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Apple Keeps Android Tablets at Bay with the iPad2

The iPad 2 isn't a "magical" update of the iPad, but it's an incremental update that's good enough to keep Apple on top of the tablet market for another year. Sad panda for Android.

The iPad 2 is finally out the door with a slew of updates, though nothing truly “magical.” Unfortunately for Android fans, it’s also still enough to keep Apple’s lead on the market. Apple’s pricing and “good enough” hardware, combined with superior application selection, will easily keep Android at bay another year. Sorry Android and Linux fans.

You couldn’t help but see iPad 2 coverage this week if you went near a tech publication. Yes, sorry, I’m adding to that. I won’t beat a dead horse and recount the features and apps that Apple put forward Wednesday. Suffice it to say that the iPad 2 is no major leap forward for the tablet: It’s faster, has front and back cameras, and it’s a wee bit thinner. None of that adds up to a major leap forward — but Apple didn’t need to leap forward, it just needs to stay ahead of the emerging Android tablet competition. That, Apple is doing quite competently.

MeeGo and webOS? Sorry, they’re not even in the running until they start shipping devices. As Seth Godin so accurately points out, winners ship. The only players right now are Android and Apple, and on tablets Android is still far behind.

Apple is standing toe-to-toe with Android tablets on hardware, and well ahead when it comes to software. Consider the Xoom tablet, shipping now with Android 3.0. If you look at the hardware and such, you might mistake the Xoom as the tablet most people would want. (Motorola did.) It has a higher resolution screen, it plays Flash (or will someday), and has a tabbed browser.

Unfortunately, it also has a higher price tag, far less name recognition, fewer apps to choose from, and it’s a potentially dead-end device.

What do I mean dead-end device? Apple’s control of the iOS/iPad platform has some serious lock-in — but it also leaves no doubt that Apple is fully behind the device. Most of the Android tablets, like the Xoom, are first-generation efforts in market that is still sorting itself out. Motorola couldn’t have made this more obvious — go look at the Xoom page for all the features that will have to be enabled through software updates “sometime” this year. Maybe the Xoom will have successor devices, or maybe it’ll just fade into obscurity if the sales don’t do well. Also consider how uneven upgrades have been in the Android world. Whether you get Android updates seems to depend on where you live, whims of the carriers, and whether a burrowing mammal happened to see it shadow recently. Love Apple or hate ‘em, you know everybody is getting the iOS updates at the same time. So if you are in the market for a tablet, why take what seems to be a risky step by investing in Android?

Think I’m exaggerating? Users are already seeing a recently launched device (the 7″ Galaxy Tab) consigned to the dustbin while it’s still on the market, because it won’t support Honeycomb. Note, this is also why I’ve advised friends against taking advantage of the discounted first-generation iPads Apple is burning through until it releases the iPad 2. I’d bet a steak dinner that the original iPad will not be able to run the next major (iOS 5) update because it won’t have the horsepower. Much like the original iPhone and iPhone 3G that are more or less paperweights as far as Apple is concerned.

The Xoom is unlikely to sell one-tenth as well as the iPad 2. Why? Price, availability, immaturity, and applications (or lack thereof).

Let’s talk price first. You can pick up a 16GB iPad 2 on March 11 for $499. OK, so $500 for the basic (no 3G) iPad 2 against $799.00 for the Xoom at full retail — or $599.00 for a 2-year contract on Verizon. At best, you can get a fully loaded Xoom for $100 more than the entry price for the iPad 2 — but then you’re saddled with a two-year hitch on Verizon for data (or a mere $350 early termination fee). Compare that to the month-to-month data plans for the iPad 2.

Availability — You can buy an iPad easily, without going through a carrier, in a store or online. How many Xooms do you see on the shelves at Walmart? How many opportunities do you have to have a hands-on experience with the Xoom? I had a chance to toy with one for about two minutes last weekend at SCALE (it was nice enough) but I’d have to go well out of my way to find one at a store. The iPad, on the other hand, is really easy to lay hands on.

As a side note, it doesn’t help the Android market that folks have to do so much research to figure out which Android tablet to buy if they want Android. For geeks, choice may be a good thing — for many folks, it’s just confusing. It’s much easier to just go with Apple.

We’ve already covered immaturity a bit. Android 3.0 is the first release that’s actually designed for tablets. And even now, with a shipping device, it’s not yet ready for prime time. They tout Flash (ugh) but it’s not even shipping for the tablet yet. By the way, even though Apple is doing it for the wrong reasons — I’m still glad they’re refusing Flash on the iPad. I hope Web developers are looking at the iPad numbers and deciding that it’s not worth it to create sites that depend heavily on Flash. If we never see another site that starts with a Flash landing page, we all owe Steve Jobs at least a tiny bit of gratitude.

