Over the years, various people, almost always non-technical, have asked me to recommend the best tablet for their needs. Note: This post talks about real life, not online.
- The first data-point that’s interesting: On finding out I work with computers, the most frequent question is – What Tablet would you recommend? I’m thinking of getting one. I don’t think PCs are going to die, not by any stretch of the imagination. However, no one ever asks about PCs or Phones. Just Tablets. Perhaps Tablets are cool and new and unknown. Perhaps with PCs and Phones, people already know enough and/or already own one. Whatever the reason, people seem to be really, really interested in buying Tablets.
- The second data-point: I’ve never found any user whose needs weren’t matched by the iPad. This might seem strange. However, it’s really just my experience. Online people will have a budget, prefer a certain company, be hung up on specifications, or have a certain allegiance (Android, Apple, Amazon). The people I’m meeting in real life – well, they never seem to mention price or allegiance. They just want a Tablet that gets the job done. No one ever says – What’s the best Android Tablet? iPad or iPad Mini? Which Kindle Fire? Ever. They just want something that gets the job done.
As opposed to online, in real life, people aren’t looking at a Tablet as an extension of their relationship with a favorite company, an extension of a philosophy, an accessory, or a statement of who they are.
They simply want to do X (sometimes X and Y and Z), and they wonder if a Tablet is a good choice.
Here are the two things that really surprised me -
- 80% of the time a Tablet is indeed a good choice. People usually want to do very non-specialized things like checking email, reading books, surfing the web. A PC is overkill.
- 100% of the time that a Tablet is the right choice for their needs, the iPad is the best choice as a Tablet. Yes – 100%.
All of this is anecdotal evidence, so take it with a shaker of salt.
The two things that keep striking me are -
- People don’t need a PC any more. They can get by with a Tablet.
- People don’t need any other Tablet. They can get by with an iPad.
Note: This is over a time period of 3 years. The data points have stayed consistent.
Do people not need PCs any more?
Not really. Most people don’t.
This goes against every single assumption I could make about the future of PCs and Tablets. There should be no reason for Tablets to be preferable to a PC. It’s like a Ninja choosing a butter knife instead of a katana.
However, in real life, it seems most people don’t really need a Personal Computer any more. They don’t need a desktop or a laptop. They just need a Consumption & Communication device. Most people aren’t ninjas – they just want to butter their toast.
Tablets are portable, they are focused on consumption, they are dead simple to use. They are cheap.
People never mention that iPad provided 80% of people’s computing needs at 50% of the price of most laptops and PCs. Apple didn’t win with magic fairy dust. It won on value and ease of use. If you think back to when iPad was introduced, everyone assumed it would be $1,000. $499 was a stunning price.
Most importantly, iPad covered 80% of what people wanted a computer for. It was a GREAT personal consumption device.
Whether we admit it or not, the world is moving to a state where we’ve run out of work for people to do. There just isn’t that much time needed to do your core work. 70% to 80% of people’s waking time is, or will soon be, taken up by consumption – news, weather, entertainment, movies, sports, books, communication with friends and family, watching photos, sharing how you feel about the bird fluttering by, sending a photo of your sandwich to the only 2,313 people in the world who care.
Tablets fit in perfectly. Perhaps 50% to 70% of people can survive on Tablets.
If you really think about a future world where robots handle a lot of the work and there are very few ‘critical’ jobs – 75% to 90% of the developed world’s population will simply have to find things to do with their free time. That’ll be humanity’s greatest challenge (it’s only partly sarcasm) – to amuse people who don’t know what to do with their free time.
iPad is perhaps the Best Tablet for nearly everyone who can get by on a Tablet
iPad is unencumbered. It doesn’t try to solve any problem other than provide people a consumption device.
iPad’s competitors keep trying to solve big problems like ‘providing a great keyboard’ and ‘providing content creation and not just consumption’. That’s like a movie theater company trying to educate its audience instead of entertain it.
There are a few things that make iPad the best tablet for nearly anyone who uses a Tablet in the Consumption-Enabler sense-
- The widest range of apps and the best app quality. Both things are critical. The more the apps, the higher the chance that you find the apps you need. The higher the quality of apps, the better your experience. The more the apps, the better the quality - the more likely you are to get by with a Personal Consumption device instead of a Personal Computing device.
- iPad nails the core Tablet functions. What are the main Personal Consumption areas? Books, movies, music, games, magazines, Internet, social networks, communication, photos, texting, Skype. iPad gets all/most of these right. Meanwhile, competitors like Amazon and B&N don’t even address things like taking photos and communicating. It’s as if they missed the entire ‘other people and photos and video calls are a great way to entertain yourself’ part.
