That's right, I said eReaders. True, it looks like a tablet, runs like a tablet, and delivers a lot of the value that tablets deliver, but the Nook Color's 1.2 upgrade (which is actually a step up to Android 2.2; don't let the numbers confuse you too much) is really a foreshadowing of the future of eReaders, not the future of tablets.
First, the facts. With the new upgrade that will be gradually pushed out to all existing Nook Color devices for free over the next few weeks (or you can download now at www.nookcolor.com/update), the folks at B&N have added some very useful features: an integrated email client, Flash 10.1 support, a curated Android app store (see sidebar), and an improved user experience through a myriad of tweaks. These upgrades make the Nook Color look more and more like a tablet, with a very attractive $249 price point to boot.
Must the iPad now cower in fear? No, not really. Because even at this price point, the Nook Color remains a smaller, less powerful tablet than the iPad. And as we've seen, the range of competitors coming in after the iPad's territory are coming in at higher prices with more powerful features (for example, last week I dropped $529 for an LG G-Slate from T-Mobile with 3D video camera and 4G data plan). The tablet market is gradually moving into higher-power features, not lower-power experiences.
Tablets are a red hot topic since the launch of Apple’s iPad more than a year ago. Tablets are the most visible aspect of a broader topic on the minds of vendor strategists – the consumerization of IT. Consumerization is defined variously as using personal devices for work, pay-per-use payment models, spending personal money for work-related cloud services, and employee self-provisioning of IT capacity outside the oversight of IT. In our annual Forrsights Hardware Survey, Q3 2010, we asked IT infrastructure buyers responsible for supporting end user computing about a variety of topics related to consumerization of IT and learned that:
The IT organizations in 26% of enterprises (firms with 1000 employees or more) were planning to implement or had implemented general purpose touchscreen tablets such as the Apple iPad. Of that total, 4% reported they’d already implemented, and 17% were already piloting by Q3, 2010, approximately 6 months after the launch of this brand new category. SMBs, firms with 999 employees or less, were lower at 18% planning or implemented.
Only 2% of firms, large and small, reported implementing or piloting bring-your-own-PC models, despite several years of hype among the desktop virtualization software vendors about this model. We expect this PC deployment model to grow, but it’s not a broad trend yet.
Firms are using more consumer-style Web applications on PCs, with 84% firms increasing their use of Web applications. But they’re not abandoning locally installed applications. 55% of firms are increasing or staying the same on their use of installed applications, while only 4% are seriously reducing use.
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.
My colleague John McCarthy just published an excellent report sizing the "App Internet," a phenomenon Forrester defines as "specialized local apps running in conjunction with cloud-based services" across smartphones, tablets, and other devices. Tablet devices alone will generate $8.1 billion in global app sales in 2015, up from $300 million in 2010. This is a huge number, but as the report explains, it's only a fraction of the total spend on apps when you factor in the cost to develop the apps and reinvent the processes behind the apps. This is no surprise to companies like News Corp., which will have spent $30 million through June 30 on "The Daily" iPad app. That $30 million included major process reinvention such as building an entirely new content management system to handle the all-digital production of The Daily's newsroom.
I recommend that product strategists developing experiences for tablets read John's report. Some key takeaways:
Apps are a source of dynamism and innovation for tablets. What we've seen with tablets is that even on the iPad, consumers report spending more time using browsers than using apps, but apps are an important part of the experience. iPad owners in Forrester's January 2011 consumer survey report downloading, on average, 20 apps for their iPads since getting the device, and spending an average of $34 on tablet apps.
The Motorola Xoom went on sale today, the first tablet to ship with the Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" operating system. I've been testing the Xoom for the past few days, and here's my take:
The Xoom is a solid, sexy product. If the Xoom were a guy, he'd be the quarterback who occasionally flashed a GQ-style fitted suit and pocket square. The device is plenty powerful and has some nice design flair. When you use the camera, for example, it anticipates that you'll be holding it in landscape mode with your right thumb on the screen, and it simulates the radial control dial of a real camera under your thumb. There are no awkward moments, as there were with earlier Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Dell Streak--it's slick and fast and feels like a tablet rather than an oversized smartphone. It has all the features you'd expect from an iPad challenger (cameras, ports, Flash support, etc.).
The most important outcome of this week’s emerging tussle between Apple and Google is that we are about to have an intense and financially difficult conversation about what a fair price is for delivering customers to developers, publishers, and producers. Economically, this is one of the most critical issues that has to be resolved for the future of electronic content. Very soon, a majority of consumer experiences (that which we used to refer to as the media) will be digital. But not until the people who will develop those experiences have unambiguous, market-clearing rules for how they can expect to profit from those experiences.