Do we even have to talk apps? Yes, Android has made huge strides in the last year. But most of the apps that they’ve landed are for phones, not tablets. So, they’re a bit behind even with the major applications like Evernote that you’d want on a tablet. (Or I’d want, your wants may differ.) And games? Let’s not go there. Big sad panda for Android here.

So do the comparison: A proven platform, with a cheaper sticker price for all but one model, no contract required versus an unproven and immature platform. The Xoom is being pushed out without the support for Flash, without the vaunted 4G LTE, and even without support for larger microSD cards that would put it on par with the iPad 2′s 64GB model’s storage. Unless you’re a die-hard Android enthusiast or Apple-hater (or both), why would you pick the Android device?

What about open versus closed? I know hardcore free software fans are going to turn up their noses (again) at the iPad 2 and scoff at the closed nature of the device. In an ideal world that would be a major factor in market success. Guess what? The folks that are in the market for a tablet (or an upgrade) aren’t shopping for idealism, they’re looking for the best overall device — and open doesn’t really factor into their equation. So iPad 2 will fail with the free software enthusiast crowd, but Apple really isn’t going to lose sleep over not penetrating a market that consists of maybe 0.2% of the potential tablet buyers.

How Android can Win, Eventually

Here’s a suggestion to Motorola and Samsung, since they seem to have the best of the current crop of Android tablets: Undercut Apple on price, particularly when you’re expecting users to sign up for a carrier contract for data. Maybe this will erode profit margins in the short term, but you’re trying to buy into a market that with an already well-established leader. And offer more than one tablet per line, including Wi-Fi only versions. While I wish I’d picked up a 3G tablet instead of Wi-Fi only, a lot of people have no need for a mobile data plan on a tablet.

I’d recommend doing so sooner rather than later. Apple’s launch on March 11 is likely to do well and look better. The company is pushing people to physical stores or forcing them to wait until March 11 to place orders online, which will help ensure Apple the long lines at stores that garner even more press. (Yes, it’s a cheap trick. Yes, it will work.) When’s the last time you saw anyone waiting in line to get a Xoom or Android device?

I suspect, in the long run, the fleet of Android tablet devices will outsell iOS tablets. Especially since vendors are willing to experiment with 7″ tablets that will appeal to a lot of users, whereas Apple seems to be shunning that form factor. If I could buy a Wi-Fi only 7″ Galaxy Tab without a carrier contract, I’d probably nab one even if it won’t get Android 3.0.

But that’s eventually, and only if the manufacturers get their act together — but it looks like Apple is going to own the 2011 tablet market just like it did 2010. Pity.

Comments on "Apple Keeps Android Tablets at Bay with the iPad2"

pmporter

Good article!
Why is it that big companies like Motorola and Samsung can’t figure these market dynamics? Maybe they should hire you as a consultant…

Reply
croxwire

Kind of Fox news style of reporting. On Xoom’s Page you can buy from motorola, Best Buy, Verizon. Also kind of weird that you make a comparison between ipad with no 3g, when Xoom you can get it with 3g so you are willing to get a ipad with no 3g, when you can pay a 100 dollars more (than an ipad with no 3g) and get a Xoom with a 2 year contract?

I know you want to prove your point since its in the title, but I would hope there would be a better representation of the facts.

I believe both systems to be immature, just because one has more applications on it doesn’t make it mature.

If you find yourself clicking around trying to figure out how to do something in an application that isn’t a third party program, then it shows the makers of the device has a long way to go. And both have a long way to go.

I will wait for the next generation to see if either can do a better job.

Reply
    jzb

    “Kind of Fox news style of reporting.”

    Hey now. There’s no need to be rude.

    “Also kind of weird that you make a comparison between ipad with no 3g, when Xoom you can get it with 3g so you are willing to get a ipad with no 3g, when you can pay a 100 dollars more (than an ipad with no 3g) and get a Xoom with a 2 year contract?”

    It’s not that you *can* get it with 3G, you can’t get it without. I’d like the option of buying a Wi-Fi only device that isn’t $800, so no – the comparison isn’t weird. Apple gives a spectrum of prices ($500 to $850) where Motorola gives one: $800 or $600 with a two-year carrier contract. Not much of a choice.

    “I believe both systems to be immature, just because one has more applications on it doesn’t make it mature.”

    Good for you. But you’re in the minority.

    Reply
      severian37

      For myself, I’ll be in the same minority. I have an Android phone, a cheap one at that, the T-Mobile Comet, that does everything I need it to. If I have to ssh into a server for a quick remote fix, I can do it; in fact, I did it yesterday from a hospital.

      I also have an ipod touch that I bought before the smart phone. Both devices have about the same abilities, but I hate both of them for the same crappy flaw of both platforms – buying from iTunes and the Android Marketplace. Their searches are worthless, unsortable, and many of the app reviews appear to be subjective.

