May 10

iPad killers take a time-out

One day, they may get around to it

I need to un-think something I thought few months ago. Shortly after CES, I expressed the opinion that iPad wouldn’t be able to muscle its way in as easily as iPhone did.

That only seemed logical. At iPhone’s launch, its features were a surprise to everyone. It took Apple’s competitors a good year or two to even begin catching up. When iPad launched, its features were a surprise to almost no one. Surely the combatants would never allow themselves to get hoodwinked so easily again.

There would be no head start for Apple this time around. HP was working on Slate, running a form of Windows. Microsoft was working on Courier, with its cool “journal” motif. Video teasers abounded. Everyone and his mother showed off a tablet at CES.

Now iPad is a few months old, Apple has already shipped its millionth device, and the other devices are… mysteriously missing in action. Astonishingly, the competition is sliding backward instead of moving forward.

In one week, we learned that both HP and Microsoft are bailing on their respective tablets. HP is no doubt re-tooling to make Palm’s WebOS the foundation for their mobile products. That should help them (one day), though it does send them back to square one. Not sure what Microsoft’s plan is, and I’ve given up trying to understand them.

Is it my imagination, or did Apple just get a free pass to run away with it for the first year? Well, not exactly. The Google tablet is still warming up in the wings. At least they have the Android OS, which is a good sign. But so far, all we’ve seen from Google is the same kind of concept and teaser videos we were treated to by HP and Microsoft. And that’s a bad sign.

Looking back, I guess I gave the competition too much credit. It was a silly thing to do, and I promise it won’t happen again.

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  • sfmitch

    Here is the link to the post-CES post you mention:


    Folks are definitely underestimating the effort/technology/time/thought Apple invested in the iPad. Just the like the iPhone, it looks so simple and is very easy to come up with a list of reasons to dismiss it or explain why it won’t succeed.

    Android based tablets are the only real answer to the iPad. Tablets based on Windows 7 (or any Microsoft OS) seem like a non-starter. WebOS / Palm / HP will be busy for a while so I don’t expect to see anything from them. Nokia / Symbian – I don’t see it. Blackberry – no chance.

    I am thinking that Dell will be the first real competitor for the iPad with an Android tablet(s).

  • sarumbear

    You are a very silly man! Start doing the ministry’s regulation walk… LOL

  • Chris

    Game over. Simple as that.

    Reminds me of when Larry Bird stepped on the court at the 3-Point Shootout. He looks at the other players and says “which one of you is playing for second place?” By the way, LB won.

  • Synthmeister

    The competitors are still thinking about beating the device with “features” like a higher resolution screen or even Flash, instead of building a foundation then an ecosystem.

    Apple spent over 10 years honing down OS X to the point where it scales from a massive server OS powering their own world class online retail presence while also fitting into a cell phone.That is their foundation.

    Remember when S. Jobs intr’d the iTunes Music store, he said something like, “This looks easy, but it’s not.” And in almost ten years no one has been able to replicate that success. And no one else can build on the back of the world’s most successful online music/movie/TV show/podcast/app store with 100 million credit card numbers. That is the ecosystem, or at least a huge part of it, along with the Apple retail stores and 100K devs, portfolio of strategic apps (Final Cut, Aperture, iLife, iWork, Safari, etc.) which all serve to insulate Apple from the stupidity of third parties. ($40 billion in the bank helps too!)

  • rd

    Don’t worry Microsoft will copy iPad
    using the Window Mobile 7 and
    HP will copy using WebOS. So it will
    be a year late and some features missing
    that is not going to stop that fact the growth
    is in consumer arena where Apple dominates.

    Don’t forget Google will have one too.
    and if AdMob sale is blocked by FTC.
    Google is giong to up the creek.

  • John bilello

    I had to get the droid because the at&t iPhone calls kept getting dropped. The droid is a joke by comparison. Their app store is garbage. I can’t imagine anything competing with the iPad and iTunes related stores.

  • Jimi

    I guess it’s also time for me to suck eggs. You told me that Courier would remain vaporware, and I decided to give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt… However, now it appears they failed me… The worst part is that one of these days i’m going to get the gadget buying itch, and the only tablet remaining will be the iPad.

    Hats off to Apple for winning the shortest battle of attrition on record… Unfortunately, Apple’s win ultimately appears to equal a loss for consumer choice.

  • ken segall

    I wouldn’t go quite that far. Spirits up! There will always be competition of some sort. Google will get out there, and then these other guys will ultimately show up. It’ll just take a while. I just suspect it will be kind of like iPod for a while: more apps and a bigger chunk of the market for Apple. What I find most interesting about this is that just a few months ago, much of the debate out there was “why would anyone want or need an iPad?” and now it is more “who can make the best tablet?” My hat is off to Apple for being brave enough to believe in, and invest in, a market that was only theoretical at best. Sure seems like the market is responding well.

  • Jimi


    The flip from “why would anyone need an iPad” to a million people buying an iPad, is certainly a very interesting step. This clearly demonstrates the amount of trust that Apple have with their consumer base.

    Also, any other company trying to compete on a pure “who can make the best tablet” platform is running the wrong race… The iPad isn’t a tablet computer, it’s really a sexy looking media distribution hub. The only true competitors in this space are the ones with the Videos/Apps/Music/Games to distribute… and right now, that’s a short list.

    Out of interest, are you still in love with your iPad, ken?

  • good morning ken,

    just discovered your blog today and enjoy it greatly.

    our little company designs and installs custom AV systems for clients building custom homes throughout the Bay area. (previously, i owned an ad agency in hawaii so i got to know Apple really well. first, as one of the earliest adapters of using personal computers throughout an ad agency and then, as a fan of Chiat Day’s Apple work.)

    one thing we’ve been telling people for years is Apple is driving (unintentionally & probably unknowingly) control system design & functionality in the AV world.

    first, it was the simplicity and ease of use represented by the I-Pod. now, it’s the simplicity, ease of use, and low cost of the I-Pad to control everything in your smart home.

    companies like Crestron & AMX used to make & sell control systems that are challenging and expensive to program on devices that are expensive to purchase & install. (I say that in the past tense, although they still make these devices.)

    but now, there are companies like Control 4 whose products are easier to program and can be used on an I-Phone, I-Touch or I-Pad. instead of a client paying $4-5K for a Creston in wall touch panel + thousands of dollars more for programming, they can use an I-Pad for $500.

    this is totally re-shaping our industry. Creston dealers are moving in droves to Control 4. the business model & profitability these dealers had has changed forever. not all of them will be able to readily adapt to this new world.

    i don’t have my own I-Pad yet, but i will. real soon.



  • ken segall

    I think that’s a great point about what iPad really is, and why others trying to “build a better tablet” is a bit of a misdirection. Very, very great point.

    And yes, I’m still loving my iPad. Looks like people are using iPad in very different ways. Mine rarely gets out of the house, but the family is constantly using it. One of those “what did we do without this before?” things. I never felt like the Internet was so portable before — the tiny screen of an iPhone just doesn’t cut it for serious browsing. The lack of privacy on it still bugs me though.

  • ken segall

    Hello, and welcome. Thanks for the view from the AV system world. I wasn’t aware of any of that — though I should have been, because one thing I use my iPad for is controlling my home DVR. It’s far easier to use the web page than it is to use the remote control. So what you say makes all the sense in the world.