You need something other than a Tablet to beat the iPad

The same way that Apple needed the whole concept of ‘post-PC’ to effectively fight Windows. None of the aesthetic superiority or attention-to-detail of MacOS mattered – Windows just dominated the PC landscape. Neither Linux nor MacOS nor anything else made significant inroads because they were running a race which Microsoft had too much of a lead in.

All the companies making Tablets to compete with the iPad need to understand that they don’t have to run the race according to Apple’s preferred rules. It would be the stupidest thing to keep trying to make Tablets when your competitor has a HUGE lead and also has a ton of patents.

Instead, use something like the Reading Tablet or a new breed of laptops or non-restricted Netbooks or even eReaders to fight against the iPad.

First-Mover Advantage is hard to beat

There’s a reason why Windows and Office are still around and still destroying the competition.

Part of it is that no one actually made anything that works as well for normal users. Part of it is that Microsoft has so many advantages (experience, partnerships, money, lawyers, piece of mind, expertise) that it’s really tough to catch up.

If the Justice Department hadn’t stepped in the domination would be even more obvious.

What Apple did is perfect. And that’s what people trying to beat Apple should do.

First, you create a niche for yourself you can dominate (which is what Amazon has done with Kindle and B&N has done with Nook Color and countless other companies have done in countless other areas). Then you expand it. You let this new ‘concept/product/idea/lifestyle/association’ become stronger.

That’s the key step – Expand what you already dominate. Focus on your core competency.

Companies right now are forgetting they are karate world champions and trying to fight Apple in taekwondo and getting whipped. If you are a tenth belt in Karate then you don’t want to say yes to a wrestling match with the Olympic Champion. It makes no sense. Apple eventually figured it out. Now other companies need to do the same.

Apple started off with mp3 players. Not very magical and revolutionary. No matter how much you might try to glamorize it they were just mp3 players. But that’s what was needed to build up to a level where you could take on Microsoft’s dominance (it didn’t hurt that Bill Gates retired).

Then more and more and eventually the iPhone and the iPad. Never taking on the Giant head-on because you don’t get into a sword fight with Goliath. If David had picked up a sword and run straight at Goliath we wouldn’t know who he was.

Patents make things Tougher

The lesson Apple is teaching Samsung in Patent Law should be a stark reminder that chasing the iPad via a Tablet isn’t optimal.

You can’t use ‘app store’ as the name of your app store. You can’t have a rectangular, thin Tablet because that means it’s a copy of the iPad. You can’t use pinch to zoom because it’s patented. The list goes on. Every single thing about Tablets is patented and most of these patents lie with companies dying to carve out a piece of your flesh.

Sidestep that and make a device where you don’t have to worry about lawyers all the time.

Attack the Weaknesses, not the Strengths

Netbooks were eating up the laptop market. Then manufacturers and Microsoft put in all sorts of pointless restrictions – you couldn’t have more than 1GB memory if you wanted X price. All sorts of anti-customer nonsense.

Netbook manufacturers stunted netbooks to save laptops. Perhaps it’s time to stop handicapping netbooks and laptops and let them evolve naturally.

Cloning the iPad won’t work because you’re trying to fight it on its strengths. A device that is trying to be a ‘post-PC’ device just because Apple the Pied Piper is claiming PC devices are dead won’t work. It’s in Apple’s interest to claim this. Manufacturers need to stop playing into Apple’s hands.

There is no such thing as ‘post PC’. It’s all made-up. If manufacturers understand that, then half the battle is won.

The Reading Tablet is different enough, but a pure Kindle would be better

Nook Color has done well enough to show that a Reading Tablet can survive and thrive. The Kindle has done well enough to show that the iPad is not the destroyer of all devices.

Let both grow and sooner or later they will each get a shot at bringing down the iPad. But not if they are treated as a preliminary step before making a full tablet. They are the end in themselves.

The aim of the Kindle isn’t to morph into an iPad Clone and the aim of the Nook Color isn’t to become NookPad. They will sell tens of millions of units a year as they are. They just need to keep improving.

That’s the key thing – Nook Color and Kindle are an end in themselves. They can fight and win by being themselves and that’s what they need to do. Amazon and B&N should feel free to introduce their own iPad clones but it would be sad to see them forget that it’s far easier to flourish in an area which you already dominate.

It’s an idea war and Apple’s biggest strength (when it comes to its competitors) is its ability to convince them to fight the battle it wants to fight, on the terms it wants. If Amazon and B&N and Google and Facebook and Microsoft can stick with what’s working for them (that’s key – it’s working) then they will keep flourishing and eventually take down Apple (because let’s admit it – without Steve Jobs Apple is a shell and loses 90% of its Reality Distortion Field).

What happens to Kindle, eReaders if iPad 2 uses Mirasol?

Thanks to OIC for this comment –

i think an iPad with mirasol can kill all competitors. There are only two thing iPad doesn’t have, that is low power usage and free internet

It brings up an interesting question –

What happens to the Kindle, and to eReaders, if the iPad 2 comes with a Qualcomm Mirasol screen?

What does a Mirasol screen add to the iPad 2?

Actually, quite a lot –

  1. It’s ePaper and it makes the screen very readable – no backlight, very good pixel density, very good clarity.
  2. It’s readable in sunlight and bright light.
  3. It makes the battery life amazing. 
  4. You don’t lose color. You could use IR like Sony did to preserve touch.
  5. You have a cool, new technology. In the hands of Steve Jobs it would turn into the coolest thing created since advertising.

