Apple, maker of the iPhone, iPad and iPod, is on a roll after being credited with reinvigorating the lacklustre tablet market by research group, International Data Corporation (IDC).
It is almost impossible to overstate the hype leading up to the re-emergence of tablet devices. Immediately after the release of multi-touch screen capabilities, speculation and scraps of evidence about a new form of personal computing have become a fixture in the media. Within the past year alone, rumours have been at an all time high. Apple’s iPad has finally arrived but has not come alone; behind it is a wave of competitive devices eager to mark their presence.
Vendors have wanted to position a new product that is not a traditional PC but rather a device placed between a laptop and a mobile phone. A great focus has been on portability, whilst being able to perform the best duties of both form factors such as text entry and editing, working with numbers, presentations, music and video browsing, and all on a sturdy battery life.
The questions imposed by the iPad are: what is the market opportunity for tablet devices? What implications do they have on e-readers and the print industry at large? And, how does it compete against other tablets?
It is still too early to call the iPad a winner or a loser, but without doubt, the product has received a warm reception. Its intriguing design and functionality, along with the concealment behind its conception and specifications, has captivated much of the attention of the technology industry.
Rahul Sagar, Associate Analyst at IDC Australia, says, “This awareness is driven by the rapid pace at which contemporary society operates. People want access to information at their convenience and the rebooted tablet segment responds to that need.” The 300,000 units sold on its US debut supports this. Does the iPad have the ability to continue such positive growth? Riding the iPod touch and iPhone coat tails, the iPad has the ability to capture broad mass market appeal and go beyond its stereotypical fans.
With a starting price of under A$1000, the sleek look and framing is not the only thing attracting consumer awareness. Customers in the US enjoy access to the iPad friendly Wall Street Journal at a monthly saving of over US$10 compared to its print counterpart. The Wall Street Journal is banking on multimedia as they believe this is where the future lies for the print industry. Similar intentions have been expressed with the Australian and New Zealand print market.
With the steady decline in sales for publishers, the iPad opens the door for media organisations looking to boost sales, and in an environmentally friendly format that has the added benefit of allowing them to extract cost from their business. Even vendors who were otherwise not interested have been inspired to join the market after witnessing the universal buzz, with vendors such as Sony releasing their own line of e-book readers.
“What becomes clear is that Apple’s competitors are adopting a wait-and-see approach. With the popularity of the Apple App Store, vendors such as Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo are extensively promoting the integration of hardware components not available on the iPad to combat the lust factor behind Apple’s new addition to their ‘i’ family”, said Sagar.
“What is interesting is that Microsoft have been developing tablets for almost a decade but were unable to capture mass market appeal the way Apple has. Windows 7 has re-energised the Windows brand name, and Microsoft now has the opportunity to expand into tablet segment by pulling the functionality and interactive capabilities of the surface into a portable device.”