Can Google or Microsoft Compete with the iPad?

Rob Enderle

Even with Apple's success with the iPhone, success with the iPad isn't a given. The company has left a lot of openings with its first-generation product, which has clear limitations. This suggests that the iPad won't hit its stride until its second or third generation. Despite having more resources, though, neither Google nor Microsoft has shown the ability to compete with Apple successfully in smartphones. So does that change with this new tablet?

 

It is interesting to note that this new tablet is more anti-PC then the traditional Mac platform is, and many think it will help redefine computing, including me. But with the PC, while Apple clearly started the wave, Apple didn't ride it well, even in the early years. Apple initially was passed by Commodore, which later failed, suggesting its success this time is far from certain.

 

Let's look at how Microsoft, Google and their relative ecosystems stack up against Apple. We will assume iPhone-level execution for Apple, since the iPad has not actually shipped yet, and assume Android phone-level execution for Google, since its tablets also have yet to hit the market. While RIM has come the closest to matching Apple's customer loyalty and execution on smartphones, there is no indication that it is planning a tablet, so I'm leaving it out of this comparison.

 

Areas of Comparison

There are four areas of comparison that the iPhone's success has identified, by order of importance: customer experience ownership; marketing (demand generation); design; and richness of ecosystem (application store/accessories/content, etc.).

 

  • Customer experience ownership is the consistent high-quality experience the customer gets with the product regardless of who supplies the specific component.
  • Demand-generation marketing is how excited customers get about the offering and how much they adjust their buying behavior to buy into the product ecosystem.
  • Design is the look and feel of the product including core accessories, software, appearance of the device and ease of use.
  • Richness of ecosystem is the depth and breadth of the applications and ecosystem that surround the device allowing it to perform additional tasks, integrate with other products (cars/receivers etc.), and perform unique tasks (both for work and entertainment). It includes content as well, including movies, books, games and music.


Apple

Apple aggressively owns the customer experience, turning off multitasking to preserve application speed and battery life, making sure the phones stay locked to their preferred carrier, aggressively reviewing applications for approval, and even assuring the buying experience in most cases through Apple stores and online. While not perfect, particularly in the application-approval area, it goes further than any other vendor to control and assure customer experience.

 

Apple puts the entire company behind a new product during launch, shifting the entire company to its introduction and initial demand development. From the way the product is presented, to placement on TV, to sampling, to aggressive traditional and online marketing programs, Apple is unmatched in the segment in both amount spent on demand-generation marketing and the quality of execution.

 

Product design is seen as an Apple strength. However it often trades off the appearance of the device against other drivers, such as making sure it owns the royalties from its ecosystem (unique docking) and the reliability of the product (Apple often favors attractive finishes over more robust ones). Apple generally is regarded as a company that pushes the design envelope, but in ways that most return buyers find very attractive and acceptable in terms of risk.

 

Apple enjoys one of the richest ecosystems in its segment, from the largest application store to the deepest selection of accessories from third parties. This class of product produces massive income from additional sales in accessories, applications, games and content.


Google

Google passes the customer experience over to the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), who have had some success. HTC has seems to have come closest to Apple in assuring the customer experience, but remains far from closing the gap. For the tablet class, Google appears to prefer the ChromeOS platform over Android, which would tie the related products more closely in to the cloud, and Google's strength there could close this gap. But the ChromeOS is far from production, vastly different in execution to Android and difficult to assess as a result.

 

Google leaves marketing to the OEM or carrier. The effort on Droid, driven by Verizon, showed that this model could be competitive, but, so far, that phone has not approached the iPhone's profit and revenue numbers. Google's own branded phone, the Nexus One, has underperformed expectations in this regard even though, based on specifications, it is a superior offering to the Droid.

 

Product design is left to the OEMs as well, who tend to favor robust materials over more attractive ones. Without the needed marketing to drive home this advantage, it hasn't proved to be one. While the phones are increasingly attractive, it is clear the OEMs are learning how to provide a consistent hardware/software offering, and the related experience generally lags.

 

Google has a relatively weak ecosystem. Google is more lenient in its applications, but falls far behind Apple in terms of application breadth and depth, though it often is seen as having higher-quality applications. Accessories don't seem to bridge phones very well, though the Android phones do tend to use more common interfaces like USB that might provide a consumer advantage at a cost to Google.