The question comes down to this: Is 30% a fair price for Apple to charge? I must be clear about my intentions here. I do not employ the word “fair” the way my children often do. I am not whining about Apple’s right to charge whatever it wants. Apple may do whatever is best for shareholders in the short- and long-run. I argued yesterday that Apple’s recent decision does not serve its shareholders in the long run. Google announced One Pass yesterday – hastily, I might add – in order to signal to Apple and its shareholders that monopoly power rarely lasts forever. But none of that questions the ultimate morality of Apple’s decision or its rights.
I use the word “fair” to refer to a state of economic efficiency. A fair price is one that maximizes not just individual revenue, but total revenue across all players. Such revenue maximization cannot be achieved without simultaneously satisfying the largest possible number of consumers with the greatest possible amount of innovation.
Yesterday Apple announced its intention to tighten its hold on the payment for and the delivery of content through its successful iTunes platform. (I’ll leave off the I-told-you-so; oops, too late.) Apple will require that all content experiences that can be paid for in an Apple app must be purchasable inside the app, with Apple collecting its 30% fee. The app can no longer direct you to a browser or some other means for completing a transaction. Crucially, the in-app purchase offer must be extended at the same price as the same offer made elsewhere. Though the announcement of the subscription model was the triggering event, the policy extends to all paid content.
I do not believe this is where Apple will stop – I personally expect them to eventually deny the delivery of content paid for outside of the app without some kind of convenience charge. But my personal expectations are irrelevant here, because what Apple has done already is sufficient to make providers of content aggressively invest in alternative means to reach the market.
Subscription content services are the lifeblood of the content economy. A full 63% of the money consumers spend on content of all types comes through a renewable subscription (I’ll be publishing this data from a survey of 4,000 US online adults as part of a bigger analysis next month, hang tight). Most of that subscription revenue goes to pay-TV providers, but 17% of it goes to newspaper and magazine publishers, including their online or app content experiences.
Today HP unveiled its new line of webOS phones and the HP TouchPad, the first of a family of tablets HP is planning to launch. Here's our take on the TouchPad product strategy:
Product: The TouchPad marries the best of HP and Palm with features like Beats audio, printer compatibility, and nifty applications of Palm's Touchstone technology. Just as important, they've chosen a 9.7-inch screen size to make it as easy as possible for developers to port over their apps from the iPad, which will help them build their app ecosystem quickly. The device is thicker than the iPad and lacks the cool aluminum casing, but it has features the iPad doesn't (yet) have, like a front camera and multiple ports. There's still room for future improvement, like jazzing up the black hardware with a Vivienne Tam design as HP has done with its netbooks and notebooks to give the TouchPad more personality--and of course, launching 3G and 4G, which they plan to do later this year.
Place: In a Forrester survey in January of 4,000 US online consumers, the No. 1 place consumers said they'd prefer to buy a tablet was electronic stores like Best Buy--40% of consumers considering buying a tablet said they'd prefer this channel, compared with only 11% that said they'd prefer to buy from a mobile service provider like Verizon. Here, HP has a huge advantage over Android tablet-makers like Samsung who are primarily relying on carriers to make the sale. HP has a strong relationship with Best Buy and the Touchstone technology will play well on retail shelves; however, Apple still has a stronger play on distribution since it's not only in Best Buy, Target, etc. but also owns its own channel--the Apple Store is a laboratory for teaching consumers about the iPad (and how to buy content on it).
Price: An unknown. HP is not announcing price at this time.
Today The New York Times is reporting that Apple is changing its policy for allowing apps to deliver content that was paid for somewhere other than in the app where Apple would get a cut. This came to light when Sony was forced to explain why its iPhone and iPad apps were not being released as promised. This is important to illustrate clearly because this is not just about Sony. In fact, it is expected that Apple will apply this same policy to existing apps over the coming months. The most obvious target is Amazon.com's Kindle store, but we have no reason to believe it will stop with eBook retailers; instead, this policy should also affect magazines, newspapers, even videos and games.
This represents a shift for Apple. Going back to the iPod days, Apple only sold music because it helped sell iPods. When Apple added the iPhone app store, it allowed Amazon to add a Kindle app because it would only make iPhones more valuable to potential buyers. The same held true for the iPad. But now that the company has built such a powerful ecosystem of devices, content, and consumers, it appears Apple is eager to ensure it can collect any and all tolls along its proprietary highways. I note this with some irony because it was just three weeks ago that I praised Apple's surprising openness in a report explaining the iPad's rapid growth: