The Blog

Why Apple's Rivals Should Give up Selling Tablets

Apple have won the tablet battle - but there are wars elsewhere in the technology market still to be won.

If I hear one more journalist coin the term, "iPad killer" I may have to surgically remove their fingers. Allow me to paint a picture. Motorola's Xoom tablet, sold 440,000 units in the second quarter of this year. BlackBerry faired slightly better with around 500,000. HP's TouchPad crashed and burned without making it into quarter three. Apple's iPad meanwhile sold, 4.69 million devices - and has just stopped its main rival, Samsung from selling its tablets in several key markets.

Tablet makers should do what HP did and quit before pouring in more millions into developing new platforms that no one is going to buy, or care about. Why? Look at the numbers - a different set this time.

As of June this year, Apple sold 28.7 million of its iPads worldwide. It's predicted to ship another 20 million in the run up for Christmas. The total amount of tablets due to be sold worldwide this year is 54.7 million. That's 89 per cent of the world's tablets being sold by Apple.

When you consider there are around 150 different tablets currently on the market, that gives you an idea of just how dominant Apple are, and how successful its rivals have been in combating it.

This isn't the first time Apple has done this - and this is isn't the first time rivals have tried to stop them - Microsoft's Zune anyone? When Apple unveiled its Jonathan Ive designed iPod in 2001 - people shrugged. They weren't first to produce an mp3 player, and it was white. White! But, what made this special, and what would go on to define Apple's new technology policy is you don't have to be first, you just have to be the easiest to understand.

Before Apple started making i-things, it made a decision it was going to sell computers, not for businesses, but for people. It's main rivals at the time, Xerox and Altair were expensive - ten times as much in Xerox's case - difficult to use, and lived inside corporate offices. Apple's Macintosh, released in 1984, was designed to be a home appliance, simple like a TV or stereo. The Mac was for the home, and was designed to help make your life better.

These early seeds grew through Apple's R&D department culminating in the iPod. The product was designed to hold people's music in one place: their pocket. That's it. It didn't want to make toast for you, it just wanted to play music.

Within two years, Apple had achieved what Hoover did before it: lodge a brand name in people's minds that became the de-facto definition of a product. People no longer ask, "do you have an mp3 player?" they say, "do you have an iPod?" The same has already happened with tablets. I was recently playing with a Samsung Galaxy Tab in a coffee shop in London and a complete stranger came over and asked, "Is that the new iPad?" Not very scientific, but it shows that the public's conscience has now changed from "tablet computer" to "iPad".

Speaking to sales teams across the country, warehouses are groaning under the weight of surplus tablets from manufacturers who built tablets because Apple did.

This is not a sensible way of doing business. Apple has been working on a tablet since the late 90s, everyone else has had to cack out one in little over a year to try and stave off Apple gobbling up the market - good job trying to stop that, guys. Rush jobs do not work.

But, there are some lessons that can be gleaned from how Apple does business: create products in areas of the market where competition is low or fragmented - the iPod - don't try to copy the competition - had Apple tried to compete with Dell's stack-em-high-sell-em-cheap mantra of the PC market in the early noughties, it would have gone bankrupt - and keep as much of the technical jargon away from the consumer - there isn't one piece of tech lingo in any of its advertising.

Apple have won the tablet battle - but there are wars elsewhere in the technology market still to be won.