Lack of iPad Competition: A Tale of Missed Opportunity

HP touchPad photoIn a new report on the tablet market, Gartner predicts that the iPad will account for two-thirds of the 103.5 million units it expects to be sold next year and nearly half of the 326 million units in 2015. While its easy to quarrel with some of the details in the forecast (not to mention the ridiculous habit of forecasting sales to the nearest thousand) the general drift of the prediction seems dead-on.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. This year, the iPad was supposed to get three serious competitors in Android, Research In Motion’s PlayBook, and Hewlett-Packard’s TouchPad. Instead, the TouchPad was killed before it had a chance, PlayBook’s heart is barely beating, and Android, while still promising, is beset by mediocre products, fragmentation of the operating system, and a severe lack of applications. The only really good news is that Microsoft is determined to make Windows 8 tablets succeed when they launch next year, though it is way to early to assess its chances.

For competitors, 2011 was a year of badly missed opportunities and at least in the case of RIM and HP, these flubs have serious implications for the future of the companies. For RIM, the PlayBook, based on the QNX operating system, was to breathe new life into the slumping BlackBerry line. It showed great promise at the Consumer Electronics Show last January, but quickly flopped when launched in April.

The reasons were pretty obvious. Not only was it buggy, but the PlayBook shipped without native email, calendar, or contact apps. It was usable only if paired with a BlackBerry, which it also relied on for a 3G connection. In practice, its market was limited to existing BlackBerry owners on carriers other than  AT&T because AT&T blocked installation of the software required for PlayBook pairing. To make matters worse, the selection of apps was dismal, even by BlackBerry standards. Summer came and went without promised software improvements appearing. Little wonder that PlayBooks mostly sat on dealers’ shelves.

In fact, the QNX sales forecasts are one of the odder things in the Gartner report (table).  The analyst firm projects sales of 3 million for all of this year, odd because RIM shipped (to dealers, not sold through to customers) only 900,000 units in the six months ended in August. In would take one spectacular autumn to hit 3 million, and some sort of miracle–or at least a while new product line–to hit the forecasts of 6.3 million next year and 26 million in 2015.

Worldwide Sales of Media Tablets to End Users by OS (Thousands of Units)

OS 2010 2011 2012 2015
Android 2,512 11,020 22,875 116,444
iOS 14,685 46,697 69,025 148,674
MeeGo 179 476 490 197
Microsoft 0 0 4,348 34,435
QNX 0 3,016 6,274 26,123
WebOS 0 2,053 0 0
Other Operating Systems 235 375 467 431
Total Market 17,610 63,637 103,479 326,304

Source: Gartner (September 2011)

The failure of the TouchPad was even more tragic. When HP bought Palm and its webOS last year, company executives saw it out of a path in which its software choices were controlled by microsoft and its hardware was increasingly commoditized. But all the steam, heart, and funding went out of the effort when CEO Mark Hurd was fired and replaced (temporarily, it seems) by Léo Apotheker. What could have been a serious iPad challenger launched this summer as an intriguing but half-finished product. A battle that HP officials once said would take years, not months, ended in abject surrender after six weeks, when HP killed the TouchPad and the rest of the webOS Global Business Unit. The main impact of the whole HP-webOS affair was to set of an existential internal struggle over the future of HP. Gartner wisely projects next year’s sales at 0.

Android’s future as a tablet OS is hard to assess because the present is so muddled. This year saw dozens of products, or widely varying quality, hit the market, but none of them really took off, and none could answer the essential question of why they should be purchased rather than an iPad. Google will try again this fall with a new version of the software, called Ice Cream Sandwich, that is supposed to unify the fragmented Android landscape. But, in fact, further fragmentation may be in store if goes ahead with rumored plans for a custom tablet based on its own modified version of Android. If the rumors are correct, Amazon doesn’t want so much to challenge Apple as to create a new market for a low-0cost media consumption tablet.

One place I think Gartner may be seriously off the mark is in its forecast for Windows tablets. An estimate of 4.3 million units might be on target for next year because we don’t yet know when Windows 8 will ship, but 34 million, barely 10% of the total, seems unduly pessimistic for 2015. We’ve just gotten our first real glimpse of Windows 8, but it is clear that this is a very serious effort by Microsoft–the first, really–to design an operating system optimized for PC-like devices that lack mice and keyboards. Many questions, including how well Microsoft will do in attracting developer support, remain, but Windows 8 has the potential to become the iPad’s most serious challenger.

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The iPad is Hot in Small Business

One of the most interesting things related to our tablet research of late is what is happening with the iPad in small business.

Apple in their last earnings reports made some points related to the iPad and the enterprise but it is small businesses who are adopting the iPad at incredible rates.

We are still underway surveying small business all over the US but with more than two dozen small business owners already surveyed it is clear the iPad is hot in small business.

This is a significant trend. First of all because the sales of these devices would fall under general consumer sales. So we wouldn’t necessarily be able to track them as specific sales to be used in small business like we can enterprise adoption.

I have a hunch, which would be hard to quantify, that a significant portion of iPad sales are being put to use in small business in some way shape or form.

I have talked to restaurant owners using them to take orders and send automatically back the kitchen. I have talked to financial advice firms using them for notes, organization, and to walk clients through data. We have talked to consultancies, legal firms, small boutique shop owners, automobile dealerships, photographers and a host of other types of small businesses and nearly all of them are finding creative ways to integrate the iPad into their business.

Interestingly so far in our study over 85% of small business owners we surveyed are either using the iPad in some way or plan to purchase and use one within the next year.

A key observation coming out of this research so far is how all of the small business owners using the iPad for business have been using non-customized apps right out of the app store.

This differs from many enterprise solutions where the enterprise or IT department often times creates custom applications. Small business owners don’t have the luxury or resources to have custom apps built to serve their needs so they find apps or combinations of apps that fit their purposes.

Another key finding in the remarks of many small business owners and users of iPads was that they felt the iPad made them competitive. For some, part of their reasoning for buying the device was that their local competition was now integrating iPad and they wanted to stay current.

Another fascinating finding was how many small business owners found that using the iPad as a part of their business gave their customers or prospective customers the perception that they were “with the times” or on top of the trends. They remarked how using technology and specifically the iPad was “cool” and they wanted to send the right message to customers.

