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).

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