Apple iPad 2, Motorola Xoom Face-Off: 10 Lessons Competitors Should Learn

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2011-03-17

Apple iPad 2, Motorola Xoom Face-Off: 10 Lessons Competitors Should Learn

In the tablet market, it's the iPad 2, the Motorola Xoom and all the others. Those two tablets are setting the benchmark by which all other devices are judged. And yet, they couldn't be any different. They offer different screen sizes and vastly different operating systems. Although they both can connect to networks over 3G, the Xoom will be upgraded to work over 4G, a feature the iPad 2 lacks.

Even with those differences, the iPad 2 and Xoom are carrying the tablet banner right now. And as more and more competitors start breaking into the market, it will be Apple's and Motorola Mobility's devices that they will need to overcome in order to stand atop the tablet space.

Will they be successful? It's anyone's guess at this point. But before Toshiba, Research In Motion and so many other companies bring their upcoming devices to the tablet space, they need to keep the following things in mind:

1. Large displays matter

The success of Apple's iPad 2 has proved quite easily that large displays matter in the tablet space. The Dell Streak, which initially boasted a 5-inch display, was a downright failure. The 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab didn't even come close to matching iPad sales. Apple's tablet, however, which comes with a 9.7-inch display, hit 15 million units sold last year. Is the large screen size the only reason the iPad was successful? Not a chance. But as Apple CEO Steve Jobs pointed out in an earnings call last year, smaller screen sizes just don't make much sense in the tablet space.

2. Maybe Android 3.0 'Honeycomb' isn't ready

Android 3.0 "Honeycomb," which is running on the Motorola Xoom, was touted by Google as the best platform yet in the tablet space. Eventually, it might live up to that hype. But as of late, critics have been taking the operating system to task for not being ready for prime time. A Global Equities Research spokesperson said recently that the operating system is "unstable and poorly designed." Perhaps companies that are preparing Honeycomb for their tablets should wait a bit for Google to work the kinks out.

3. Competing with Apple is nearly impossible

On paper, the Motorola Xoom is an outstanding device. It comes with a 10.1-inch display, a dual-core processor, the ability to upgrade to 4G and Google's new Android 3.0 Honeycomb operating system. The only issue is it's getting easily beaten by Apple's iPad 2. And the chances of that changing anytime soon are, well, zero. Competing with Apple is more difficult than any company might think. The Xoom proves that.

4. Pricing is extremely important

Pricing can mean the difference between success and failure in today's tablet space. That's precisely why competitors shouldn't follow Motorola's lead and sell their tablets for the same price as, or-worse-more than, the closest iPad 2 competitor. When the WiFi-only Xoom launches on March 27, it will be on sale for $599. Apple's 32GB iPad 2 retails for $599, as well. And considering the 3G Xoom costs $799, while the iPad with 3G featuring the same 32GB of storage goes for $729, consumers are finding more to like from Apple's offering than Motorola's. Beating Apple on price is important. Just ask Motorola.

With Tablets, Apps Make the Difference


5. Consider colors

Apple is a trendsetter in every market it operates in. And for the most part, companies that try to follow its lead perform quite well. Then perhaps competitors should consider launching white versions of their tablets. The white iPad 2 has proved to be quite successful if sales are to be one's guide. Why shouldn't competitors attempt to generate their own cash on tablets featuring color as well?

6. Big advertising budgets are required

If anything is true about the tablet market, it's that advertising is integral to the success or failure of a device. That's precisely why Motorola has been doubling down on its Xoom ads. It's also why Apple consistently pumps out high-quality ads of its own. Unless the company is Apple, any tablet maker must inform the public about its products. And the best way to do that is through widespread advertising efforts.

7. 4G is a must

If one were to point to a specific feature that can trump the iPad 2, it's 4G connectivity. Apple's new tablet only allows users to connect to Verizon's or AT&T's networks over 3G. The Xoom, on the other hand, will soon be upgraded to let owners connect to Verizon's 4G network in addition to its 3G network. Going forward, companies that support 4G out of the box will undoubtedly have a leg up on Apple. That's an important factor.

8. The enterprise is there for the taking

As nice as the iPad 2 and Xoom might be for consumers, neither device adequately delivers the experience that enterprise customers are looking for. Realizing that, maybe those devices' competitors should think seriously about capitalizing on the corporate world with their products. RIM and Cisco are planning to do so, but what about other companies? The enterprise tablet space is there for the taking. At least so far, neither Apple nor Motorola has nabbed it.

9. It's a dual-core world

Both the Motorola Xoom and the iPad 2 boast dual-core processors. Because of that, the more-capable chips have become absolute necessities for all the tablets that will be hitting store shelves in the coming months. Luckily, many of the devices that have been announced so far will include dual-core chips. But for those companies that haven't yet announced their upcoming tablets, let's just be clear: A tablet that lacks a dual-core processor and comes with something less powerful is a tablet that will fail.

10. Apps matter

When Jobs unveiled the iPad 2 at a March 2 press event, he discussed the disparity in the number of apps available for his company's tablet compared with those for Android-based tablets. He reported at the time that there were more than 65,000 iPad apps available in Apple's App Store. Just 100 apps were available to Android-based tablets. As RIM and HP, two companies that won't be relying upon the App Store or Android Market to deliver apps, get serious about mobile programs, they need to keep that disparity in mind. Apps are extremely important in the mobile market. The company that delivers a tablet with little app support will be in for trouble. 

Rocket Fuel