Perhaps even more interestingly many also said that they believed that using the iPad actually helped them land new customers. This was especially true when small business owners, like several financial firms we spoke with, compete with larger firms who are not using iPads. These small business owners believed that new customers viewed their use of the iPad in their services business gave them an edge over the larger firm’s reps who still used pen and paper. Apparently it isn’t cool to show up to a meeting with a pen and paper these days. Ebay mobile is currently running a commercial that makes this point.

Lastly although we have only spoke with just over two dozen small business so far, many remarked on how many iPads they are seeing by small business in their towns by friends and even competitors. It is clear the trend of iPad in small business may be larger than most anticipated.

When asked about Android tablets price and lack of key apps for their business needs were the biggest factors keeping them from considering anything other than iPad at this point. That and they kept hearing glowing reviews from other small business owners about iPad and mixed results if any about Android tablets.

The iPad phenomena is so much more than just consumption. Small business owners, who can claim the iPad as an expense, are finding new and creative ways to integrate iPad into their workflow.

My sense tells me that we are barely scratching the surface of iPad in enterprise and small business. I believe the next year will shed much more light on the potential for iPad and business.

If you are a small business using iPad in unique ways feel free to share with us how you are using iPad in your business.

There is No Such Thing as an iPhone Killer

Samsung recently released its latest smart phone in the Galaxy S II line called the Epic 4G. Some in the media are hailing it as an iPhone killer, a statement that is at its deepest level entirely ignorant. Amazon will soon be releasing a tablet version of their popular Kindle e-reader and again people will proclaim or at least ask the question “is the Kindle Tablet an iPad killer.”

What I want to make clear is that there is no such thing in today’s technology landscape as an iPhone or iPad killer, or any other product killer for that matter. Many seem to assume that the tablet and the smart phone markets will be very similar to the historical PC landscape. Historically with PCs one dominant software operating system dominates and the rest have marginal market share at best. Even the PC landscape is changing.

The fact is that the market for PC’s, smart phones, tablets, and anything else we dream up will never again look the PC landscape during the 90’s and early 2000’s. There simply will not be one single OS that dominates the landscape. The market will support many and therefore there will be many choices and choice is good.

The reason for this is because when a market is maturing there is generally fewer or less quality options. There is in essence a market standard that leads the market to maturity. With PCs it was Microsoft and Windows which led the way as the standardized technology by which the market matured. With the Smart phone and tablet it will be the iPhone and the iPad that will lead the market into maturity. However once a market matures it begins to segment.

With Windows and the PC it took the product nearly 25 years to reach maturity. Smart phones, tablets and more will not take nearly that long and in fact will mature in around 3-5 years.

Due to the rules of market maturity, I can confidently say there is no such thing as an iPhone or iPad killer. There are only other product choices. John Gruber over at Daring Fireball makes some similar observations on how the market will support multiple solutions.

Why do I know this you ask? Because a Toyota Corolla is not a Mercedes-Benz killer. A Ford Truck is not a Prius killer. And an even closer analogy, a BMW series 3 is not a Mercedes C300 killer or vice-versa. The market can sustain all these automobile products.

To use another example Pepsi is not going to release a Coca-Cola killer. You simply have a choice of Coke, Pepsi, Sprite, Root Beer, Mt Dew, etc.

I have been studying the automobile market as it relates to a mature consumer market for some several years now and the similarities between the automobile market history and the technology market history are strikingly similar. The big difference is that the automobile market is about 20 years more mature than the PC industry. However when you study how the market matured and consumers adopted new technologies in the automobile industry you find moments in time that are very similar to the moment in time our industry is currently in.

Therefore we learn a lot about how today’s fragmented yet competitive automobile market and what it can teach us about what the consumer technology landscape of the future will look like.

This is the reality in mature consumer markets. There is a dominant solution that leads the market to maturity as consumer who are interested in their first product in the maturing market go with the market leader. As they become more familiar with their needs or wants with that product they then begin to shop around based on preference.

This is why the abundance of Android smart phone in the early stage of a markets maturing is actually more harmful than productive for the Android solution. I have stated before that the Android market is too saturated for its own good and that will be the case until the smart phone market reaches peak maturity in 3-5 years.

The critical key to any company in the market wanting to maintain or grow market share is to be around when the market actually does peak. Because once it does it is very difficult, without a pure market disruption, for new entrants or those who have minimal market share to grow.

Establishing market share early is of the utmost importance.

7″ Media Tablets Like Kindle Fire…”Dead On Arrival”?

UPDATED with Amazon Kindle “Fire” references.

A few weeks ago, TechCrunch reported that Amazon’s 7″ Kindle tablet was “very real” and would ship for the 2011 holidays.  (UPDATED: Now rumored to be called “Kindle Fire“.  ) Almost a year before that, Wired’s Brian Chen reported that on an earnings call, Jobs said, “the current crop of 7-inch tablets are going to be DOA — dead on arrival.” So the stage is set for an interesting war of beliefs and concepts this holiday shopping season.  In one corner, the world’s most trafficked internet retail stores and Kindle inventor, Amazon, and in the other, Apple, the most valuable company on the planet and inventor of the iPad.  Will the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet be treated in the marketplace with very little respect or will it shock everyone like the original Kindle?  It really comes down to the basics of the consumer value proposition.

Many Variables at Play

With a considered technology purchase, consumers actually do a bit of research before they buy.  It can be as simple as asking a geek friend for advice, doing a Google search for reviews, or as complex as side-by-side feature analysis, but in the end, it’s still research.  Consumers looking at buying a 7″ or 10″ tablet will look at variables like perceived price, value, content, brand, size, display, and weight.  More meaningful, though, is how they apply those variables to what they believe they want to do with their tablet and the location they will do it.

For the sake of this analysis, I will use the iPad 2 as representative of the 10″ tablet and the combination of a Nook Color and the rumored Amazon Kindle “Fire” tablet as the 7” designate.  I will also assume that each tablet has access to the same books, magazines, movies, videos, music and games.  The only “iffy” one may be games given the iPad’s tremendous lead today.


