought an Asus Transformer because it was $100 cheaper, I used that savings to buy the keyboard dock which not only adds netbook capability to my tablet but also increases battery life over 60% (so it can last longer than the iPad 2). The ability to load all my own files onto it either through connecting directly to my laptop or to an external drive makes it more functional for me. In addition, the tweaks that Asus added (keyboard with number row) and peripheral apps (MyCloud/Splashtop to control other PCs remotely) were part of my decision. My only knocks are it does not run Netflix (yet), no AdHoc WiFi and the build quality isn't the greatest (the plastic creaks in certain areas) but the IPS screen is nice and the docking/netbook solution solved multiple needs for me.

So what is my take? Well... if they are not going to beat Apple's price at the 10" size... they shouldn't even try. They should give up on the 10" market, concentrate on 7-8" tablets at lower price points (especially since Steve Jobs said Apple won't go there) and once Honeycomb is mature enough (probably at Ice Cream) and they can seriously undercut the iPad... then re-address the 10" market. Although by then, the iPad 3 will probably be even thinner and lighter and cost $100 less (rumor is Apple could have cut prices on the iPad 2 by $100 but didn't because no one else was really beating them on price).

The saying is "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em"... in this case if you can't beat them, you can't even think of standing next to them. Come out with a quality 10" tablet at $350, and you *might" be able to run in this race.