How to beat the iPad

If you have’t toyed around with an iPad yet, you should.  Its a great device and the possibilities for it – both now and in the future – are substantial.  You can read books or magazines, listen to music, surf the web, fiddle with pictures, play NBA Live, etc.  Its a pretty cool device.

In typical non-APple fashion, everyone else seems to be falling over themselves to come up with products positioned against the iPAd in some vague hope of penetrating the tablet market.  Dell, HP, Lenovo, Asus, and scores of others are demo’ing tablet/pad ideas for launch later this year or early 2011.  They’re rolling out versions of Linux, Android, Chrome, and Windows 7 in the hope that being second (or third or fourth) to the party won’t matter and fans will flock to the devices.

This of course, is stupid.  Everyone not-Apple needs to cede the high ground (re: “expensive”) and focus on two key components:

1. Make it so inexpensive that it’s disposable. The price drops for the Nook and Kindle yesterday are very telling.  The key to taking marketshare from Apple is in pricing.  Instead of trying to make a similar product to the iPad, why not make a product that costs 30-50% as much but offers 80% of the functionality?  For example, why not take a Kindle (now under $200), add a GPS sensor ($25) and let it dual boot to either the current software or to Android.  At that point the device can do a lot of what the iPad can do.  The screen isn’t as big and isn’t as sharp, it will probably stink for watching videos and viewing pictures, and it won’t be as fast as the iPad.  Who cares?  For $200, they’d sell TONS of these devices since most folks don’t need the robust functionality of the iPad.  Make a device that checks email, surfs the web, and offers e-Reader functionality and you’ve covered 95% of what people NEED a tablet for.  Then allow the natural progression of software and hardware determine what features to add in future iterations.  In other words, make the tablet experience similar to a netbook experience (and similar to a netbook price) and see what happens.  I’m excited about the Dell Streak and the Looking Glass, but I can’t see any way that the UI and user experience will be significantly different from – and better then – the iPad for them to win much market share.  Go after the low priced, low-featured side of things; there is a reason Ford sells more cars then Mercedes every year – not everyone needs, wants, nor can afford a Mercedes.

2. Attack the enterprise space HARD. Electronic Medical Records, On-site project management for construction, whatever.  Build some great, secure applications that fit the needs of professionals.  Let Apple worry about people getting on Twitter or checking facebook updates.  You could sell a tablet/pad a thousand at a time if you made it an integral part of a specific commercial space.  How many employees are at each hospital?  Each convention center?  Each job-site?  Each casino?

As a note, I think the next few months are going to be interesting if for no other reason then to see if the Kindle, Nook, and Kobo (Borders version) can keep flying off the shelves.  The reality is that the devices continue making money through consumables (Books) long after they’ve been paid for.   I think that sometime in the next 2 years you’ll see a Kindle/Nook/etc. competitor that it near a $0 pricepoint; there is simply too much money to be made in owning the mindshare of people that buy 10-20 books each year.

One Response

  1. Good call. Dell Looking Glass is set for 299.00 list price. There are rumors that Acer is targeting a device at 159.00. That would be amazing.

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