Forrester published a new report today making the call that the iPad challengers that have been announced so far—Android Honeycomb tablets from Motorola, Toshiba, and others, as well as the BlackBerry PlayBook and HP TouchPad—are solid products with fatally flawed product strategies.
In short, competing tablets are too expensive, and can’t match the Apple Store as a channel. These two claims are related: Forrester’s research has shown that consumers attribute more value to Apple products because of the in-store service. Consumers are not only comparing feeds and speeds; there’s also a human factor. The humans working in the Apple Store will have a huge impact teaching consumers about the iPad and how to use it. Compare the experience of walking into an Apple Store, where the iPad is front and center, to walking into a Verizon store where the Samsung Galaxy Tab is collecting dust at the back of the store and the sales reps don’t quite know what to make of it. Or walking into a Best Buy store, whose shelves will soon be lined with similar-looking tablets with similar functionality.
Competing tablets to the iPad are poised to fail, which is why we’re forecasting that Apple will have at least 80% share of the US consumer tablet market in 2011.
But what comes next? It would be easy to call the game for Apple as the second inning is starting, but we won’t, because we see a market that’s ripe for disruption by Amazon in particular. Amazon could create a compelling Android- or Linux-based tablet offering easy access to Amazon’s storefront (including its forthcoming Android app store) and unique Amazon features like one-click purchasing, Amazon Prime service, and its recommendations engine. Here’s what Amazon has that others don’t:
- The motivation to counter Apple’s threat to its business model. By implementing onerous rules for eBook sellers and other content providers that require in-app payments, Apple may have created its own worst enemy. Now Amazon has the motivation to launch its own device, where it will have more control over payments and customer data.
- A pricing model that could work. The mass market of consumers wants cheap tablets. But the carrier-subsidy model that Motorola, Samsung, Dell, and others are offering to bring down the price of their tablets won’t appeal to consumers: Forrester’s data shows that consumers want flexibility with their mobile broadband contracts on tablets. Amazon could offer a different model — selling a tablet at or below cost and making up for it by selling content, as it does with the Kindle. Unlike the Kindle, however, consumers would need to foot the bill for 3G/4G service, as they would be using far more data than eBooks alone require.
- The brand, content, and channel to pull it off. More consumers considering buying a tablet say that they would consider Amazon (24%) than Motorola (18%). Amazon’s content assets include not only media (Kindle eBooks, MP3s, videos, and games) but also eCommerce goods — 50% of current tablet owners say they use them to research and purchase products – and services like Amazon Prime. Amazon.com is also a channel in which a sizable segment of consumers feel comfortable purchasing electronics: 28% of consumers considering buying a tablet say they would prefer to buy it from an online retailer like Amazon, compared with 11% that say they’d prefer to purchase a tablet from a carrier.
Amazon isn’t the only potential disruptor to the still-forming tablet market. In our report we outline ways in which Sony, Microsoft, and Vizio could disrupt the tablet market too. All this disruption leads to some surprising conclusions. Product strategists delivering content on tablets need to rethink their priorities—most companies we speak to are prioritizing Android apps after iPad, but it’s not a foregone conclusion that Android tablets are worth the investment this year. Product strategists on the device side have some reformulating to do—some may find it makes sense to wait until the market settles before launching a tablet that won’t sell in volume this year.