iPad

My new Apple iPad: Why it leaves rival tablets in the dust

To Apple, the third-generation iPad may be just an incremental update, but for rival tablet makers it's a crushing setback.

Apple upgraded its market-leading iPad while the rest of the field was still desperately trying to catch up with the previous version. Photo: Apple

As far as I can tell, there are two main schools of thought regarding the introduction of the new iPad.

The first is that it's an incremental update that will please the fans - or fanbois, if you want to be particularly dismissive - that it's a bit faster, has some next-generation mobile telecoms technology from which nobody outside the US or Sweden will actually benefit, that it has a better camera - not that anyone needs a camera in an iPad - and that it has a nicer screen.

Some of this faint praise is justified. After all, the LTE chip is a slow burner as far as non-US and non-Swedish residents are concerned, although faster 3G networks can theoretically be accessed. Meanwhile, the use case for a HD camera on tablets is still debatable.

The second school of thought is that Apple has released a new version of its market-leading product at a time when the rest of the market was still desperately trying to catch up with the previous version. And it's been introduced at the same price as the previous model.

Its predecessor, the iPad 2, was a better product than the competition and is still available and discounted. Now, thanks to the Retina Display and the other incremental updates, it leaves the competition for dead.

I've had my new iPad for a couple of days and it's an exceptional update. Much has been written about the new screen and its millions of pixels - and rightly so. It is demonstrably better than other tablet displays, a marvel to look at. Likewise, the boost in performance is welcome and speeds up the vast range of apps and opens up new possibilities for developers and gamers.

So the old model was whipping the opposition and the new one, costing exactly the same, is on the market. It's a tough time to be an iPad competitor.

Losing the struggle with Apple

Samsung recently admitted that it's losing the war against Apple. Hankil Yoon, a product strategy executive for Samsung, admitted the company was struggling to gain a foothold. "Honestly, we're not doing very well in the tablet market," he said during a media roundtable at the Mobile World Congress trade show in February. Although recent news of five million Galaxy Notes sold will no doubt cheer him up.

Put yourself in the mind of a product marketer at RIM or Samsung or Asus. Your tough job just got even tougher. Where do you compete? At what point of the marketing mix can you gain an advantage over Apple?

Price? Many were surprised the iPad wasn't more expensive than it was priced at launch. Amazon's Kindle Fire is aggressively priced but the theory is that the Fire is a loss-leader that will be recouped by content sales. If other tablet manufacturers try to undercut Apple by too much, they risk losing their margins and competing as commodity devices.

Product? You now have an iPad with Retina Displays sitting next to tablets that do not. I'm not a betting man but I'd wager that some of the multi-billion forward-looking component deals Apple CEO Tim Cook has alluded to have tied up supply of super HD monitors for the foreseeable future.

How about placement? Contrast an iPad in an Apple Store with a tablet in PC World. I regularly go to PC World to play with new Android tablets and the difference between the two retail experiences is striking. Pick up an iPad and there'll be lots of content behind it. Photos to manipulate and twist, albeit of a load of wholesome models snowboarding. Videos that can be played. A wide range of apps.

By contrast each PC World tablet has no videos or pictures other than those taken in store on the built-in camera. Pictures of the underside of people's chins and the backs of other tablets. It's much harder to get a feel for the device's capabilities.

No obvious weak spots for rivals to exploit

Across the mix, it's difficult to see a weakness, a place where competitors can plan an attack. Apple's brand is dominant, customer satisfaction with existing users is very high, it has strategic component deals that other competitors can only dream of and it has a marketing war chest without rival.

Finally, the audience for tablets is broader than we could have imagined. When Microsoft poured its efforts into invigorating the form factor some 10 years before the iPad arrived, it failed to capture the imagination. Now, the market for the poster child of post-PC devices is vast.

The tablet is the most significant market in computing at the moment. According to technology research company Canalys, PCs outsold tablets 20 to one in 2010, the year the iPad launched. In 2011 the landscape had dramatically changed. Although still ahead, PCs had only outsold tablets by six to one.

iPad sales are ramping up faster than either the iPhone and the iPod. At the Goldman Sachs conference in February, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company had sold 55 million iPads.

"This 55 [million] is something no one would have guessed. Including us. To put it in context, it took us 22 years to sell 55 million Macs. It took us about five years to sell 22 million iPods, and it took us about three years to sell that many iPhones. And so, this thing is, as you said, it's on a trajectory that's off the charts."

Apple's trip to the wilderness and recent revival is proof that any business is capable of a great comeback. There's always a chance for Apple's competitors but it's getting harder.

Apple announced a new iPad. It's faster, more advanced, has better media and graphics, has future-looking mobile technology and the battery life is as good as before with the same leading content and app ecosystem. It was already way out in the lead and now it's launched a better product at the same price point.