 

Microsoft

Microsoft also shares the customer experience with the OEMs and has been trying to move tablets into the market since 2003. They've been received poorly outside of vertical markets, though. Microsoft did create a potentially more cohesive Windows variant called Origami, but failed to finish it. The OEMs struggled with related products, causing it to fail. With smartphones, like Google, Microsoft shares ownership of the experience between carriers and OEMs. That has hurt ease of use and, partially as a result, this platform has been in decline. It's now positioning Windows, not Windows Mobile, at the tablet market.

 

Windows 7 marketing has been competitive; Windows Mobile marketing has not. Traditionally Microsoft does little demand-generation marketing, leaving that to the OEMs, who generally aren't in Apple's league with marketing of this type. The competition in its ecosystem tends to drive heavy price competition, leaving little budget to pitch the platform and contributing to the lack of excitement surrounding Microsoft's smartphones and tablets.

 

Product design is left to the OEMs. As with Google, this typically leads to lots of inconsistencies between hardware and software, and excess complexity. As a result, the products are harder to sell, and potential customers often find them intimidating. The only products for which Microsoft approached Apple's level of execution are the Xbox and Zune, and it had to break out of this shared OEM model to do so.

 

Microsoft has a strong Windows-based ecosystem of software, content, games and accessories in the PC space that also generally apply to tablets. However, these accessories vary from vendor to vendor, and while they use standard interfaces like USB, integration with cars and receivers is far less common as a result. Microsoft has more partners and has demonstrated with products like Ford Sync, so it would seem the company could outperform Apple here, but it has not.

 

Wrapping Up

The Apple iPad is a first-generation product and, as such, leaves substantial room for someone else to step in and improve it. However, neither Google nor Microsoft has demonstrated broadly the needed capabilities to bring out a real competitor. Google, with the ChromeOS and a more robust back end, could create something potentially more advanced. Microsoft, which has been in the tablet segment since 2003, brings to the competition experience and a more mature platform, but it lacks Apple's focus.

 

Microsoft with Zune and the Xbox has shown it can create products that could compete, but only by breaking the model that made the company successful. Google has conflicting platforms -- Android and ChromeOS -- targeting this segment, and you might argue that Microsoft should use Windows Mobile rather than Windows 7 as its platform now that we have seen the iPad.

 

Both Microsoft and Google have, with partners, vastly more resources than Apple. But if they can't focus those resources at the key elements that make this solution successful, the resulting complexity will once again be a disadvantage and allow Apple -- or someone like RIM or Amazon -- to own this emerging segment more successfully.



Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Feb 2, 2010 6:45 AM a. asdf a. asdf  says:

I am very negative on the iPad. For the reasons below;

First the hardware. Before it came out, people were exited to see what Apple was going to come up with. People were speculating about stuff like pupil tracking and gesture features so advanced that you just had to pretend you were writing with a pen to get stylus functionality. And after waiting all this time, we find out it's an iPhone with a larger screen. No innovation to speak of. I can't think of one new feature that Apple gave us, except for micro SIM. What the heck is a micro SIM and who even sells it? How can the the 3.5" iPhone accept a regular SIM, yet the 9.7" iPad has to use an unheard of SIM format, to save space? Is that a serious lack of judgment from Apple, or am I missing something?

Second, the OS. If Microsoft came out with a 9.7" Windows Mobile device, it would be a laughingstock. The whole reason you would use a Mobile OS is if you have limited resources (CPU/memory) and to save battery life. The iPad achieves a 10 hour battery life with it's mobile OS, but why? I can get 10 hours on an Atom XP netbook ( www.amazon.com/ASUS-1005HA-PU1X-BK-10-1-Inch-Black-Netbook/dp/tech-data/B002DYIXMI/ ). So what was the point of using a mobile OS and a custom ARM chip? They could have just taken an ASUS netbook for $325 retail, added a touchscreen, converted it into a tablet, and it could now be running OSX. Instead we get a web tablet with no flash and no multitasking. How can you have a web tablet with no flash, when even smartphones (ie. Nokia n900) have flash. So in the end, it's an iPhone with all the shortcomings and without any of the portability.

I do not see any way for the iPad not to get slaughtered by the competition. Any capable Chrome OS (maybe Android) and especially Windows 7 tablet is going to wipe the floor with the iPad.

Reply
Feb 2, 2010 6:55 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says: in response to a. asdf

It kind of depends on whether Apple redefines the market or not.  This thing could become another failed tweener device.  Then again a lot of folks thought the iPhone would flop and it sure didn't and, at the time, no one was buying phones in that size class either.  