- With iPad and iPad Mini, Apple provides both high-end and mid-end Tablets. Please Note: The comparison is against Personal Computers. By those standards, iPad severely undercuts PCs, and iPad Mini goes even more extreme. Within this ‘super high value for money’ Tablet category – iPad and iPad Mini take up the mid and high ends. Everything apart from dirt cheap personal devices.
- Extreme Ease of Use and High Quality Build of Hardware and Software. Smoothness. There’s smoothness in everything including in ease of use and hardware and software.
- Every other Tablet isn’t addressing the core needs of the people looking for a Personal Consumption device. They are still trying to make mini Personal Computers.
The last one is interesting. There are so many Android Tablets, and there will be so many Windows 8 Tablets, that sooner or later companies will stumble across the formula. However, it’ll be fortuitous and not the result of a well-planned strategy. On the other hand, a company that goes after Consumption hard could potentially blow up the iPad and iPad Mini.
7″ Tablets were a continuation of the iPad ‘Personal Consumption’ focus, just cheaper
The rise of 7″ Tablets was very interesting.
- Nook Color came in at $199 and demonstrated that you could get a Personal Consumption device for $199. That such a device could do 70% to 80% of what iPad could do. That’s why it did well. That’s why $199 Tablets were such a threat to the iPad. They were doing to the iPad what the iPad was doing to $1,000 laptops and desktops.
- iPad Mini was Apple’s response. It isn’t about screen-size (and Steve Jobs was right that 7″ means nothing). Yes, it’s more convenient. However, iPad was selling just fine. It’s only when 7″ Tablets PRICED VERY LOW came out that sales growth slowed down. Very cheap 7″ Tablets answered this consumer question exceedingly well – What percentage of my personal consumption needs can this device satisfy? At what price?
iPad Mini was necessary due to the low price and high ‘consumption coverage’ of 7″ Tablets. It delivered.
iPad Mini is a distillation of the iPad. It caters to 80% of the Personal Consumption Needs of Consumers for just $329 (65% of the price).
- Why is Apple not breaking out iPad and iPad Mini sales? Because iPad Mini totally destroyed iPad sales. A drop of 30% to 50% wouldn’t be out of question. Apple always reveals numbers – but now it conveniently doesn’t. How interesting.
- Why are Android Tablets priced at $269 and $299 suffering so much? Because iPad Mini is just a bit more expensive ($329) - Yet it delivers 90% or more of what iPad delivers, and it delivers it in very high quality. Android Tablets deliver less, in lower quality, and at a price that is not significantly lower. iPad Mini wins when we consider Percentage of Consumption Needs Satisfied AND Quality of Experience AND Value for Money.
Android Tablets will continue to rise. There are just so many of them that enough of them will hit the sweet point sooner or later – Cover most of the core consumption needs AND do it at a cheap price point.
Microsoft Tablets will rise once they get CHEAPER ones out. There are rumors of $249 and $299 Windows 8 Tablets that have 7″ screens. Those might really hurt iPad Mini if they understand that consumers are looking for consumption enabling and consumption enhancing devices.
iPad and iPad Mini will continue to be the Best Tablet available. Unfortunately, as prices of competing tablets drop, consumers will choose cheaper options.
Why is iPad the Best Tablet available?
Well, firstly, no one else is approaching Tablets the right way -
- Microsoft is approaching Tablets as smaller PCs. Microsoft doesn’t realize that C is for Consumption, not Computing. Its approach is great for Business, but not for everyday consumers.
- Google is approaching Tablets as another way to gather products (people to advertise to) for its main customers (advertisers). Android Tablets will win out because they are much cheaper. However, there is a difference between ‘Best’ and ‘Highest Selling because they are cheaper and available in 5,000 flavors’.
- Amazon is approaching Tablets as a way to gather customers and sell them stuff. Why is it that Amazon focuses so much on selling and so little on consumption and core Tablet features (email, camera, photos, YouTube, videos)? Because it views the Tablet as Personal Selling Device and not a Personal Consumption Device.
Apple is the only company that’s focused on the Tablet as a Personal Consumption device. Perhaps Personal Consumption Enhancer is the most accurate term.
iPad and iPad Mini are optimized for consumption -
- Widest range of apps related to consumption.
- Smoothest user experience and ease of use.
- Most optimized software for core tablet functions i.e. reading, watching movies, email, surfing the web, taking and sharing photos, communication, video calling, games, etc.
