Apple’s iPad will be dominant until…

Jim Dalrymple / May 24th, 2012

Watching the professional industry watchers speculate on how long Apple’s iPad will dominate its market segment is kind of funny. Will it be 2012, 2013, no it’s going to be 2015 and then they will fall, right?

iPad screen imageThe funny part is that nobody knows for sure what’s going to happen, but the pronouncements of Apple’s pending demise are delivered with the confidence of someone that has seen into the future. That is of course, until the sales numbers prove them wrong — then another date of demise is announced a couple of years further into the future, and the cycle seems to endlessly repeat itself.

At some point you have to be correct, right?

Just like when the iPhone was first released, many people didn’t think the iPad would be successful. When it was, everyone started to look at when the competitors would topple Apple’s seemingly unsurmountable market lead.

Maybe the RIM PlayBook (Yes, that’s a joke), or one of the many Android tablets that hit the market every other week. So far, nothing has even come close.

There are two things that prognosticators seem to neglect when forecasting Apple’s demise.

First, In order for Apple to fail so badly in the tablet market, they would need to stop innovating completely. If Apple released the same iPad, with no new hardware or software features for two years, they could be overtaken in the market.

However, that’s not what Apple does. They innovate yearly on either hardware, software or both. Innovation is not just about changing the look and feel of a product, it’s about continuing to offer customers solutions to problems. Complex lifestyle problems that continue to evolve require a company that is able to predict what we will need.

Apple has a proven track record in doing this. Macs, iPhones, iPods, iPads and even its many software apps are glimpses into how Apple thinks, not just with design, but also functionality.

The second thing that people count on is that Apple’s competitors will stop trying to copy Apple’s success and make a move to surpass the iPad. Recent history suggests that none of Apple’s competitors are willing to do this.

The industry right now is fighting for second place and they seem content to do that for the foreseeable future. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for them — selling millions of tablets still makes them and the shareholders are happy.

However, settling for second place doesn’t make you innovative. It doesn’t make you a company that consumers want to support. It makes you a company that understands that you don’t have the innovations and design to do it on your own.

Apple’s competitors are afraid to step too far away from the iPad because they want consumers to think of them as a competitor. If their tablet doesn’t look and feel like an iPad, they risk losing sales. That goes against their main goal of making money.

Apple’s design and functionality goals are to make the best products to help its users solve a problem. If they succeed at doing that, the money will follow. Don’t get me wrong, Apple expects its products to be big hits, as every company does, but they go about it in the right way.

The next time you see a forecast of Apple losing its dominance in a market, ask yourself what the competitors are doing to differentiate themselves from Apple. That answer is all you need to know.

Jim Dalrymple

Jim Dalrymple has been reporting on Apple for almost 20 years and has written for many industry publications. Jim currently runs The Loop, a technology focused blog, and plays guitar in his spare time. You can follow him on Twitter or visit his Web site.
  • “At some point you have to be correct, right?”
    Yes.
    You start in 1950 by forecasting that GM will lose market share. And, eventually, 30 years later, you are correct.

  • TheEternalEmperor

    “At some point you have to be correct, right?”
    A stopped clock is correct twice a day.

  • erikvdo

    On the money. I couldn’t agree more. Of course, Android fans will point to the next hardware or OS revision that will have even more superior than the iPad, and how it will be popular enough to take over the #1 position… just like they said last before. All I can say is ‘we’ll see’.

  • Kuriokon

    Very helpful, Jim, to remember that surpassing Apple in market share assumes competitors have surpassed Apple in something, either through Apple’s failure or the competitors’ innovation. What exactly these things are in the diviner’s estimates are not usually stated. Beyond this point is one factor they assume, that the high number of competitors with a common OS is a competitive advantage: Android is to iOS as Windows was to Mac OS. This is such common assumption that it is taken for granted and often not even mentioned.

  • It’s come to the point where tech “pundit” is now becoming synonymous for “fool” (also helped by the Macalope).