Potential Advantages with a 7″ $249 Tablet (Amazon Kindle “Fire” Tablet)

  • 20-30% lighter and even smaller means easier to carry and hold for almost every usage model.  Anecdotally, I have heard that women prefer the 7″ tablet because they are easier to carry.
  • Half the $499 price of the cheapest iPad 2. Not only is the tablet less expensive, but I will guess that every accessory will be less expensive, too.
  • Free subscription to Amazon Prime, which means free access to Amazon Instant Video Service.  Again, this is rumor, not confirmed.
  • Most of the same books, magazines, videos, movies, web content as the 10″, $499 tablet.
  • Simpler, as in fewer choices for apps and content providers, yet plays the same content. There is one button only.
  • Standard micro USB power and data cable.  These are everywhere in the house, your cars, and at the local convenience store.  You can also charge from your PC, unlike an iPad 2.
  • More durable, given plastic and rubber design.  I don’t care when someone drops my Nook on the carpet.  I shriek when someone drops my iPad 2.

Potential Advantages with a 10″ $499 (iPad 2)

  • Twice the viewable image area of everything you see, like pictures, videos, books, newspapers, and web pages.
  • Battery life, although tough to predict.  Apple claims up to 10 hours for web, video, and music while Barnes & Noble claims 8 hours for reading.
  • Use more complex applications and basic activities are more responsive, given dual core processor and better graphics subsystem.  Think better looking games, richer video and photos, and more complex web pages.
  • Watch videos and listen to music from the tablet to an HDTV, PC, Mac or other AirPlay compliant device.  Maybe the Kindle will have some sort of DLNA capabilities, but from what I’ve seen on Android tablets today, it won’t hold a candle to the iPad AirPlay.
  • Take pictures and home movies.  While I scoffed at this at first with the iPad 2’s low res camera, I find myself taking pictures and videos with it.  It’s just so convenient to take it and show it to someone immediately.  Maybe I will stop doing this when iCloud immediately uploads my pictures and videos, but we will see.


As you can see, there are potential benefits in a less expensive, smaller and lighter 7” media tablet like the Kindle “Fire” as there are in a fuller-featured, twice as expensive, 10” media tablet. I believe that if the Amazon Fire tablet ships this as rumored above and with Amazon Video on Demand, it will sell extremely well. That is, given competition stays still, which it rarely does. So does this mean Steve Jobs was wrong? No, because when he made that statement a year ago, 7” tablets were priced right on top of the iPad 2 with a lot less content and a much degraded experience. A lot has changed since then and a lot will change in the future. And I am sure of that.

Is there a market for Good Enough “Tablets?”

In April I wrote in my PC Mag column about Amazon Stealing Android from Google and argued in this piece that Amazon was most likely building their own proprietary approach to integrating their overall Android Store and a set of music, video and cloud services and integrate it into their future tablet offering.

Then, in August I wrote how Amazon Could disrupt the tablet market by creating a tablet that could sell for $249 even though it would cost $300 to build, but make it up by amortizing users purchases of books, music and videos over an 18-24 month period.

I suggested that if Amazon did this they could disrupt the entire market for tablets by introducing a new pricing model tied to their services that would make it very difficult for any hardware only tablet vendor to compete in this burgeoning market.

Now, in a most interesting post from MG Seigler at Techcrunch we get an actual hands on description of this tablet and it reinforces the price I suggested Amazon would sell it for. And he goes on to give actual details about it coming out in November including the fact that it has a color 7” screen but no cameras and no i/o ports.

If what Mr. Siegler says is true, then this Amazon tablet is more like a Nook on steroids then a serious competitor to Apple’s iPad. It will have very limited features as a multi-purpose tablet, but will excel in offering Amazon driven music, video and clouds services. And of course, we expect that it will have a browser so it would give people using it broad access to Web based content although apparently it will not support Adobe’s Flash.

But this brings up a very interesting question. Is there room in the market for what we would call a “good enough” tablet? Clearly, Apple’s iPad seems like it will be the Cadillac of tablets and to stay with the GM metaphor, the Amazon tablet is probably more like the Chevy Malibu of tablets. Both are very functional but what is inside and what they can do on the road are very different.

While there is always a market for full-featured products like the iPad, there is also perhaps an even larger market for “good enough” tablets like the first gen Amazon tablet might me. And Amazon, with this limited design and low price point, seems to be aiming at the “Chevy” market for tablets where bells and whistles are less important then price and basic functionality.

This concept of good enough computing has been bandied about in the industry for decades. It started with desktops where high end gaming PC’s ruled the gaming and engineering/graphics market, while lower cost PC’s with less horsepower and functionality took the lions share of the bigger “good enough” PC market. And the same thing happened with laptops. Gaming laptops powered the upper end of the portable market, while thin and lights went after the business crowd and value laptops with less power compared to the other two models took the lions share of the broader portable market. And they were good enough for a very large audience of consumers.

Could this “good enough” approach to the market be repeating itself again with tablets? There is no question that even though Apple’s iPad may be the Cadillac of tablets today, Apple was quite aggressive with their pricing so that it has appealed to much more than a more well-healed audience that normally buys upper end models of everything. On the other hand, there will always be a large audience who either won’t spend much on products or can’t for economic reasons and will opt for something in this value line of products or in this place, a just “good enough” tablet if it is available.

My sense is that as with desktop’s and laptops there is room for both and I suspect we will see tablets at a lot of different price points taking aim at the needs of all level of customers wants and needs. And if history is our guide, the products in the “good enough” category could be very large indeed.

Why the iPad is Not A Tablet

It’s not a tablet, it’s iPad 2.

That statement is a subtle but powerful one embedded deep in Apple’s iPad 2 website. I challenge you to find Apple call the iPad 2 a tablet anywhere on their website.

So I also ask this question that others have posed. Is there a tablet market?

On the surface this is probably a dumb question. Apple is selling millions of iPads a month and tablet fever is all around us. Or is it? Is there tablet fever or iPad fever?

You will notice that when Steve Jobs introduced the iPad he never once called it a tablet. And since then, you have never heard anyone at Apple call the iPad a tablet.

The competition has. Analysts and media have called the iPad a tablet. But not Apple. There is a reason for that. It goes back to Steve Jobs overall view of a tablet. As Windows tablets came out, he looked at them and said “people don’t want that.”

He felt that Windows tablets were too PC like and while more portable it just delivered the same old PC experience just in a new form factor. (Are you listening Microsoft and the Windows 8 tablet team?)

Instead, he put his team to work trying to come up with something people would actually want and actually use. He concluded it would not be a tablet in the PC world’s definition but rather, something completely new and different. It is not his fault that we (competition and the media) keep calling it a tablet. Apple will try and distance themselves from this tablet concept and terminology as much as possible.