- Most optimized hardware for consumption. This is key – the hardware is optimized for consumption in many, many ways.
- Focus on the user experience and on the user as a consumer. Not product, not creator, not customer for things in the future – just a consumer.
A succinct way of putting it would be – Nothing comes between you and your enjoyment of free time on an iPad Mini.
Add on to this the additional stuff -
- iPad OS is based off of iPhone OS and has been refined for 10+ years.
- iPad has a lead in apps and a lead in money made from apps. Therefore, for now, iPad Apps get first priority from developers.
- iPad is standing on the shoulders of iPhone and iPod. This includes having a huge customer base to sell to.
All of this, and numerous other advantages, mean that iPad is the Best Tablet available. If you were to give ANY user 2-3 weeks with all Tablets. If they were free of any allegiances or prejudices (which, admittedly, is very unrealistic), they would choose the iPad 90% or more of the time.
Perhaps the more accurate statement would be – the iPad would meet their needs 90% of the time. It would meet their needs better 90% of the time.
In some cases, it’s absolutely irrefutable evidence – a much-needed app is only available on the iPad. In other cases, it’s harder to explain things – a much easier to use email program. However, that 90% estimate seems correct to me.
iPad is the Best Tablet and its destined to die on its own sword
iPad will die for the same reason that Netbooks were killing Laptops before iPad took over that duty. For the same reason that iPad is eating away at PC Desktop Sales.
People want more for less. Often they are willing to take less for less – especially if they think they are getting more for less.
Apple told users – Why pay $1,000 for that laptop? Here’s an iPad Tablet. For $499 you can do 80% of what you do. Apps are cheap, so all the software is cheap. The software and hardware might not let you do 100% of what a laptop does, but the software and hardware cover 70% to 80% of what a PC does.
It established precedent. It became OK to cut down what you could do with your Personal Computer/Consumption-Enabler.
As long as you got cheaper hardware and much cheaper software in return.
Now, Amazon and Google are telling users – Why pay $499/$329 for that iPad/iPad Mini? For $199 you can do 70% of what you do on an iPad Mini. Apps are free now – you don’t even have to pay. They might not be as pretty or as polished – but they are free.
Google and Amazon are just continuing down the path Apple started users on.
It’s very interesting in a way. Apple talks about not compromising and focusing on quality. However, with the iPad, it created a precedent of compromise – In what users expected their Personal Computer/Consumption-Enabler to do for them.
There was no compromise on build quality. Just a compromise in what the device can do and, most importantly, what the user could do with their device.
A switch from Consumer+Creator to Consumer+Consumer-Extraordinaire.
The net result is that users now expect cheaper and cheaper hardware and cheaper and cheaper software. And they are willing to compromise to get it.
Netbooks were doing exactly this – offering a compromised experience that focused on consumption and came at a very low price. The PC companies handicapped them because the low price killed their profit margins. It was inevitable that something else would finish the job. That’s where iPad came in. With the added bonus that it was a Luxury Product and a Fashion Statement. A prettier Personal Consumption Enhancer. For half the price. Does 80% of what you do with a PC.
The Age of the Personal Consumption-Enabler and the End of It
When Android and Amazon Tablets eat up the iPad, we’ll enter a newer age – The Age of the Personal Consumption-Enhancer & Advertiser. Where users will say – As long as the hardware is really cheap, and the software is really cheap, it’s fine if this device is mostly focused on consumption. It’s fine if it constantly advertises to me and tracks me and keeps trying to predict my behavior and influence it in subtle ways.
The Age of the Personal Consumption-Enhancer & Advertiser – a world of free-everything. Where the only thing that’s paid for is access to the consumer and to the consumer’s behavior.
There might be a 10% to 20% part of the market that looks for a Personal Computer. Perhaps another 10% to 15% of the market that looks for a Personal Consumption-Enabler. However, the majority of the market is going to shift to a Personal Consumption-Enhancer and Advertiser.
The Personal Consumption-Enhancer & Advertiser will eat away at the Personal Consumption-Enabler, just as the Personal Consumption-Enabler is eating away at the Personal Computer.
If Apple hadn’t introduced an iPad Mini, it would have lost a lot of market share to cheap 7″ Tablets. With the iPad Mini it has only bought itself some time. Apple can’t keep matching prices with Amazon and Google and Microsoft indefinitely. As prices go lower, things get very tough for Apple – it either gives up its great margins, or it gives up market share. It might even end up giving up both – because higher price is a core part of its identity and desirability.
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