These are considerable advantages. The problem is that there are also downsides.

Downsides of using Mirasol

When we look at what Apple’s needs for an iPad 2 screen are, we find that Mirasol has quite a few disadvantages –

  1. The color is not as bright as LCD, and Mirasol powered iPad 2s would look terrible compared to LCD and Amoled displays. 
  2. The price is going to be higher than for LCD screens of comparable size.
  3. The refresh speed might not be enough for games and movies. Yes, Qualcomm says it’s very good – But it’s nothing close to what you can get with LCDs, and is likely to be insufficient for movies.
  4. Qualcomm probably can’t manufacture enough Mirasol displays to meet Apple’s needs. iPad 2 might sell a few million units a month – there’s no way enough Mirasol displays can be made. Additionally, the new Mirasol screen production facility doesn’t go live until 2012 – so there would be screen supply problems for a whole year.
  5. Mirasol displays aren’t tested with customers or in production devices. The last thing Apple wants is to use untested screens on devices that go out to millions of people – if anything goes wrong Apple would have to recall everything.
  6. Apple would have to figure out a way to create a touch screen with the same level of smoothness as the iPad screen. Mirasol are just figuring out their screen.
  7. Mirasol would probably not be able to deliver the level of pixel resolution Apple wants – so no Retina display.
  8. No backlight for reading at night or in low light conditions. A back-light is especially important in a device that is primarily meant for surfing, playing games, and watching movies.

That’s a lot of negatives. In fact, the negatives make it highly unlikely that Apple will use Mirasol for the iPad 2.

Still, it’s worth pondering what the impact might be.

What would happen to Kindle, eReaders if a Mirasol iPad 2 were released?

Let’s say Apple disregards all the negatives and releases a Mirasol powered iPad 2. We get a very interesting situation –

  1. iPad 2 probably loses on price and wins on value for money. Let’s say it’s $350. Kindle 3 would be in a bit of trouble. Kindle WiFi would be fine. Nook Color would be in quite a bit of trouble.
  2. iPad 2 would probably not have free Internet or free store browsing.
  3. No more ‘readable in sunlight’ advantage for eInk Readers.
  4. No more ‘easier on the eyes’ advantage for eInk Readers.
  5. iPad 2 would have color – it would be the only ePaper based eReader with a color screen.
  6. Steve Jobs would find a way to turn Mirasol into the second coming of Christ.
  7. All the disadvantages of Mirasol are only disadvantages when compared against LCD tablets. When compared against eInk eReaders they turn into advantages – color, refresh speed, newness, and so forth.
  8. Perhaps most importantly, Mirasol is NEW and SHINY and LATEST GENERATION. It’s the future of ePaper and eInk, and it instantly makes all other eReaders seem ancient. It’s not even a difference like eInk Pearl which is hard to quantify – It’s a painfully obvious difference i.e. color vs black and white.

If Apple were to release a Mirasol powered eReader it would instantly take the #1 position in eReader sales. Most of the people looking to buy a dedicated eReader would prefer Apple’s eReader because it would have color, the newest technology, allow all reading apps, and also support library books.

If Apple were to release a Mirasol powered iPad 2, all eReader companies would get thrown into crisis mode

Apart from the price factor, there wouldn’t be any reason to pick an eInk powered eReader over a Mirasol powered eReader. A Mirasol powered iPad 2 would be just as good for reading as any other eReader – After all, it is ePaper.

It would force every other eReader maker to release color eInk powered eReaders. In the interim they would have to cut prices to below $100 to avoid a total destruction of sales.

Chances are eReader companies won’t have to go through such a crisis.

Will Apple use a color eReader screen on a device that is a Do-Everything?

Apple gets two huge non-reading related advantages if it uses Mirasol – great battery life, readability in sunlight. It gets two huge reading-related advantages – a screen that is easier on the eyes, a screen that is like ink on paper.

At the same time it makes a lot of compromises – inferior touch, inferior color, slower screen refresh speed, an untested technology, no Retina display marketing magic, higher screen costs, higher production risks, no backlight.

For all the people buying iPad 2 for non-reading related reasons, which is probably 80% or more of people buying the iPad 2, that’s a bad trade-off. It makes no sense to upset 80% of your customers.

It’s highly unlikely Apple will build iPad 2 using Mirasol screens. We are, however, left with one interesting possibility – Apple might be building a non-iPad reading tablet.

The 10% chance Apple will release a Reading Tablet

Apple sold 10 million plus iPads last year. At the same time Amazon might have sold between 5 and 8 million Kindles (just guesses and rumors).

Steve Jobs might be thinking – People would get library books. People would get a choice of reading apps. They would get color and animated page turns and a device that does more than just read. Why not make an iReader along with the iPad 2?

He might just have an iReader ready to launch alongside the iPad 2. The iPad 2 follows up on the iPad. The iReader has a 7″ screen, is closer to Nook Color than to Kindle, and targets the eReader market.

There are rumors that iPad 2 focuses more on reading. There are even rumors that it has a special screen that reduces glare. What if the rumors are wrong and all the reading-focused features are being built into a separate Apple Reading Tablet?