      The Android platform, like everything else Google does, is very poorly documented. I want to like it, but it’s a real pain to find useful, up-to-date information on features and hacks.

      Apple’s issues all stem from their closed system, but that, in itself, is hackable and made more useful for now.

      Both of them, as Crosswire said, are in their infancy, and therefore not worth my spending $500 to $800 on what are essentially larger versions of a smartphone or ipod.

      I have a laptop for that.

      Reply
      cbemerine

      I really want a Linux, root-able, tablet. No Root = Not Smart.

      Even the Nokia N800 had two fully functional Micro USB slots back in 2006…it also had WiFi, Webcam, HD Video, GPS Slot, Bluetooth and more. So for any Linux tablet not to have that at a minimum in 2011 is simply unacceptable.

      Now that Nokia has officially gone to the dark side; CEO from MS and $1 Billion pay out to focus on Windows 7, it is only a matter of time before it ceases to become a viable option…. At least now we all understand why they ignored Maemo (now Meego) and also know that Symbian will be paid lip service, but will fail as well. A Company like Microsoft does not spend $1 Billion to get their operating system onto your company’s phones with any long term interest in any other operating system.

      I know there are full blown Linux tablets available, but telling me that it has Android, is not enough. Can I get access to Root, if so okay, if not I will not purchase it.

      Ultimately we pay our hard earned money for a device, no way in HE double hockey sticks (LL) we should not expect to be able to put the software of our choice, free or purchased on the dang thing.

      If not ROOT access, DO NOT PURCHASE! Ultimately it will only let you down, one way or another.

      Bonus points if you verified that the chip-sets in he device our open sourced as well, non of the cellular company offerings are, they use proprietary chip-sets which can only come back to haunt you down the road…best to avoid them as well.

      While the Kno Tablet is impressive, the Micro USB port is for support / client access only and that is too bad…but it does use Ubuntu, so may be rootable. Here are the specs:

      $599 – Kno Single screen tablet

      $899 – Kno Dual Screen tablet (opens like a book)

      Dual-core ARM© Cortex™-A9 MPCore (1 GHz)
      Nvidia Tegra T200 series CPU
      512MB of RAM (probably have tablets with even more but Linux will run with less than this even)
      16GB – 32GB storage
      Two 14.1” screens (Dual version)
      WiFi, Bluetooth, Accelerometer, Microphone, Headphone jack, Ambient Light sensor, etc…
      6 hour battery life.
      Micro USB port (client mode only – support services only…fail)
      Audio formats supported: AAC-LC, ACC, MP3, WMA 10, PCM/WAV
      Ubuntu 9.10

      Reply

        Agree with cbemerine. Just bought an ipad2. The device is good but the support software (itunes) and no root access is killing me. As a committed Linux (Ubuntu and Mint) user, this Apple system is just not what I need and are looking for another option.

        Reply
      josir

      I do not agree with the “Kind of Fox news style of reporting”.
      But the comparision with just ONE of thousand of android tablets was very simplistic.

      For example, with my Archos 70 (US$300,00) I can watch videos in HD, plug it on my TV to see movies with Blueray resolution without having a Blueray expensive and bloated equipment.

      I can surf in the web using Flash and watch YouTube at HD also.
      I can plug the tablet on my Linux Box and upload/download videos, audios, photos without any hassle or extra softwares or locked apps.

      As I am, there should be lots of happy users using Android tablets around the world: Italians, Indians, Brazilian are building their own tablets customized to their reality/culture.

      Comparing just one Android model is a black and white vision.
      Android is a rainbow that will let reviewers crazy :)

      Reply
herdivet

I agree with croxwire – if you set up a section of an article to compare two devices on price, why pick the ‘basic’ model of one, and compare it to the full featured model of the other. Why not compare models with the most similar feature sets? I’m not in the market for a tablet device, so I don’t have a lot of pricing information. After reading this article, I felt I still had no idea what the price differential was. I think I saw a comparison of an entry level Chevy Aveo priced at $11,965, with a Ford Fiesta SEL at $18,090. One has an automatic transmission, power everything and all the luxury options, and costs 7K more, so the price is better for the other? Sounds like Apples to oranges.

Personally, I’ll get a laptop and have ALL the features I want – and pay less.

Reply
    jzb

    The same reason that people compare basic PCs against the price of Apple machines – because you can get a PC for X and the Apple machine for X+$200 (or something like that). You’re not walking out the door with a Xoom for less than $600, period + carrier costs, or $800 w/no carrier cost.

    On the other hand, you can buy a iPad for $500. And that is how most people are going to look at it, whether you agree it’s a reasonable comparison or not.

    Odd that the shoe is on the other foot here – in the PC market, Apple is the one with fewer models and more expensive offerings. In the tablet market they’re the ones with more options (at least for the 10″ tablet market) and least expensive offering.