  • neutrino23

    The other thing the analysts ignore is Apple’s enormous reach into the global market. There are close to 400 Apple stores where you can test the product, buy it, and get free support. There are hundreds of other sales channels in place and Apple has tremendous mind share. When you say tablet most people think iPad. Not to mention Apple’s enormous footprint in manufacturing and the supply chain. All of this constitutes a huge barrier to entry for a competitor.

    Even if someone came out with a tablet that was truly spectacular it would face enormous headwinds getting established. In the meantime, Apple would have time and resources to respond.

  • When did Polaroid lose its dominance of the instant photo market?
    When did Ford lose its dominance of the truck market?
    When did Boeing lose its dominance of the US commercial aircraft market?
    When did Microsoft lose its dominance of the desktop OS market?
    When did Disney lose its dominance of the high value children’s, family, animation, and adventure films?

    There is no law of the universe that says a company that invents and creates a niche must lose the niche before the product category has run its course.

    Before prognosticating on the when, you must settle the whether.

    • Neil Anderson

      Looks cloudy to me.

  • This is the year of Linux on the desktop.. yeaaaaah, right.

  • I think this website should be rebranded applepinions.com because every article they write is always biased toward Apple. This article is just opinions. And fairly bad at that: Android is outselling iPhones, so while I would stand to hear why history would not repeat itself for the tablet market, Jim is really not bringing anything interesting to the table.

    Jim’s opinion that “the industry right now is fighting for second place and they seem content to do that for the foreseeable future” seems silly to me. Most players in this market mostly aim at being number 1 or number 1 in certain segment. That doesn’t mean necessarily besting the iPad in specs or in hype… but outselling it at least in certain segment.

    Where Jim would be right, is that in the near future the ipad will most likely stay the most profitable device.

    Other than that, Apple has tended to be better at holding the high-end segments of tech devices, excepted in a few niches (MP3 players, smartphones…) where it brought ground breaking innovations and initially capture complete dominance.

  • Eric Anderson

    The success of Apple’s great products indicate to me that people don’t like choices (much research indicates this, also), they like predictability (could also be viewed as they are not adventurous), and they like/are overly impressed with glitz.

  • simon@home

    Samsung has already beaten Iphone. Iphone is already No. 2. Naturally most Apple fans just refuse to acknowledge this fact coz it is an inconvenient truth and it is very “uncool” to tell people ……”I am using a No.2 phone”

    being an Iphone user, I can tell you that it is a shit product compared to Samsung and I will defintely NOT be buying any other Apple product in the near future….

    • Gozinta Gozowta

      I think the iPhone outsells any given model of Samsung phone, no? It’s hard to compare Apple to Sammy because of their very different mobile product lines. Apple makes a limited number of well-differentiated products whereas Samsung builds a wider range of models in multiple sizes.

      Counting all smartphones together and all tablets together (per maker), I thought Apple was beating Samsung in both categories. (Freely admit that I could be wrong, but I’m too lazy to dig up the numbers right now, and Samsung doesn’t release sales numbers anyway.)

      • jfutral

        Plus, Samsung sells through more carriers than Apple, not a small consideration in the cell/smartphone market equation.The cell phone market is further sub-divided by the carrier market. Or maybe it is the other way around. Either way there is a sub-division going on.

        Joe

    • capnbob67

      Samsung doesn’t release numbers so how could we tell? The estimates are all over the map and even if larger (likely) they generate far less revenue and profit than Apple’s iPhone business suggesting much lower margin and ASP. Apple dominates the industry even if it doesn’t dominate the sales charts.

    • capnbob67

      Samsung doesn’t release numbers so how could we tell? The estimates are all over the map and even if larger (likely) they generate far less revenue and profit than Apple’s iPhone business suggesting much lower margin and ASP. Apple dominates the industry even if it doesn’t dominate the sales charts.

  • Rudolf Charel

    Whenever people compare Android phones with iPads and Android tablets they are comparing two totally different markets.

    Phones are distributed through Telecoms and phone shops with subsidised phones and tied in long term contracts.

    iPads are better compared to iPods where Apple has maintained a lead over the life of the product to date.

    I, for one, expect the iPad to maintain market dominance for many years to come if not forever.

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