Is it really just an incremental update? Or is it the seminal moment in the evolution of the post-PC world? The point at which Apple, already way ahead of the pack, changed up a gear, put its foot on the accelerator and disappeared out of sight.

23 comments
lalomaeshiro
lalomaeshiro

In this business there is a syndrome of "follow the leader" and every one follow Apple, has even Microsoft. Yes, it's easy to read the critics about the last Apple product and launch a copy which solves the problems of leader's one, but it's not so easy to create a really new or as good as Apple's. And no, Android is not zillions apps for your alternative pad, some good apps function with some pads. IPad has only some hundreds of thousand, many free... and they function from the beginning. Keep your Android gadget and let others use their iPad, and every one will be happy with what they own.

clindahl-tamhsc
clindahl-tamhsc

As an Apple FanBoi (yes, I am!) I LOVE Apple products. But as an enterprise IT person I CRINGE when I have to support BYOD. Apple has NOT adequately addressed the isssue of how to maintian & provision their devices; this is, indeed, the main reason RIM hasn't already rolled over and died. IMHO, my favorite non-Apple tablet is the Asus Transformer. Besides the build quality and the excellent keyboard, it actually has a touchpad and allows pairing with a mouse; therefore this is a viable laptop replacement (which the iPad is NOT due to lack of a pointing device (I've got my programming and documentation hat on here when I say this). All this said, I love the new iPad. The only thing better down the pike is when Google Glasses for consumers becomes real (these things have been available for military use for years).

UKSal
UKSal

Samsung can't get a foothold over Apple... Is that because they (Apple) have a better product, or because they aggressively and (imho) unfairly batter anyone foolish enough to compete in their market with their patent portfolio..? Apple are stifling innovation and healthy competition. There's a place for both flavours of tablet (maybe even windows, if M$ manage to crack it with Win8).. I'm a techie, I want an Android. My CEO is a user, he wants an iPad.. I think the boys in the Systems Team would slap me for suggesting they should integrate both though...

blerafael
blerafael

Most of us are techies here, thus the TechRepublic, but let's not forget most of those 55 million people care very little about I/O ports or the "ass-kicking" qualities of Android (sorry, couldn't help it). Recognizing Apple's lead in the tablet market (which I believe they created) is not a matter of being a fanboy, it's just a reality-check. Regards!

anjali189
anjali189

I am not an apple fan and this is not the right comparison. this is a just apple-fan article. i have used apple's products and just say i don't wanna use them anymore. i love Android and will love it.

martin.f.walsh
martin.f.walsh

I'm not a huge fan of the Apple lock-in system but I have to admit that the iPad series is a nice set of HW - until now. We can see how US centric they have become - there are upcoming court cases in Australia and Europe since the 4G HW is only compatible with the 2 4G networks in the US and will not work outside. The notice informing the user of this is *inside* the box :-) Well done guys - you're lucky Steve is not around to kick your behinds for this one!

sandshancock1
sandshancock1

Just another Apple fluff piece written by an Apple fan boy. No real content. No real comparisons. No real data to back up his opinion.

Phil689
Phil689

Just another cockeyed review from the "i'm-a-glutton-for-payment-to-apple-brigade". If you bothered to check out the competition (with both eyes open and focused) you would have seen that the Asus T/P easily outclasses the ipad. Oh, did I mention the zillions of free apps out there?

wvdhout
wvdhout

I tel you the difference between Apple and Windows or Android when I take my absolute beautiful Apple iPad and click the round button it is direct on and it works like my iPhone. All my e-mails, my new appointments and new contacts that i have made today are also sync with my iPad and my iMac and the only thing you need to do as user is to click on one icloud button you do not want to know what i need to do for my windows phone to sync with outlook or my android phone to sync with my pc android tablet when you understand that then you know why Apple is lightyears ahead and yes i have been in this business for 25 years from the commodore to the pc from lantastic Novell and Windows but Apple steals my heart the design the software the user experience it is simple great stuff and i think that 90 percent of the companies are better of with Apple then Windows computers and at the end much cheaper

Gisabun
Gisabun

Why am I not surprised this is coming from TechRepublic/ZDNet? Is this a paid advertisement from Apple? Did Seb get a free iPad for posting this "blog"? Jeez. What a fanboi. Between this writer and a few others, no wonder why TechRepublic/ZDNet is the laughing stock in the online blogger/journalism world. More like amateur hour.

alanavella
alanavella

I keep on using my iPAD and my Toshiba Thrive, but every time I need to get something really done I go back to my Toshiba. What am I missing? Have I not learnt to use the iPAD or is jus Android kicking ass? I Vote B. Besides toshiba gave us full HDMI and extra SD and USB ports.. which most people need. Keep your good effort cheering Apple, in the mean time we'll get work done.

maxkonin
maxkonin

I have never been a fan of Apple products. I have two tablets one by ViewSonic and one by Lenovo the new ThinkPad tablet. I just bought an iPad 3 and I am absolutely amazed at this performance and the retina screen. It really blows away the competition. I am a Microsoft enterprise consultant and normally don't touch Apple products, but this time it's different. The competition really has a long way to go this time.

patg00
patg00

This comparison was brilliant. It amazes me that they (PCW) wouldn't load up their demo models the same way.

