Apple’s iPad is an unbridled success. The company announced in its first-quarter earnings report on Jan. 18 that it sold 7.33 million iPads during the quarter. And Apple CEO Steve Jobs said that his firm is “firing on all cylinders.”
That’s certainly true. Apple’s iPad has helped lead a charge at the company that has pushed it ahead of any other firm in the industry. Several other companies, witnessing the iPad’s phenomenal growth and wanting some of it for their own, are planning to break into that space attempting to steal Apple’s market share later this year.
The only problem isthat might not be so easy. A recent study from research firm IDC found that Apple has 87 percent market share in the tablet space. But that doesn’t mean that the competition can’t overcome the iPad’s lead. With some time and strong products, Apple’s position as dominant market leader could diminish.
This is how to do it:
1. Steve Jobs is gone for now
If there was ever a time when tablet makers could capitalize on an Apple weakness, it’s now. Steve Jobs has taken a medical leave of absence from the company for an indefinite period. He has left the day-to-day control of his company to COO Tim Cook. There’s no telling if Cook will make the same decisions that Jobs would have. More importantly, there’s no telling if Cook will be able to see the changing tablet landscape the way a fully healthy Jobs would. Simply put, Jobs’ absence matters. Tablet makers can capitalize on his absence.
2. Consumers are moving to the market in droves
When one says that the iPad can be overcome, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Apple will lose money in the tablet space or see its sales figures decline significantly. It simply means that its dominant position in the market won’t be as apparent. A key reason for that could simply be that theconsumer market for tablets will grow over time. In fact, IDC estimates that 17 million tablets were shipped worldwide in 2010, and that figure will jump to 44.6 million in 2011. As long as the many tablet makers jumping into the fray this year can prove to customers that they have a device worthy of a consumer’s hard-earned cash, it will be more difficult for Apple to maintain its 87 percent market share with so many devices heading to store shelves.
3. The enterprise is warming to tablets
The corporate world has taken issue with tablets in the past for their lack of enterprise appeal. The iPad, as popular as it is, simply didn’t capture the allure of corporate customers as much as it could have. But the same won’t be true in 2011. With the help of the Cisco Cius and the BlackBerry PlayBook from RIM, the enterprise is getting the devices it desires. And in the meantime, Apple might lose significant market share due to its determination to focus on consumers.
4. It’s a numbers game
When it’s all said and done,the tablet market is a numbers game just as it is in any other computer hardware market sector. Although Apple has dominant market share now, the company is offering a single device. In 2011, a slew of companies, including Motorola, Cisco, HP and Acer, are expected to release worthwhile tablets of their own. Apple has been able to stand up to the mostly unappealing tablets that launched in 2010, but can it maintain such dominance against the many appealing devices that will be coming out this year? It might be more difficult than Apple or its fans think.
iPads Market Share Cant Stand Up to a Tidal Wave of Rivals
5. Accessories galore
One of the biggest issues with Apple’s iPad is that it requires the purchase of several accessories in order to get the most out of the device. If users want to use a physical keyboard, they need to buy an accessory. If they want to connect a USB device to the tablet, they need an accessory. Meanwhile, other tablets will soon have a USB port included, making them more readily useful than the iPad. Of course, Apple might offer a USB port in the iPad 2, but until that happens, the need for so many accessories to get the most out of the iPad is a problem that competitors can capitalize on.
6. The iPad 2 will be an incremental update
When it comes to new products, Apple usually follows the same plan: It unveils a hot new product with some limitations, uses the next couple years to deliver more features and then offers up a dramatic update the year after that. If Apple follows that same strategy with the iPad-and most rumors surrounding the device suggest it will-the iPad 2 will be an incremental update over its predecessor. For those hoping for a slightly more appealing iPad, that’s a good thing. But considering how many companies are pushing the envelope on design, most notably Notion Ink with its Adam tablet, it could come back to haunt Steve Jobs and Company.
7. The Xoom could change everything
TheMotorola Xoom was widely considered one of the best tablets on display at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. The device features an outstanding design, a 10.1-inch display, Android 3.0, and both front- and rear-facing cameras. The tablet, which is expected to ship this year, could be the best competitor yet to Apple’s iPad. It’s quite possible that the Xoom will prove to consumers that the iPad isn’t the only attractive tablet on the market, and steal significant market share from Apple’s device.
8. There are more-capable devices coming
When it comes to Apple’s iPad, there are some severe limitations. For one, the device lacks cameras. It also doesn’t come with support for Flash, which means the browsing experience isn’t as great as it could be. Moreover, the device doesn’t allow for direct 3G connections to Verizon’s network-users need to have the MiFi 2200 hot spot to connect to the carrier’s service. Other devices, including the aforementioned Motorola Xoom and Notion Ink’s Adam, don’t suffer from those problems. Once consumers get their hands on them, they’ll quickly find that Apple’s iPad is lacking.
9. An iPhone-like scenario could play out
It’s quite possible that the iPad will turn out like the iPhone. Apple’s smartphone continues to sell exceptionally well and appeal to consumers and enterprise customers alike. But Apple’s iOS platform is being outpaced by Google’s Android operating system, thanks to the sheer number of devices it’s available on. It’s also not helping Apple that some products, like the Motorola Droid X and HTC Droid Incredible, continue to appeal to customers. The iPad might turn out like the iPhone. It will still sell quite well and lead other devices in overall sales, but Apple itself will lose OS market share to Google. In the process, Apple’s importance to the tablet space will diminish.
10. Time is on their side
If the tablet market is anything, it’s a long-term game. Now that Apple has validated the tablet market with the iPad, the devices are going to be a part of consumers’ and enterprise customers’ lives for a long time. With this in mind, it’s important to remember that ultimate success in the tablet space will be judged over the long term. Apple is undoubtedly dominating in the short term, but it’s a single company going up against dozens of firms that have a multitude of devices in the wings. Over the long term, it simply might be impossible for Apple to maintain its lead. Time is on the side of Apple’s competitors.