For months leading up to Steve Jobs’ demonstration of the iPad, tech blogs and so-called “news” sites had been hyping up the new touchscreen Apple tablet. After the announcement, many people (not just tech blogs and “news” sites) were disappointed. Where was the webcam? Where was Flash? No 1080p video? Isn’t it just a giant iPod Touch? Nevertheless, it’s sold almost half a million, and within months probably millions more… all in the first generation (and smart Apple fans always wait until at least second generation to buy new products).
Meanwhile, I keep seeing all these tech blogs and so-called “news” sites talking about “iPad killers” (you know, the same way they talked about iPod killers and iPhone killers). Oh, this tablet is going to be the iPad killer. We got a hold of some secret demo pre-release of this tablet that’s going to be the iPad killer. Tell you what—I don’t know when these supposed iPad killers are supposed to come out, but they’d better come out soon if they’re even going to maim or scratch up the iPad, let alone kill it! I read about how some tablet was going to come out by the end of summer or another by the end of the year. It’s April. By May or June, Apple will have sold millions of iPads. Once that happens, the iPad will be the definitive touchscreen tablet device that all other touchscreen tablet devices will be compared to. And, even relatively rich (i.e., not filthy rich but still well off) people have only so much disposable income. If they have a choice between buying an iPad now and buying a non-existent iPad competitor later, they’re probably going to go with the iPad now. And once that that competitor shows up later, the money will have already been spent on the iPad, more applications will have been developed for the iPad, more movies will have featured Hollywood actors using the iPad, and the rest will be history.
Why are Apple’s competitors moving so slowly? Don’t they remember what happened with the iPhone? Right after it came out, other companies were scrambling to make similar smartphones. But the Instinct and Storm got bad reviews. WebOS was marketed badly. (I personally didn’t get a WebOS phone, because I knew Google’s Android would be bigger.) Meanwhile, Google seemed to be just twiddling its thumbs while millions of people bought iPhones. The first iPhone came out in the middle of 2007. The first Android phone didn’t appear until the end of 2008… and the G1 was kind of weak—be honest. Almost a full year later, the MyTouch 3G (also known as the HTC Magic) appeared on the scene. I bought that phone. It sucks compared to the iPhone 3GS. It’s sluggish. It’s bulky. The touchscreen requires you to press harder to get any kind of response. It wasn’t until the end of 2009 that Droid made a big splash for Android, and then the beginning of 2010 that the Nexus One appeared. That’s nearly three years after the first iPhone appeared. Already there is quite an iPhone ecosystem: iPhone covers, iPhone adapters, iPhone apps, iPhone users. I can’t tell you how many friends and acquaintances I have who own iPhones. I can count my Android-using friends on one hand. It doesn’t matter how cool Android 2.1 is. People who have iPhones and have had them for years already own the product and are used to using it. It’ll take a lot more than a product just being better to get them to switch to something else.
If iPad rivals want to upset Apple, they have to release their products now. I’m not kidding. If people right now see a touchscreen tablet with no webcam, no Flash, 720p video, no USB ports for $499 and then see another touchscreen tablet with a webcam, Flash, 1080p video, and USB ports for $499, a lot of them will opt to buy the latter. But that’s right now. By August or December, it’s too late. And certainly by 2011 it’s too late. The Apple brand is strong, and its marketing deadlier. Once people start associating “touchscreen tablet” with “iPad,” the iPad won’t be one tablet among many tablets; it will be the tablet, and everything else will just be laughable “iPad killers.” Yeah, ICD Gemini and Notion Ink Adam, I’m talking to you. Eric Schmidt, if Google has an Android tablet, better unveil it soon.