Gr8Music
Gr8Music

The iPad is a great entertainment device, not a low performance laptop replacement like the Acer/Asus/Samsung/RIM/HP/fill-in-the-blank wanna' be's. Keep thinking that way and buying that crap so there's more iPads for the rest of us! It's NOT the specs, it's the experience!!

laequis
laequis

You must be seeing the new iPad through polarized glasses outdoor in portrait mode because what you're describing is a non-existant reality. The ASUS Transformer Prime is the best tablet on the market because if provides a much more comprehensive experience. It's the first tablet you can seriously use as a laptop replacement especially when you dock the tablet to it's fantastic keyboard dock. The new iPad has the usually drawbacks of no I/O ports for data storage or transfer. Even iFans are getting tired of having to use iTunes for everything. The lack of customization is becoming more of an issue for iUsers as they see the substantial improvements of Android 4, ICS with it's active widgets and customizable homescreens. And above and beyond all these existing structural deficiencies of it's hardware, is the ever growing list of problems with the new iPad: overheating, wifi issues, 4G issues outside US, increased data files and app size, extremely long 7 hours for full recharge, and won't charge while connected with ac adapter and in use.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

Because entertainment is only a part of what the iPad--or any tablet--should be capable of. By your argument, a laptop or even a desktop is a great entertainment device capable of playing your music, videos, movies, radio and any number of other entertainment functions with a much bigger screen than the iPad. On the other hand, like those same desktops and laptops, tablets can do a lot more than they're given credit for. Just because you don't know how to do it doesn't mean it can't be done.

Gisabun
Gisabun

Smoking that wacky-tobacky again?

SKDTech
SKDTech

What can the iPad do that an Android tablet can not? My tablet does everything I want it to do, and if I do not like the current "experience" I can download an alternate. If I had an iPad the choices available to me if I didn't like the experience would be to bite my lip and suffer or switch to Android (maybe Windows 8 tablet when they hit). I don't mind if you enjoy your iPad but if your only argument is the experience then you are going to lose.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

This isn't to say it's a bad device, but the thing is simply made to operate with the keyboard attached most of the time; the touch capabilities are limited and its usefulness without that keyboard has frequently been reported as limited. What it isn't is a truly mobile device but rather a portable linux desktop. In other words, a sub-laptop. A mobility device has no need for multiple I/O ports; the more ports you put on one, the more chance of it breaking down due to dirt, dust and/or moisture. It's meant to be held in the hands and used as you walk, not set down on a table with three or four dongles hanging off of it adding drive space, battery power or whatever. Yes, it may be nice to include the capability when you do have that luxury, but that's not its intended purpose. Most of the rest of your arguments are null and void since no other device can do the same things the iPad does as well as the iPad does them. In fact, few of them even come up to the capabilities of the first iPad, much less this third iteration.

SKDTech
SKDTech

I haven't handled the new iPad but I have a hard time seeing it tempt me away from my Acer Iconia which does not even have ICS yet. My Iconia charges in about an hour from near depletion and runs all day, has HDMI out, a MicroSD card slot and and a full size USB slot I can plug a thumbdrive into. And if I connect it to my PC via USB I can browse the file system directly without having to use a barely functioning (in my experience) piece of crap application like iTunes. That said, I think most people will follow whatever their phone choice is since anyone who has had a smartphone for a while will have already built a library of apps and thus already have an investment in either Android or iOS.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

But not necessarily for the reasons you think. The problem with the Android tablets is a combination of OS fracturing and hardware variability. In other words, Android tablets' greatest problem is the overall stability and usability with associated desktop/laptop devices. The iPad has one glaring strength and that's the co-operative environment it enjoys between each Apple device including iPhones and desktop/laptops. Android has yet to develop such an environment and as such Android tablets, like Android phones, are force to live a standalone life where everything has to come in through manual external connections rather than automated synching of files, playlists and even updates. Sure, you have greater control and perhaps even greater individuality, but you also have more workload and more difficult methods of achieving the same results. Hardware alone? Almost equal. OS alone? Almost equal. Coherent user experience? Not even close.

peacock_eric
peacock_eric

I've got an Iconia A500, and I agree with everything you said here. Working in IT, I handle iPad's from time to time, and I've never been impressed vs the Iconia. I really love being able to plug in a USB flash drive, or a USB hub for multiple devices. and yeah, most people are going to stick with what they're already used to.

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