Convince Me Not to Buy an iPad

Ben Bajarin / October 8th, 2012

We at Creative Strategies, as a part of our study of consumer markets, frequently interview consumers in order to get a pulse of the market needs, wants, and desires. To do this we have conversations with groups of consumers in a specific part of the adoption curve. I was having a conversation with some folks who would not fall into the early adopter or the early majority but more toward the late majority of consumers. This group, unlike the early majority, represents the largest part of the consumer buying segment and one of the more interesting and diverse. Early adopters are predictable; the early and late majority are not. Their needs wants and desires are often more realistic, practical and nuanced, or one may say more down to earth.

During a recent interview I had an interviewee say something that got me thinking. When I asked a woman how strongly she would consider competing tablets, she said she was willing to consider other tablets but she would need to be convinced not to buy an iPad.

Why Should I Buy This Over That?

What many companies making personal technology products struggle with is address why this over that question. Often times they assume that a single feature can sway a consumer their way. Or some believe price is the ultimate factor. But the reality is that most consumers do not walk into a retail store genuinely unconvinced of what they want or are interested in when walking in the door. Generally speaking, when a consumer walks into a tech retailer to buy a tablet, they don’t walk in uneducated and hope to use retail to make a decision. Right now, since the iPad is the market leader, consumers are walking into retail thinking “I’m very interested in an iPad.” They have their mind mostly made up. For a competitor to have any shot at swaying these consumers, they need to convince them to not buy an iPad.

From our study of the early and late majority and the things they value and find desirable, I am convinced it is still an uphill battle for iPad competitors. This doesn’t mean this will always be true; just that it is right now. Take the iPhone for example. It took just over six years for a single product from a competitor to outsell the iPhone for just one quarter. And with the iPad no single tablet is even close.

The bar the iPad has set is so high that tablet competitors have resolved to try and change the conversation rather than go head to head with the iPad. This is a wise move but the tradeoff is that you focus more on a segment of the market rather than the mass market as a whole. Apple is having success targeting the larger mass market but competitors are having trouble making ground in this market. Again, I’m not saying this will always be true; just that its the current market sentiment.

All Things Being Equal

The challenge for companies trying to gain the attention of consumers is to avoid trying to just make all things equal. The key for competitors is to focus on differentiators that matter to the early and late majority, the biggest part of the market. We can debate all day what those features are, but I remain convinced that software, and specifically apps, are key in appealing to the desires of the market. And it is not just quantity but quality. Consumers want to know they are getting a tablet that will help them make the most of this new form factor.

When it comes to both Android and Windows 8 tablets, their keys to success will reside in the ability to have showcase apps that can not be found elsewhere. The example I like to use is the original XBOX and the game Halo. Halo for Microsoft’s original XBOX was a platform driver. This game alone paired with XBOX Live for online multiplayer play was one of, if not the, primary reason for many who bought the first XBOX. Microsoft was then able to keep many of these consumers loyal but Halo was the gateway to Microsoft’s gaming ecosystem.

Both Android and Microsoft tablets need software that would be considered platform drivers. This would be a step in the right direction to address the why buy this over that question. Perhaps for Microsoft Office will play this role although I am not convinced at least a point.

Ultimately consumers make trade offs in their own personal preference value chain. If they value price, they must evaluate the tradeoffs in things like design quality and cutting edge features or specs for example. Understanding the tradeoffs and having key differentiators are fundamentals to product strategy.

Tablets are tricky and because we are in the maturing cycle where consumers are still figuring out their needs, wants, and desires with them. Because of that, I remain convinced competing with the iPad will be a challenge. The next year will define much of the tablet category. Those companies who have clear and distinct differentiators that clearly make the case for consumer to buy this product over that have a shot. This applies to hardware, software, and services.

Consumers are buying iPad in droves. And if Apple releases a smaller less expensive version of the iPad they will make it even more difficult for competitors. Many millions of consumers are not being convinced to buy other tablets over iPads and they are researching their options more than many assume.

So the key to tablet success? Convince consumers not to buy iPads. Seems simple, but its not.