Software Is the Real Magic
What Apple has actually created with the iPad is just a portable screen that gives users access to what is Apple’s real genius – its apps and services. They just happen to make a portable screen that is elegant, beautiful and easy to use for accessing these apps and services. What is even more interesting is that if you really look at what Apple does in hardware, it is just to create stylish screens like the iPod, iPhone and now the iPad, that front-ends their apps and services. Hardware is only as good as the software it runs.

When Apple first introduced the iPhone, a Sr. Apple exec laid it down on the table and asked me what I saw. I told him I saw a device with a blank screen. He then said that is what he wanted me to see. When off, it has very little value. But once turned on, that is where the magic is- in the software and services. His point was that Apple is a software company and it is the software that makes this “screen” sing and dance. I fully expect Apple to deliver more elegant screens that front these apps and services in the forms of TV’s, in-car navigation systems, and who knows what else that they may feel is needed to serve as a front end to their software and services.

While Apple is creating these screens to serve as front ends to their software and services, most of the competition is stuck in the old line PC way of thinking about creating a tablet that has its roots in the tablets of the past. They take the typical hardware approach and at the moment are hoping Google will create the software and services that they can tap into. Or those waiting for Windows 8 tablets are hoping that Microsoft will deliver a world of apps and services that they can hitch their wagon to.

Stop Making Tablets
But to be competitive with Apple, vendors have to realize SOON that they cannot create a tablet if they have any hope of challenging Apple. In fact, I would stay away from the word tablet altogether as this term is pure death for them. Rather, like Apple, I would give my “screen” a name of its own and start working on my own software and services play that would allow me to also build more screens that front my apps and services. (By the way, when Amazon introduces their “tablet” soon, listen carefully to what they call it. It will probably have the Kindle brand but don’t expect them to call it a tablet. It is just another screen, like the Kindle, that front ends their apps and services.) Why A Tablet (screen) is Key to Amazon’s Success.”

Of course, the opposite is happening. Competitive vendors think that this “tablet” market will follow what has happened in the PC world and the smart phone world where Windows and Android have surpassed the Mac and IOS. But something tells me that this is different. Apple has not created a tablet. They have created a lightweight portable screen that is the gateway to their software and services. The iPad and its ecosystem will stand alone. In that sense, Apple has proven there is a market for iPads, not tablets.

Now it will be up to the competition to prove that there is another market for what they want to call tablets. And at the moment, considering what HP just did with their TouchPad and the slow adoption of any other tablet out there, it leaves one to think that at the moment there is really just an iPad market, not a market for tablets.

Why non- iPad Tablets Aren’t Selling Well is Fundamental

So why aren’t non-iPad tablets selling as well as the iPad? I read a very interesting article Wednesday from James Kendrick at ZDNet. His contention is that one of the biggest issues is competing with Apple’s “consistent marketing experience”. I agree that’s a big issue, but I think there’s an even more basic core issue here and it starts with consumer risk, the considered purchase process, the influencers and the product experience.

Tablets are a Risky and “Considered” Consumer Purchase

Consumers, regardless of demographics and psychographics, share some common behaviors. When they are posed with a risky, considered purchase, they are looking for reasons to reject products and not look past their warts. And tablets are a risky, considered purchase. For a time, tablets started at $499, well above the starting prices of a notebook, desktop, or smartphone. Tablets don’t run programs or content like the PC that consumers are familiar with. And they are very fragile when compared to other devices.

Consumers Research to Mitigate Risk

As I said above, when posed with an expensive, risky purchase, it is “considered”, meaning they will research it or find a brand which “buffers” the risk. By researching it, I don’t mean doing a master’s thesis. I mean doing a few web searches, going to a recommended tech site, asking a few “geek” friends and tossing a few questions out on Twitter or Facebook. What consumers heard back were some positive and some negative things about non-iPads. Even more importantly though, is that very few if any negatives ever came back from their iPad research. Worst thing you might hear back about the iPad is that it doesn’t run Flash, it doesn’t have SD memory upgrade, and it’s expensive.

So was it some conspiracy that the negative things were being said or were they just the facts of what actually shipped at launch? The fact is, the clear majority of non-iPad tablets at their launch suffered from many issues as it related to the iPad, which established the bar of a successful tablet.

Tablets Lacked Convenient, Paid Content at Launch

Many media tablets launched without a whole lot of media:

  • Lack of video services like Netflix, Hulu, movie rental, or movie purchase capabilities
  • Lack of music services like Pandora, Spotify, or music purchase capabilities
  • Lack of book services like Kindle or BN Reader

This issue is being slowly solved, but the damage had been done at launch.


Tablets Lacked Stability and Responsiveness at Launch

Many tablets launched with multiple application crashes, hangs and were intermittently unresponsive. When apps would become unresponsive, the users would get a message asking them what they want to do, similar to the way Windows alerts the user. The iPad 2 launch experience was responsive and stable. Yes, the iPad 2 does still experience some app crashes, but it’s less frequent and when it does, it just closes the app.


This issue has been solved for all non-iPad tablets with OS updates, but again, the damage was done at launch.

Tablets Lacked Premier Applications at Launch

I don’t believe consumers are fanatical about the 100’s of thousands of apps that should be on a tablet. I do believe that they want to have the most popular applications that they care about, though. Most non-iPad tablets launched without premier apps, like premier news, sports, and social media apps. One tablet even shipped without a built-in email and calendar client and research shows that email is the #1 tablet application. Android tablets shipped at launch without a Twitter app.

Only Android 3.2 tablets have addressed this issue so far, but again, the perceptual damage was done.

Tablets Shipped at Launch with Hardware Challenges

Not only were there software issues at launch, but hardware as well. Tablets shipped with inoperable SD card slots and USB ports that didn’t work properly. Even competing with the physical iPad 2 design was a challenge. Some tablets were nearly twice as thick as the iPad, used plastic design versus aluminum, and one tablet even shipped with a case that blocked major ports like power, USB and HDMI.

Some of these issues have been addressed, but the damage was done.

Should Everyone Else Just Quit?