I do think we won't know for sure until generation 2 or 3 though, this initial product has too many trade-offs much like the initial iPhone did so it will take awhile to mature.  Currently, in this class, only HP has showcased a competing offering and even they supposedly have an Android based product coming so it looks more like a fight, assuming the category is real, between Google and Apple and Microsoft is off the page.  Sad because Microsoft's Courier prototype actually seemed to have more interest than the initial iPad design did. 

We'll see though, while Apple can fail (and did with AppleTV) they don't fail often.   Thanks for the comment!

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Feb 2, 2010 9:06 AM a. asdf a. asdf  says: in response to Rob Enderle

What is the market Apple is trying to redefine?

According to Jobs ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLHDc8bj9w8#t=6m45s ) the iPad is supposedly "the 3rd device between a smartphone and a laptop". It has "to be better at browsing, email, photos, video, music, games, ebooks than a laptop and a smartphone". By his own definition, the iPad has "no reason for being". Without flash, it fails at browsing, photos (no flickr and other picture galleries that use flash), video (no youtube, hulu), games (no online flash games, likely no java either).  It also fails at email and ebooks with no multitasking since I would want to go on the web at the same time when doing those things. Jobs also says he doesn't think "netbooks are the 3rd category device", yet netbooks do those things magnitudes better than the iPad, with of without Flash, since netbooks have a desktop OS. 

Even with a 2nd/3rd generation iPad, the OS is likely going to be an iPhone OS. Yet there is no reason why you can't have a desktop OS on a tablet. The ASUS netbook I linked to proves you can do it while maintaining price, battery life, and weight. I can write pages on the topic, but it's pretty pointless unless I'm designing my own tablet.

Reply
Feb 2, 2010 9:45 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says: in response to a. asdf

That's the difference between a PC and appliance.   The Flash thing is a big issue, I agree, given how they positioned this thing.  Steve is anti Flash, the other tablets will run the latest versions.  Flash support and multi-tasking are Apple decisions, not a technology shortcoming.  The Acer is about 2.9 lbs or nearly twice the 1.5 the Apple tablet is.  But I hear you, in terms of what you get for the money the Acer is a deal.  Then again compared to a Porsche a Chevy is a deal as well, depends on what you want and Apple is really good at getting us to want their stuff. 

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Feb 3, 2010 3:00 AM bilo bilo bilo bilo  says:

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Feb 3, 2010 10:15 AM a. asdf a. asdf  says: in response to Kevin Carmichael

I don't think Apple is going after the Kindle. If you watch the Youtube link I posted, the first thing that Jobs said while defining this device was browsing, ebooks was the last. The primary focus seems to be browsing, yet it is deficient in that area. The Kindle doesn't have anything to worry about from the iPad, but rather from devices like these: www.pcworld.com/article/186455/entourage_edge_coolest_textbook_ever.html

Shipping in March.

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Feb 3, 2010 12:13 PM Kevin Carmichael Kevin Carmichael  says:

I think Apple is not going after Microsoft/Google as much as they are trying to pick up any momentum the Amazon Kindle is making. The ability to read eBooks AND have the standard iPhone/iTouch features can now lure potential eBook users to maintain one device for everything. I think the Kindle has more to worry about than anyone else. While the Kindle is more focused on eBooks and may outperform in the area of eBooks...having a one device does all fits alot of people's budgets and reasoning/justification when purchasing something new. That is why i bought the iPhone. I would rather have one device for my apps/music/videos/phone/internet/email, etc than carry around an iTouch/iPod and a smart phone.

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Feb 3, 2010 12:36 PM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says: in response to Kevin Carmichael

Agreed however the device represents a threat to both Apple and Microsoft thus the focus of the piece.   I wonder, as a blended product though, if 10" was wise because it isn't as portable as it needs to be to replace an iPhone (and it doesn't do the Phone stuff) implying that Apple thinks you will buy both.  The Dell prototype Mini 5 with a 5" screen based on Android seems to come closer to this blended ideal, it is small enough to put on a belt and has full phone features.  We'll see...

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Feb 4, 2010 9:56 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says: in response to a. asdf

I think the iPad is already stalling Kindle sales and the book deals Apple has done have forced Amazon to go to the same agency model. 

www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2010/02/04/entertainment-specialized-consumer-services-us-books-amazon-macmillan_7332052.html?boxes=techchannelAP

Amazon may be responding quicker than we think:

www.thestreet.com/storycomments/10674207/1/amazon-adds-color-to-kindle-rumor.html

Drivng some interesting speculation at the moment:

technologizer.com/2010/02/04/five-possible-superkindles/

One of the folks at CES said he heard the next Kindle will have a color transflective screen and be out before Christmas. 