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio
  • “The bar the iPad has set is so high that tablet competitors have resolved to try and change the conversation rather than go head to head with the iPad. This is a wise move but the tradeoff is that you focus more on a segment of the market rather than the mass market as a whole. Apple is having success targeting the mass market as a whole but competitors are not. Again, I’m not saying this will always be true, just that its the current market sentiment.”

    “Consumers are buying iPad in droves. And if Apple releases a smaller less expensive version of the iPad they will make it even more difficult for competitors. Many millions of consumers are not being convinced to buy other tablets over iPads and they are researching their options more than many assume.”

    So, confirmation of what I was saying from an independent source.

  • FalKirk

    Another great article, Ben. I’ll be very interested to see the comments that follow. I’d like to know how others would convince the general public not to buy an iPad.

    Here are a couple of arguments that I don’t think will fly:

    Price: Pundits put too much weight on price. Price is just one component of value. People love to save money, but they’re willing to pay significantly more if they think that they are receiving significantly more.

    The Anti-Whatever crowd: I think this is WAY overblown. There’s always a group of people who won’t buy the most popular product or who don’t like a particular company but their sway is usually very small. And as tablets move from cutting edge to mainstream, their sway (if any) will virtually disappear altogether.

    Apps: Clearly the iPad has an advantage in Apps. But how important is this really? Some argue that other products have all the apps that matter and that they are, at the very least “good enough” to compete. But turn this argument around. If a consumer is given a choice between buying a product that has all the apps that mater and buying a product that has all the apps that matter – and hundreds of thousands more – the choice is a no-brainer. Why wouldn’t they get the one with more?

    I think that there ARE perfectly good reasons to buy a product other than the iPad. But having the burden of proof is a terrible onus. It’s hard enough to make the sale when one is on an even playing field. It’s nigh on impossible when prospective customers sees your competition as the default choice.

  • their keys to success will reside in the ability to have showcase apps that can not be found elsewhere

    And before that …
    VisiCalc and the Apple ][.
    WordPerfect & Lotus 123 and the MS-DOS PCs
    MS Office and Windows 95 and later

    The driving power of showcase apps should not be a revelation to anyone.

    • steve_wildstrom

      I would add MacWrite and MacPaint, and later PageMaker, on the Mac.

      The interesting thing about the iPad is that there doesn’t seem to have been any one killer app, or even a small group of apps, that made it so popular. Rather, it was the whole idea of apps that allowed the tablet to transform itself into a device dedicated to the task at hand.

      • FalKirk

        “The interesting thing about the iPad is that there doesn’t seem to have been any one killer app…” – Steve Wildstrom

        That is interesting. The tablet market seems to be driven by the wide diversity of apps rather than 1 or 2 or 3 “killer” apps. The tablet is valuable because it is a blank slate that can be made into anything you want simply by downloading the appropriate app.

        • Which would argue that the Tablet market is MUCH more fragmented and differentiated than the Desktop PC ever was.

  • Rich

    Ben, because the iPad is the dominant tablet I think you’re right that its competitors need to take the approach of convincing consumers not to buy an iPad. I’m sure that’s not an easy task but I believe it gives competitors their best shot.

  • Defendor

    In my close circle of friends, there are a couple of Android tablets, RIM Playbooks and no iPads. I don’t have a tablet of any kind.

    Android(RIM) Argument: Ipads cost too much and Apps don’t matter.

    In that mix price was the biggest driver and most discounted/(Rationalized away) apps completely and are using their tablets strictly as media players/book reader/web surfers.

    So the Android/RIM argument seems to be that Apps are irrelevant and cost is king. It is working to a certain extent for the low/no margin part of the market, but that is a hollow victory.

    Microsoft Argument: iPad doesn’t have MS Office.

    I think Microsoft will be depending entirely on Office as it’s big differentiator/argument. Which I have a hard time buying. 10″ tablets aren’t really about using it on the bus on the way to/from work as much as they are about a more enjoyable/relaxing way to do some things from your couch. But Office isn’t really one of those things that benefit from the move from desktop to your couch (quite the opposite acutally), so it is hard to see it as the killer tablet app. I think this will make a smaller dent than Androids low cost argument.