With all of these issues at launch and challenging sales so far, should everyone except Apple just quit and concede to Apple? Absolutely not! This is the first inning in a nine inning game, and the game hasn’t been lost. In short order, every tablet will be thin and light enough and power efficient enough until it’s inconsequential. Most apps will move to web apps virtually eliminating the app barrier, and everyone will have the right paid content. Apple obviously won’t stand still and I agree with Ben Bajarin when he says, “success will only come to those who want to compete with the iPad by thinking fresh and taking bold and innovative risks.” I have had the honor to work for companies who slayed goliath and I have been slayed myself, so I have seen both sides. It takes courage and conviction and I believe the tech industry can and will do that.

Pat Moorhead is Corporate Vice President and Corporate Marketing Fellow and a Member of the Office of Strategy at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites, and references to third party trademarks, are provided for convenience and illustrative purposes only. Unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such links, and no third party endorsement of AMD or any of its products is implied.

See Pat’s bio here or past blogs here.

Follow @PatrickMoorhead on Twitter and on Google+.

Should Tablet Makers Concede the Market to the iPad?

Recent reports, news and analysis have come out that underscore an industry cliche, there is not a tablet market only an iPad market.

From news on the rather weak sales of Android tablets from vendors the last few quarters to the recent news that HP TouchPad sales are dismal, it is clear that the masses have spoken loud and clear – they want iPads.

Those who make tablets entered this market for a variety of reasons. One however I heard often was that they were afraid Apple would “iPod them” in the tablet market. Years ago there was a similar analogy that went “there isn’t an MP3 market just an iPod market.

The logic was if they could get into the market early enough they could hopefully not get “iPoded.”

However this is exactly what we are observing happen today. I believe this will be the case for the next few years. So the question is for the time being should the vendors concede this market and commit those resources to other areas where they have a chance to compete, like Smart Phones for example. Or perhaps they themselves can focus more on RND and create new product categories and innovations all together.

Jim Dalrymple at the Loop makes a great point:

“Apple has spent 10 years working on the iPhone, iPad and the integration with iTunes for app, music and video downloads. The competition would have us believe that in a few short years they too have perfected all of this.”

The bottom line is at this point in time the barrier to entry to the tablet market is actually quite high. There are market forces at work that explain why other tablet makers are having a hard time competing and succeeding.

Harvard Business Review in a foundational strategy article called “The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategy,” highlight seven essential points on barrier to entry. I’d like to focus on three that relate heavily to why the barrier to the tablet market is quite high.

Incumbency Advantages

“No matter what their size, incumbents may have cost or quality advantages not available to potential rivals. These advantages can stem from such sources as proprietary technology, preferential access to the best raw material sources, preemption of the most favorable geographic locations, established brand identities, or cumulative experience that has allowed incumbents to learn how to produce more efficiently.” – HBR Five Forces

In this point the HBR article points out how the incumbent has advantages not available to new entrants. Things like brand, forcefully constraining supply chain, holistic experience, preferential access to the best raw materials (at favorable prices), efficient manufacturing and scale, and more are all in Apple’s favor.

Unequal Access to Distribution Channels

“The new entrant must, of course, secure distribution of its product or service.” – HBR Five Forces

Retail is and will continue to be one of Apple’s strongest competitive advantages. I’ve wrote extensively about this “Apple Retail is Key to Their Competitive Advantage.”

By controlling their own retail store, which is in extremly convenient geographic locations all over the world, competitors simply have unequal access to distribution channels.

Also more simply put, in a big box retailer you see vendors competing with each other for retailer and consumer attention.

Walk in to an Apple retail store and you will find zero Apple competitors.

That is what I call unequal access to distribution channels.

Demand-side benefits of scale

“These benefits, also known as network effects, arise in industries where a buyer’s willingness to pay for a company’s product increases with the number of other buyers who also patronize the company. Buyers may trust larger companies more for a crucial product: Recall the old adage that no one ever got fired for buying from IBM (when it was the dominant computer maker). Buyers may also value being in a “network” with a larger number of fellow customers. Demand-side benefits of scale discourage entry by limiting the willingness of customers to buy from a newcomer and by reducing the price the newcomer can command until it builds up a large base of customers.” – HBR Five Forces

This is a big one. Look around and you see tablet makers offering extremely aggressive price promotions. It seems like the prices of competing tablets drop every month. Yet Apple has not lowered the price of their latest generation iPad one single time. What’s more competitors make razor thin margins less than 10%. Let’s just say Apple’s margins on the iPad are significantly more.

In short the cost cutting strategy to undercut the incumbent and gain market share is simply not working.

If competitors are making little to no money, struggling to get distribution, and overall struggling to compete in general how long can they stay in this market?

The reality is the lure of the bright shiny new tablet market is too attractive for vendors to concede to Apple. That however does not change the fact that competing will be monumentally difficult. Even if they did concede I would recommend it only be until the market matured. At which point new entrants have a chance to succeed as the market fragments and consumers begin to shop based on preference. The evolution of consumer markets show us that a standard technology brings a market to maturity and then that market fragments allowing for a more vast variety of consumer choice. The tablet market will mature at some point and at that point consumers may desire a more wide variety of choices.

The brilliance however of Apple in this regard is worth noting. Apple has strategically lured those who compete with them in categores like PC’s and Smart Phones into competing in a category they have no chance in for the foreseeable future.

The result is that Apple competitors are allocating invaluable resources away from other product segments that could be significantly more profitable and competitive for them.

I believe that success will only come to those who want to compete with the iPad by thinking fresh and taking bold and innovative risks.

The iPad Does What No Other Tablet Does

There actually may be a number of things that can be pointed out that truly differentiate the iPad. I however would like to focus on just one – battery life.

For the past week I have been camping in Lake Tahoe for vacation. All though i’m on vacation and not “working” I still like to check in from time to time as well as post new things on our site.

I brought a slew of electronics on this trip knowing that I would need multiple ways to get online and have very limited options and time to charge my gear.

So here it is Thursday and the only thing with juice left is my iPad. My Macbook Air, several other Android tablets, my iPhone, and several of the latest Android phones all dead. The only thing left standing is the iPad.


There are many reasons why this is the case but the biggest reason I believe this is possible is because Apple made the hardware (including designing the processor) and the software. When you can “tune” all the elements of your hardware and software together you can accomplish optimal efficiency in the areas you purpose to. One of the many areas Apple had accomplished and continues to strive for in all their products is battery life.

This is not always easy and some devices like phones simply can’t have as large of batteries as others like computers and tablets. But it is still a goal.