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Feb 6, 2010 9:54 AM a. asdf a. asdf  says: in response to Rob Enderle

I'm beginning to think that the best course of action for Apple would be to abandon the iPad.

Everybody from all over the place is coming up with tablet devices of their own ( www.exopc.com/en/exopc-slate-comparison.php ), I've never seen anything like it. The field has become so overcrowded that I see no way for Apple to differentiate its' product or put up any meaningful competition. Not when people can get a Windows 7 tablet with better specs for around the same price, minus sacrificing some battery life.

Not only that, then there's the issue of the iPhone. Let's say I have an iPhone, am I really going to buy an iPad? Do I really need a 3" iPhone and another 9" iPhone? Even if I do buy an iPad, do I buy another data plan for it, on top of my iPhone data plan? Since I can't remove my iPhone SIM and put it into my iPad, which Apple has made sure that I can't with the micro SIM nonsense.

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Feb 10, 2010 7:25 AM Chukwuweta Chukwudebe Chukwuweta Chukwudebe  says:

Why IS the iPad?

As in WHY should I, an American Primate of relatively sound

mind and body and of less than senile age, give four thousand nine

hundred and ninety nine of my hard earned currency units to

be "Padded" by OG Jobs?

The average American primate circa 2010 AD waddles

a morn from a cave littered with unused computing power

thousands of times more powerful than that aboard any

of the moon landing space craft..With which the vast majority

of us do what primates always want to do most - watch,

(as opposed to read about) other primates doing inane

primate stuff (now on gigantic flickering screens) and

receive/send inane communiques from/to other primates.

And Apple and others already have better devices than the

iPad to do that and I already own one of them.

They take with them where ever they go data acquisition

and communication devices whose capabilities are gradually

becoming indistinguishable from the fictional unrealistic devices

from once fantastical children's television shows such as Star Trek

that enable them to remain in constant contact with, and access

any piece of information or thought emanating from, any other

primate brain no matter where in the known universe it exists,

and no matter how irrelevant or meaningless or diseased that

which it contains is.

And Apple and others already have better devices than the

iPad to do that and I already own one of them.

The majority of the primates burn the fermented flesh of dead

dinosaurs to move their individual glutenous maximusi around in

gigantic hunks of steel to and from their hunting/gathering grounds.

While doing so they have instantaneous access to the recorded

rhythmic grunts, hoots and chatters of practically infinite numbers

of their primate brethren, both past present- even future, (via

Sonorgram) so that not even one second of their existence

should ever be faced with the horror of silence or self

contemplation.

And Apple and others already have better devices than the

iPad to do that and I already own one of them.

Whether hunting , gathering, mating or consuming,

(even de-consuming), no matter the standard human

activity, Apple and others already have

better devices that follow where primates are doing it,

and give them what they tell them that they think they

want and with which said primates agree by buying them,

as I myself have already done.

Now, are Apple's devices empirically worth the extra four thousand

nine hundred and ninety nine currency units, just because they are,

well, Apple?Are they significantly and empirically better

such as to justify a place in the endless pantheon of glittering things

I must lay my ape paws upon or if I can not, I must spend my ape

ram upon to think about?Must I now add an iPad to my

repertoire of things I must have in order to complicate/enhance

my primate existence and make it worth living? Reply

Feb 10, 2010 7:25 AM Chukwuweta Chukwudebe Chukwuweta Chukwudebe  says:

IMHO nah- or only in the sense that a fork or a brand of toilet

paper is significantly and empirically better than another

once the pretty wrapping is off and the device is actually

being used in the manner intended.

Which is to say, there is nothing I want to do with a Pad

that I couldn't and wouldn't rather do using a laptop, a television

and/or - in special circumstances- , a Kindle and/or another

primate.

Therefore :

Because Jobs is already rich, while I am not.

I am not spending four thousand nine hundred

and ninety nine of my currency units

to buy his old wine

just because he's poured it into a pretty box.

Reply
Mar 8, 2010 1:08 AM Edward Fehling Edward Fehling  says: in response to Chukwuweta Chukwudebe

Most eloquently put.

Reply

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