    • FalKirk

      Good post, Defendor. If I may, I’d like to build on it.

      “So the Android/RIM argument seems to be that Apps are irrelevant and cost is king. It is working to a certain extent for the low/no margin part of the market, but that is a hollow victory.”
      Well said. Agree, it’s a very hollow victory. I would contend that Apps matter to most everybody but they especially matter to the institutional buyers like business, government and education. In one of the biggest turnarounds in computing history, the iPad is going to rule those market sectors.
      “Microsoft Argument: iPad doesn’t have MS Office.”
      Good insight. But I think that Microsoft is also arguing (or it may be an extension of your argument) that tablet interfaces and desktop interfaces can happily co-exist together. I think we’re about to find out that that is wrong – but the market will be the final arbiter.

      Again, great post, Defenor. Well done.

  • jfutral

    “The bar the iPad has set is so high that tablet competitors have resolved to try and change the conversation rather than go head to head with the iPad. This is a wise move but the tradeoff is that you focus more on a segment of the market rather than the mass market as a whole. Apple is having success targeting the larger mass market but competitors are having trouble making ground in this market.”

    Well, that is pretty much what Apple did with tablets, change the conversation. They also happen to have found that their conversation had broader appeal than other tablet and netbook offerings/”conversations”. But ultimately the only way to do what Apple did is to do what Apple did, change the conversation.

    As for convincing someone to not buy an iPad (or any other product that someone is convinced they will buy), I say good luck with that. The only way someone will have success is to come up with reason people should buy _your_ product, not reasons why they _shouldn’t_ buy something else. Quite frankly the brilliance of Kindle is it really isn’t an iPad substitute. It is not redundant to own both.

    Even for Apple, in order to continue to grow they have to make sure there are reasons that people should want an iPad. Not so hard now, but harder as they go forward, even in terms of getting people to upgrade.

    For instance (and I don’t mean to say my situation is the same for everyone, but just to illustrate a possibility), I am quite happy with my iPad 2. Don’t see a good enough reason to go iPad 3, and quite frankly I probably won’t go with a new iPad until they are lighter and the same current size. Don’t want smaller. Don’t want newer display when the old is still pretty darn good. But lighter would get my dollars in a heart beat.

    So Apple has to come up with a reason _to buy_, not a reason not to buy something else. As I told one young coffee shop start-up, the question isn’t “Why aren’t they coming?”. The question is “Why should they?” What are you offering that is so compelling?

    Joe

  • Why is so hard to understand that the next & 1st tablet i’ll buy will have at least 1080p resolution ? Even 1200pixels wide, as the next Sony tablet to be. SCREEN is what matters most on a tablet, everything else comes 2nd. I’ll buy a tablet with Linux if it has a full hd resolution. Later on i’ll get games & whatever apps i’ll need.

    • steve_wildstrom

      The current iPad (not the mini) and many other tablets already exceed 1080p resolution.

  • Bruno Deserto

    After having been suing Android/Samsung devices for over a year I decided it was time to change. I researched for months about the best tablet for me. I was very interested in the pro line from Samsung but although I could have some job done I was very pissed with my Samsung devices. My Galaxy note 8 never updated the OS lots of rumors about he new update 4.2.1 far behind the current Android OS, Samsung’s crap source-consuming apps cannot be uninstalled, it literally pissed me of. Personally, I don’t like their plastic leather-like build quality and although I like Android it eats too much memory especially with this horrible touchwiz on top of it. Of course this is my personal opinion and there are thousands who like it.

    Two weeks ago I had to go to a shopping centre here where I live and stopped by this store called IPlace. Wow, the minute I saw the iPad Air I literally fell in love with it. It is so light and after using it for a while I quickly made up my mind. It is sooooooooo much better for me, it is simple, reliable and everything just works fine. I loved pages, I can have all my work done with it, no regrets of any kind.

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