A theory: Though consumers desire the iPad for the functions it performs, they want it more for what it is. Just as many preferred the iPod to the generic MP3 player, so too do they prefer the iPad to the generic “tablet.”
Apple is succeeding in the category because it reinvented it. Now anyone that hopes to compete in it must do so by peddling products similar to it. And because of that, Apple will dominate the tablet category in much the same way it dominated the portable music player category.
So there is a tablet market, but it’s been subsumed by the iPad market, just as the MP3 player market was engulfed by the market for the iPod.
Consider this observation from a new Bernstein Research survey: “We find that consumers are not interested in form factors that deviate from the benchmark set by Apple. Few consumers, less than 15 percent prefer the 7″ screen size versus the 10″ screen of the iPad. Over 50 percent of respondents are firmly in favor of the 10″ screen, which leads us to conclude that the 7″ tablet models recently launched, like the BlackBerry PlayBook, are destined for failure. Consumer’s preference for the 10″ form factor explains the lukewarm response to Samsung’s 7″ Galaxy tablet and the rapid introduction of larger screen models in that series.”
In other words, success in the tablet market may well be dependent on how similar a manufacturer’s offering is to the iPad. Which is quite a challenge given the formidable combination of hardware, software and app ecosystem that the iPad represents — not to mention the sheer power of its brand.
Said Bernstein, “Fifty percent of respondents preferred Apple over all other brands. There is a remarkable degree of unanimity in consumer’s preferences for the iPad over competing products. … In the US, we find that Apple has more than double the brand appeal of BlackBerry, HTC, Motorola, Nokia and Samsung combined. These manufacturers have a very high level of brand equity and visibility in adjacent categories. It is striking that they hold so little appeal for consumers in tablets.”
No surprise then that Bernstein sees the tablet market playing out in two ways, each with Apple in the catbird seat.