The Tablet Wars – iPad, Xoom, or Wait

Alan Belniaktechnology3 Comments

Three stone tablets

FIRST GENERATION tablets!

On March 2, 2011, Apple revealed its next-generation table device, dubbed the iPad 2.  It boasted some improvements over the first generation iPad, including a thinner profile, a faster chip, and integrated 3G connectivity with two mobile data carriers.  They manage to hold the price for the six available models (twelve, if you include the two color options) at parity with the first generation iPad.  Some people criticized Apple, saying that this wasn’t a revolutionary product, or that the product doesn’t have enough features.  To that, I respond: sure it does… if you’re the target market.

Believe me, I’m no Apple fan boy.  I have an iPhone, but at least once a day, I get frustrated with it.  I’m not a fan of the locked-down iTunes music system.  It’s not as responsive as I like. I can’t custom0define soft buttons.  The list goes on.  I say this because I want to share with you my qualitative, and reasonably objective, review of four options you might have in the tablet space.

What Are Your Choices?

  • Apple iPad (first generation) – This is a solid device.  Apple essentially created and defined a market, and it continues to command 90%+ market share.  It does lots of things well (music, tons of apps, battery life, and on and on).  You can dig through the Internet for a list of specs if you want (try here to start), but if you are interested in an iPad, you probably aren’t going to do that.  Why?  That’s not the iPad’s target buying persona. Their target persona is someone who wants an instant-on device, with no setup, to consume media.  That’s it.  And for those types of actions (like looking at photos, surfing the web, reading news, social networking, and the like), the first generation iPad is great.
  • Motorola XOOM – This, too, is a solid device.  This is spec’ed to the hilt: lots of storage, fast, HDMI out, a great screen resolution, …  This is the kind of device that people do want to look under the hood.  This is a device for techies and the like. In face, here’s a side-by-side comparison from Droid Life).  If you are tech-savvy and want to push a tablet device to the limits, this is the device for you.  Running on a flexible operating system with a flexible ecosystem for apps, there is little lock-down.  External transfer ports mean you can bring data in and out.  The target buyer persona is someone who may very well want to root this and mess around with it.  Aside from that, its targeted at people who don’t like the Apple ecosystem very much (the ‘DROID!’ mobile phone commercials are similar in this regard).
  • Apple iPad (second generation) – The targeted buyer persona here is people who may have been holding out to see what was to become of the tablet space.  Additionally, Apple is targeting its current fans.  They made some modest improvements (see above), but nothing revolutionary.  This is more a market signal to say, “We defined the market, we still lead it, and we’re not going away.”  I truly wonder if they would have come out with the iPad 2 if the Xoom had not come out.  That aside, the iPad 2, like the iPad 1, is geared toward the hassle-free setup.  Keeping price parity with the iPad 1 was a good move, and they even dropped the price of the first generation iPads (while stock remains).  Two notable apps mentioned in the keynote: iMovie and Garage Band.  Why?  This is Apple’s play to move from a consumption device to a creation device. The first generation iPad was (and still is) all about “taking it in”.  Sure, you could pen a few blog posts and emails.  But manipulating data on the screen and such was somewhat limited.  By creating apps like iMove and Garage Band – two apps that require a lot of interaction, and the ability to create something original – Apple is making a not-so-subtle move.  Expect to see more apps that fall under the creation heading.
  • Wait – Too many options?  Maybe.  The Samsung Galaxy Tab is another option.  The HP Slate is around the corner.  Maybe you’ll just hold out.  Sure, you can.  And when the next big one is released, the Xoom 2 will be almost here, and the iPad 3 rumors will begin.  Do you wait again?  What to do?  Buy now?  Wait?  Buy and trade in?  Abandon all together?

Here’s a good first step.  Ask yourself: What kind of a buyer are you?  How will you use a tablet device once you get it?

  • If you’re going to surf and check mail and such, get a first generation iPad!  They are on sale, and if you go to a site like Gazelle , you can get one even cheaper.
  • If you want to tweak the device, change all kinds of options, root it, overclock it, and geek out with it, go Xoom.  Also, if you are anti-Apple, go Xoom.
  • If you see yourself as wanting to create more media with this (and if you do, spring for the 64GB model – movies and Garage Band music are going to take up a LOT of space!), and still want the ease of use, go iPad 2.
  • If you can’t figure out what you’d want to do with this, then by all means, wait.  Otherwise, you’d spend your money and probably instantly regret it.

I’ll be getting an iPad 2.  Here’s why: the table market was interesting to me at the start, but I was skeptical.  I didn’t have a need for one.  I consume a lot of media now, but had a hard time justifying a spend on an iPad one just to “read a lot of news”.  When the Xoom came out, I was very interested.  It’s extensible and give users lots of choice.  But something Steve Jobs said in his key note stuck with me (and this is a paraphrase): “We’ve paid out more than $2 billion to developers.”  If you know Apple’s revenue model (a 70%-developer/30%-Apple split), then you know a LOT of money has been made on the Apple iOS platform from developers of thirds-party apps, and the number of apps (though not all great apps) is huge.  The Android app store is a bit fragmented now (this will likely change, but not tomorrow), and the number of tablet-specific apps pales in comparison to the iPad.  I want to use something the day I get it.  If I have to wait for apps to mature, that could be a while. Perhaps my next tablet, if there is one, is a Xoom or another competitor.  You’re not just buying the device.  You’re buying access into the ecosystem… the ecosystem that gives the device intrinsic value.

I’ll be just as speculative of the iPad2 it as I was (and am) of the iPhone.  I’ve done my homework.  I figured out what kind of buyer I am.  And I’ve made my choice.

image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/garydenness/2165179756/


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