It is of course the goal of the industry as well. I don’t believe companies launch products with poor battery life as a goal. Only there are so many factors for other vendors who don’t control the critical parts of the supply chain like software and hardware, so it becomes a greater challenge.

Battery life is still perhaps in my mind one of the biggest things the industry still needs to progress with. Several years ago I would have never thought that I would have a device that I could use to do work and a slew of other tasks with that would last well over a week on single charge. I’m blown away the iPad is still going.

It is Thursday and i’ve been using the iPad normally since Saturday and it sill has 34% battery life left. In fact i’ve been using the iPad more than any other piece of electronics I brought since Saturday and they all still died.

Do Students Hate Textbooks More than They Like Sex?

It’s no secret that students hate both buying bloated, overpriced textbooks and lugging those bricks around in their backpacks. But we didn’t know how much.

A new survey sponsored by Kno, Inc.–which, not coincidentally, is in the business of e-textbook software–found that 73% of college students would do something they otherwise wouldn’t consider, including giving up sex, if they never had to shlep another textbook.

You can take that finding with a grain of salt, but there’s little doubt that the movement to e-texts is hitting an inflection point. The Kno study, conducted by Kelton Research, also found, more believably, that 71% of students want their texts to go digital.

A big driver, of course, is the rapid adoption of tablets, particularly the iPad, which make excellent textbook readers. An early attempt by Amazon to promote the jumbo Kindle DX as a textbook reader fizzled, mostly because of the limitations of the monochrome, video-free device. But the iPad is so natural for the job that Kno abandoned plans to come out with its own hardware to focus on iPad software.

The most recent big development in electronic textbooks was the announcement by Amazon that to would be renting texts for as little as 30 days and for up to 80% less than the print edition price. The books will be available on all devices that support the Kindle reader,  though I suspect that reading a typical textbook on a phone screen will not be a happy experience.

Amazon has initial partnerships with John Wiley & Sons, Elsevier, and Taylor & Francis. That will limit the selection of text available this fall, though other big players such as McGraw-Hill and Pearson will certainly join if the initial efforts shows legs.

That calculus text pictured above? Single Variable Calculus by James Stewart (Brooks Cole) is one variant of a widely used introductory text that is not available in digital form. A hardcover copy is still going to set a student back more than $100 and create a 2 1/2 lb. lump in a backpack.



Did Android Tablet’s Gain on The iPad or Did The Market Grow?

Yesterday Strategy Analytics released some numbers showing the latest in the overall tablet shipments which included iPad and Android tablets. In that report Strategy Analytics reported”

  1. Apple sold 9.3 million iPads in the second quarter of this year, giving it a commanding 61% share of the market
  2. Android captured [a] 30% share of global tablet shipments in Q2 2011
  3. Motorola, Samsung, Acer and Asus – shipped 4.6 million tablets running on the Android operating system in the three months to the end of June.
  4. Microsoft managed to capture a 4.6% of the tablet market
  5. PlayBook tablet, shipping half a million units in Q2 to give it a 3.3% share.

Now there are several things we need to bear in mind when we look at these numbers. First is that these numbers are only for Q3 2011. So Strategy Analytics is saying that during the third quarter Android tablets sold 30% of the total tablet sales just in this quarter. Strategy Analytics is not saying that Android tablets have 30% of the total tablet market share to date.

Second Apple’s tablet sales are sell through (actual sales to consumers), meaning those are actual numbers of consumers walking around with iPads in their hands. The Android tablet sales are shipped in to retail sales which is not necessarily indicative of how many consumer actually purchased them, only how many retailers purchased into the sales channel.

Now to look at the actual current market share numbers of tablets. According to sales figures to date Apple sold just over 29 million iPads. Sifting through as much public data I could find i’ve come up with total Android sales to date of just over 9 million, again sell into channel not sold through to consumers. If that is correct then Android tablet market share of total sales into channel to date is just over 25%.

I am keeping a close eye on these numbers and the next two quarters will be very telling. Since the most accurate tablet forecasts for 2011 are in the 40-55 million range, the next two quarters look like they could be huge. I believe Apple will easily sell in the double digit million range of iPads in each of the next two quarters. The true sell through numbers of Android will be key and i’ll update my market share figures when we get them.

We must also remember that tablets are a growth category, this year they will have grown nearly 200%. Meaning that the overall size of the tablet pie is growing. In my opinion discussing market share is great but I’m not sure its entirely helpful until a market has reached its peak.

Why Apple’s Earnings Reports Matter

Today Apple released their earnings report for the third quarter of 2011. As was expected there was much anticipation regarding the earnings, not only from Wall St but also from media outlets. Apple did not disappoint having their best non-holiday quarter ever as well as selling more iPads and iPhones than any other quarter. Outside of continually delivering reports that shock people there is a more significant point about Apple and their earnings progress that i’d like to highlight.

Namely that Apple’s earnings are one of the biggest indicators that not only show the healthy life of the technology economy but they should also give other companies hope. That hope is that if a company truly delivers value to the market place it will be rewarded. They should find hope that consumers aren’t just after the cheapest thing on the market but that consumers truly desire products that add value to their lives and they are willing to pay for it.

It’s not a race to the bottom its a race to provide value. Apple’s earnings continually re-enforce this point.

Below are the key points from the earnings.

Apple® today announced financial results for its fiscal 2011 third quarter ended June 25, 2011. The Company posted record quarterly revenue of $28.57 billion and record quarterly net profit of $7.31 billion, or $7.79 per diluted share. These results compare to revenue of $15.70 billion and net quarterly profit of $3.25 billion, or $3.51 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 41.7 percent compared to 39.1 percent in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 62 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

– The Company sold 20.34 million iPhones in the quarter, representing 142 percent unit growth over the year-ago quarter.
– Apple sold 9.25 million iPads during the quarter, a 183 percent unit increase over the year-ago quarter.
– The Company sold 3.95 million Macs during the quarter, a 14 percent unit increase over the year-ago quarter.
– Apple sold 7.54 million iPods, a 20 percent unit decline from the year-ago quarter.

