Forrester published a new report today making the call that the iPad challengers that have been announced so far—Android Honeycomb tablets from Motorola, Toshiba, and others, as well as the BlackBerry PlayBook and HP TouchPad—are solid products with fatally flawed product strategies.
In short, competing tablets are too expensive, and can’t match the Apple Store as a channel. These two claims are related: Forrester’s research has shown that consumers attribute more value to Apple products because of the in-store service. Consumers are not only comparing feeds and speeds; there’s also a human factor. The humans working in the Apple Store will have a huge impact teaching consumers about the iPad and how to use it. Compare the experience of walking into an Apple Store, where the iPad is front and center, to walking into a Verizon store where the Samsung Galaxy Tab is collecting dust at the back of the store and the sales reps don’t quite know what to make of it. Or walking into a Best Buy store, whose shelves will soon be lined with similar-looking tablets with similar functionality.
Apple understands desire. The first thing consumers will notice about the iPad 2 is how it feels: Lighter (by a crucial 2 ounces) and thinner (at 8.8mm, thinner than an iPhone 4). Color triggers emotion: iPad 2 comes in not just black but white, with multiple colors in the thin "smart covers" that snap into place with "auto-aligning magnets" and clean those unsightly fingerprints off your screen. The rest is important but more cerebral. Dual-core processor, HDMI video-out converter for the 30-pin connector, etc. Emotion enters back into the equation when consumers see what they can do with the device--see their loved ones through FaceTime, touch-edit videos in iMovie, improvise on touch-instruments in GarageBand and actually sound good doing it.
In a post-PC world, consumers have a more intimate relationship with their devices. They use them on the couch and in bed and not just at their desk. They show their devices to other people (40% of iPad owners in Forrester's surveys report regularly sharing their iPad with other people). Fostering that desire is a smart way to differentiate your piece of glass from other pieces of glass that perform essentially the same functions.
Beyond the device itself, Apple's product strategy cultivates an emotional connection with consumers through:
Content. Apple's unrivaled app ecosystem adds value to its product. With 65,000 apps, the iPad has the edge in custom-built content. For consumers shopping for tablets, the number of apps isn’t as important as the price of the device, battery life, and 3G service flexibility, but it does matter: 23% of consumers considering buying a tablet rank “number of available apps” in their top-three important features, according to a Forrester survey fielded in January 2011.