I was recently asked to do a Xoom review and I have to say that I am pained just picking up the device. And apparently I am not the only one who feels this way. The Motorola Xoom recently launched to tepid reviews and slow sales. Engadget said “there isn’t much here for consumers right now,” and there are already rumors that Motorola is cutting production of their Android tablet.
When the HP TouchPad and BlackBerry PlayBook are released, there is no doubt in my mind that they will suffer the same fate as the Xoom: lackluster sales, middling reviews and generally regarded as also-rans in the tablet kingdom.
Since the iPad 2 came out (and sold a million units over a single weekend), the writing is officially on the wall. The tablet space is Apple’s game to lose.
So here is the message for HP, RIM and every other company developing a tablet computer right now: stop the presses. There is nothing to be gained by releasing these devices as they are now. Unless these firms have extremely small unit goals for their devices (which they don’t), they need to reevaluate how they can compete in the tablet space. And they won’t compete by launching tablets that look kind of like the iPad that are aimed at current iPad owners. Apple competitors need to innovate and differentiate themselves if they want to win.
Let’s be clear. There are markets for these products – I outlined a few of them in this earlier tablet post:
Here are a few sectors that present real opportunities for non-Apple tablets.
We are quickly approaching a world where medical records and information will be displayed on tablets. Windows and Android devices could thrive in this vertical.
Someone is going to sell the Pentagon a lot of secure, battle ready tablets. Smart manufacturers should keep an eye on this space.
A “cheap,” sturdy tablet for kids is a no-brainer. Part coloring book, part media player, part game center- think LeapPad on steroids.
It’s time that the consumer electronics industry takes a hard look at the iPad’s strengths and comes up with a few interesting alternatives for these specific market segments.
Instapaper founder Marco Arment has a post that talks about the iPad abandoning office productivity apps and moving more toward “casual media creation.” Since the iPad’s role “doesn’t include office productivity for most of us,” there is an opportunity for an enterprise tablet built for business needs. If someone other than Apple made an amazing office tablet, people would love it- they would just love it differently than they love the iPad. HP could own this enterprise tablet market. It isn’t hard to imagine a scenario where people absolutely adore their HP work tablet. In order to thrive, though, these devices must be inspiring, not merely functional. There is an opportunity here to connect with people and improve their working lives (and maybe surprise and delight them in the process). HP (and others) just need to seize it.
RIM, HP, Motorola and others can’t deliver products that are a little better than the iPad. Their offerings need to be far superior or far different to the iPad in order to succeed. They need to create a user experience that people love. The fact is that the PlayBook and TouchPad – as they are designed and marketed now – won’t capture people’s emotions the way the iPad has. Which is why they should not be brought to market.