– Apple reported quarterly revenue of $28.57 billion, and profit of $7.31 billion, representing year-over-year growth of 82% and 125%, respectively
– We’ve now sold 222 million iOS devices to date
– International sales made up 62% of the quarter’s revenue, compared with 59% in FYQ2
– Gross margin was 41.7%, above our guidance for the quarter
– Apple closed the quarter with $76.2 billion in cash, compared with $65.8 billion at the end of the previous quarter
– 3.95 million Macs were sold, a record for the June quarter
– Mac sales grew 14% year-over-year, four times the global PC market growth, according to IDC
– The Mac has outgrown the PC market for 21 straight quarters – more than five years
– International Mac sales continue to be strong, growing 57% year-over-year in Asia Pacific
– Peter Oppenheimer shared that Lion, the new version of OS X, will be available tomorrow
– Apple sold an all-time record of 20.3 million iPhones during the quarter, compared with 8.4 million in the year-ago quarter, 2X IDC’s growth estimate for the smartphone market
– iPhone is being deployed or piloted by more than 95% of Fortune 500 companies, and by 57% of the Global 500
– iPhone is now available in 105 countries through 228 carriers, and year-over-year sales quadrupled in Asia Pacific
– Apple sold 9.2 million iPads in the quarter, up from 3.3 million in the year-ago quarter
– Supply improved and we’re still selling every iPad we can make – iPad is now available in 64 countries
– iPad is now being deployed or piloted in 86% of Fortune 500 companies and 47% of the Global 500
– There are more than 100,000 apps designed for iPad in the App Store
– Apple sold 7.54 million iPods, with iPod touch continuing to make-up over half of the iPods sold
– iPod maintained over 70% marketshare in the US, according to NPD, and is the top-selling MP3 player in most countries for which we have data
– iTunes Store revenue was up 36% year-over-year, reaching $1.4 billion
– We have paid over $2.5 billion out to developers, as the 425,000+ apps in the App Store have been downloaded more than 15 billion times
– Apple plans to open 30 new stores this quarter, for a total of 40 new stores this fiscal year
– Mac sales in our retail stores totaled 768,000, up 13% from the year ago quarter, and 50% were to people new to the Mac
– Apple’s retail stores brought in $3.5 billion in the quarter, up from $2.6 billion in the year ago quarter

Why Tablets Won’t Cannibalize Laptop Sales – Yet at Least

If any of you have gone out to buy a laptop computer lately, you may have asked yourself “do I need a laptop or could I get by with a tablet?” We know from our research that this question is top of mind with a lot of consumers these days as tablets have really clouded their thinking when it comes to new laptop purchases.

Last summer, when the PC vendors were planning their spring collection of laptops, consumer tablets were still in their infancy. Apple’s iPad had some serious interest from consumers but at that time, it had only been on the market for a few months and the vendors did not see it as a threat to their laptop business. But by the holiday season they realized that Apple not only had a hit on their hands but also were pushing more and more non-PC vendors to jump on the tablet bandwagon. They also saw that Apple’s iPad and Google’s Android tablets were starting to get serious attention from potential laptop buyers.

But the problem for the PC vendors is that the projection of cannibalization of laptops by tablets is also all over the map. Some financial analysts that I talk to who cover the PC vendors think that tablets could cannibalize as much as 50% of the laptop business for traditional PC vendors by 2014. In my talks with PC vendors, they currently fear that tablets could impact their total laptop sales by more then 10-12% over the next three years.

However, a new report from Bernstein Research Analyst Toni Sacconaghi is challenging this assumption. John Paczkowski over at the AllThingsD blog shared the reports findings and added some thoughts in his article. Sacconaghi believes that tablets are not cannibalizing notebooks but are instead converging with them. He postulates that a product like Apple’s MacBook Air, with its thin and light design, is more synergistic to Apple’s iPad. And that it represents a broader convergence of the tablet and notebook designs.

He is on to something here. If you look at the key trends in processor designs that focus on very low voltage yet high performance, you see that PC vendors now have the technology to create very thin and light laptops that in some ways work the same way. With a tablet, all you need is a Bluetooth keyboard and it in essence is a notebook. What’s more, if you take a very thin and light laptop and put a touch screen on it that can be folded back or slid down, you have a tablet.

Mr. Saccononaghi also says “ironically, availability of such notebook devices might undermine tablets sales rather then vice versa.” That is a possibility. But the blurring may really come through what we call Hybrids or sliders. When I was in Taipei a few weeks ago I saw a couple of products called sliders. The one officially launched was the Asus slider but I also saw one behind the scenes that will be ready for the holidays that was even cooler then the one from Asus. Both work like a laptop when the screen is slid up and then works like a tablet when the screen is slid down. A tablet and laptop all-in-one!

We see this hybrid slider as the device that actually does blur the two devices into one and could end up driving a portion of the market to buy products like these instead of a laptop or a tablet individually. However these designs still have small 10.1 inch screens and laptop users – who are used to larger screens to work with – may be intrigued by this design but still opt for a laptop and a tablet if they feel the need both.

What’s interesting is that if you consider a tablet a portable computer and lump them into total portable computer sales, Apple would be the #1 portable computer maker in the market today with HP being a distant second.

In the end I believe it will come down to personal choices. If a person uses their computers more for productivity, then a laptop is still needed. But if they mostly use computers for content consumption, then a tablet is more ideal for them.

Either way, consumers will end up with a lot of compelling choices and form factors for ultra light computing and will buy the ones that make sense for them. And for the PC industry, the amount of portable computers shipped starting in 2013 will increase by at least 50%. The big question when we get to 2015 though will be who the real Apple challengers will be and how much market share Apple will still own in both the ultra light laptop and tablets markets by the middle of the decade.

Android Could be Vulnerable if HP Licenses WebOS

I’ve been pondering the question of Android’s growth, sustainabilty and market share for some time now. For several years now as we have been discussing strategy and market trends with our clients, Android always seems to enter the discussion in some way.

Many of the companies we consult with work closely with Google and implement Android on a number of their hardware platforms. Suffice it to say that being tuned into the intimate discussions between Google and their Android customers is VERY interesting. The bottom line is we know for a fact vendors are extremely interested in supporting multiple platforms and many of them do not want to bet their future on Android.

This reality is actually what led Intel to want to create and develop MeeGo. Intel heard the same complaints from hardware vendors who deeply desired an alternate to Android but had no viable option in the market place.

Android’s momentum, particularly with develepers, is the strongest reason for vendors to continue selling Android devices. Contrary to popular belief, mainstream consumers are not walking into stores asking for Android devices. Instead they are shopping for a smart phone and are seeking the best option to fit their life based on a few set criteria in their buying process.