    Reply
uduogah

Wifi-only version and 3g version are now up on pre-order in the UK at Dixons/PC-World and Carphonewarehouse

Reply
    radleym

    1. So you agree with the people who compare cheap PCs to expensive Apples? Or just when you benefit?
    2. I’ve been using a 7″ android with 2.2 then 2.3. The apps all scale fine so far. If you have evidence to the contrary, please be specific.
    3. Same with the “lack” of apps for android – with 10s of thousands available for each, you need to be specific – what am I missing?
    Repetition of unsubstantiated generalities won’t advance the discussion.

    Reply
mvieru

very good article!
Conclusion: for non IT people it’s a no-brainer … iPad is the safer way to go. Price wise … likewise.

Reply
excaliber27

I have to agree with croxwire. But I also see more devices running Android than iOS these days.
Android is coming up harder and faster. Which brings it down to “availability”.
I own a Samsung Galaxy S Captivate phone and I have to admit, I didn’t expect to see it here in Canada this early. So I’m a very happy owner. Moreso than people I know with the iPhone.
Apple is “scambling” to keep up with the fast-moving Android market. And like it’s outlined in the beginning of this article. There is nothing “magical” about the newer iPad 2.
How often do you read about Android devices coming with bigger & sharper screen’s, better camera’s, app’s, and more horsepower out of the box? Always.
I see this year will lend to big advantages for Android and Linux lover’s in the marketplace. That same availability with the tablet market as the smartphone coming to fruition.

Reply
    jzb

    “How often do you read about Android devices coming with bigger & sharper screen’s, better camera’s, app’s, and more horsepower out of the box?”

    The point though, is – who cares? Bigger & sharper screens? Meh. Better camera? Meh. Apps? Sorry – no. Android lags hideously here, and that’s what I really care about.

    Yes, hardware-wise, Android has an edge on some tablets. Problem is, faster hardware and sexy displays are sort of like having a better and sexier TV with basic cable vs. the full schmear of channels on a 720p TV. I’ll take the 720.

    Reply
amoeba13

Hmm, what about the Adam from Notion Ink? It has better specs than the iPad and I can use a SD memory card, usb flash drives (and usb devices for that matter) and it is priced like the apple iPad (starting at around $400 with standard glossy touch screen). The only problem with the Adam is availability, currently you need to order at least a month in advance (first run sold better than expected) and you can only get one (for now). Having setup an iPad for someone, I’ll wait…

Reply
    espinozaa

    You are comparing xoom and ipad prices for different specs and your argument is that ppl dont have the option to buy xoom less than $800 but you are missing the point that you have the option of buying an android tablet just for $240(maybe less in china and india) for lower specs. And that’s a much better range than ipad.

    And I’m a developer myself targeting both platforms. You are completely right if you meant games when you mentioned applications. But android has it’s unique advantages like widgets and accessing to phone contacts and utils which makes the richer vareity for apps.

    Also for regular people it’s usually not about the price but about the trend. And it looks like you will be in the minority within 2-3 years.

    Reply
myrddin22

“If we never see another site that starts with a Flash landing page, we all owe Steve Jobs at least a tiny bit of gratitude.”

Can I get an AMEN! Die Flash Die!

Reply
    josir

    Wake up man! With Android, you have extensions to disable Flash if you do not want to see it. The problem was not Flash. The problem is the site admin that do not respect users putting the landing page. If Flash didn’t exist, those lousy webdev would create another invasive technology.

    Reply
smastny

One other thing of note. The cost comparison is not fully accurate either. You need to compare as close to apples to apples. The comparison from the Xoom and the ipad aren’t even close to the same. Try to pick a closer match, yes there is ipads that are 16GB, the Xoom is 32GB. Price difference is not nearly as considerable when comparing the 32 GB iPad or new iPad 2 as opposed to the Xoom. The difference is $100 or less.

Reply
    aicsarehigh

    Ah, but the point was that people are and will continue to pay for the IPad more often than an Android-pad. That one salient fact totally negates any argument about open/closed. If no one buys it, does it matter if it’s open?

    I work in IT consulting and have seen more IPads than I can count. Number of Android-pads seen in the wild:zero.

    Reply
indigo196

Well… there is a Xoom w/o – 3/4g – but comparing a device that has 3/4g and 32GB of built in memory to a device that does not have 3/4g and has 16GB of memory seems a bit… well skewed.

An Apple with the same memory and 3/4g would be $729. The Motorola device without 3/4g is coming (http://www.amazon.com/MOTOROLA-XOOM-Android-Tablet-Wi-Fi/dp/B0045FM6SU/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1300798435&sr=8-2). This device will also have 32GB of internal memory. This device will be only $599. Which is the exact same price as the Apple 32GB model.

Both devices have an expansion slot for memory — something Apple leaves out.

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