Using this knowledge the question of HP licensing WebOS becomes quite an interesting one. If vendors are genuinely interested in supporting and developing out more platforms than just Google, then HP has a huge opportunity in front of them.

As I pointed out in my TouchPad review WebOS is solid, stable and elegant. All that is missing from making the OS great is a plethora of the key and important core applications. HP is going to continue to drive software development and they are buidling their develeper relations team out as we speak.

WebOS TouchPad Review: 3 Things that Set it Apart
HP is Committed to WebOS (and they should be)

If HP was to pull in one or two major vendors like HTC, Samsung or Motorola, my guess is developers would come in droves. This would mean the app shortage currently facing WebOS could turn very quickly. Especially given how easy it is to develop for WebOS.

I’ve stated this in a number of articles where I was quoted but I believe that if HP was to have success licensing WebOS it would hurt Android and Microsoft more than Apple.

Android is vulnerable because it is not a sticky solution. Most of Google’s apps are free, their services are free and accessible on other operating systems as well. Consumers who buy Android devices don’t have much other than the cost of the hardware sunk into the ecosystem. Google is a services company and they want their services on as many devices as possible, including non-Android devices. So even if as a consumer you are vested in Google’s services, you will be able to access these services(like Gmail) from any number of non-Android devices as well. For these reasons Android is not sticky.

Are Mobile Platforms Sticky

Microsoft has a better chance at creating a sticky platform but vendors like HP, Samsung and Moto simply won’t support Android, WebOS and Windows Phone. If HP can swing major commitments from any of those players my guess is Microsoft’s chances of getting more hardware wins for Windows Phone becomes a challenge.

I know i’m going way out on a limb with this statement however I would not be shocked if in three years Android was not in the top three of mobile OS market share. Entirely assuming HP does license WebOS(and they do it right) AND Microsoft delivers with Windows Phone 8 and beyond.

Those may be big assumptions but as I said the lack of stickiness with Android may be its Achilles heel.

Wacom Bamboo Stylus for iPad Review

I’ve said it before and i’ll say it again, I am a fan of the stylus. I love touch computing don’t get me wrong but there are certain use cases with tablets where I believe a stylus accessory makes sense.

When I reviewed the stylus implementation of the HTC Flyer I noted that it was the best implementation to date and I still believe that. Primarily because the stylus was integrated well into the whole of the tablet. What Wacom has done with the Bamboo Stylus for iPad is the best stylus implementation on the iPad I have used.

The Stylus

When you first hold the Bamboo Stylus in your hand you will note that it is very well balanced, much like a nice pen. The official weight of the pen is 20g. The feel is solid and sturdy and sits nice in the hand like any fine writing instrument.

What sets the Bamboo Stylus apart is the width of the tip. Which is 25 percent narrower (6mm vs. 8mm) in diameter than other Stylus on the market. This allows for not only more precise accuracy but also a smooth pen on paper feel while writing on the screen.

The challenge of any stylus is to create a feeling as similar to writing on paper. The narrow tip and texture accomplish as close a feeling to paper i’ve used yet.

The App

What the folks at Wacom did, that was brilliant, was they included a free app that goes along with the stylus. This way they could include specific things to make their accessory work even better. This app is called Bamboo Paper.

Its a very simple app that lets you create a book of notes. You can change the color of the book as well as choose from blank, ruled or grid style paper.

Inside the app is where some of the great work Wacom did with the software shines. For example pressing and holding on the screen brings up the pen options to change width and color of the stroke.

There is a menu at the top of the app that gives you quick buttons to email the current page or the whole book, undo and redo, change pen options, choose eraser, create a new page and bookmark the current page.


As I stated earlier, the challenge of any tablet + stylus experience is to mimic as closely as possible writing on paper. Too often when writing with a stylus on tablet screen it feels slippery or glossy. Which makes being precise more difficult. Writing with the Bamboo stylus was as close to writing on paper as i’v experienced. The tip length and the rubber texture add just the right amount of resistance and in the process mimic a pen-on-paper feel.

The pen was also very precise and I felt my writing was very similar to what my handwriting looks like on paper. Normally this is not the case with tablets and stylus.

What was equally as important, which must tablet + stylus implementations fail at, was the software’s ability to distinguish between my palm or hand and the stylus. Too often writing becomes difficult if the app recognizes the palm and either doesn’t let the pen write or makes small dots everywhere the palm touches.

With the Bamboo paper app I could confidently rest my palm on the screen to write and focus on writing and taking notes.

Wrap Up

If you are looking to use your iPad to take hand written notes I highly recommend this setup. I would obviously like to see they stylus work with more iPad apps. For example marking up documents, web pages, presentations etc.

Wacom does state that the Bamboo Stylus does work and has been tested with a few other apps, check out the full list of supported apps here.

GoodReader is one of the supported apps that will let you mark up images, PDF documents and more. One way I did find to mark up websites, images, documents, and more was to take a screen shot on the iPad then open the image in GoodReader to use the Bamboo Stylus to make markings. It is a little bit of a hack but it suffices for the time being.

Ultimately I may be in the minority but i’d love to see Apple make a stylus accessory for those of who want to use our iPad to draw, handwrite, mark up important documents and more. But for the time being the Bamboo Stylus will be my go-to solution.

BusinessWeek for iPad Review: Best Magazine App So Far

I’ve been using the Bloomberg BusinessWeek iPad App for about a month now and I have to say I prefer it hands down to reading the physical magazine. Mostly because BusinessWeek did not simply try to re-create the BusinessWeek experience on the iPad, instead they re-invented it.
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Apple Retail is Key to Their Competitive Advantage

Apple has several things I consider to be keys to their competitive advantage. Fundamental advantages that when you study become clear differentiators as well as roadblocks for Apple competitors. However if I were to prioritize, their retail strategy would be near the top as a key to their competitive advantage – here is why.

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Why Apple Has a Strong Competitive Advantage

One of the primary things about being an effective technology industry analyst is that I have to clearly communicate our perspectives about the technology industry as a whole to my firms clients. This requires more than just the regurgitation of information as we gather it in the field. It requires explaining more fundamental elements of what is happening and why. It is because of this that we seem to get one question common to many of the companies that we speak with and provide services to. That question is: “Why is Apple doing so well and what can we do to compete?”
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