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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Tablet Wars

Early in my career I had the good fortune to work with Dick Hackborn while he was still running the LaserJet printer business for Hewlett-Packard. Hackborn was a very smart guy, and one of the business and marketing strategies he most often employed was “never attack a fortified hill.”

What he meant was that it’s rarely a good idea to enter a market that has many competitors, with mature product lines and lots of loyal customers.

I thought of Hackborn’s fortified hill this week when I read that Apple had sold more than 1 million iPads in the first month they were on the market. That’s a lot of tablets. And Apple’s users are among the most loyal in any industry. So you think that competitors would think twice about entering the tablet market. Wrong.

Instead, competitors are entering the market as fast as they can.

Already in the market with Apple is the WeTab from German-based Neofonie, Fusion Garage’s JooJoo, and France-based Archos 9. Other expected entrants into the tablet market are Toshiba, Dell and other PC manufacturers. HP has already given sneak peaks at its Slate, which is Flash enabled (unlike the Apple iPad) and runs Microsoft’s Windows 7. Google also is rumored to be working on a tablet.

Google, Microsoft and the Palm OS (recently acquired by HP) will all vie for the operating system of choice on the new tablets.

But the question remains, what will it take to avoid getting slaughtered as these companies attack Apple’s fortified hill.

The key to success will most likely lie in their ability to create easy to use APIs designed to attract as many application developers possible. Apple has an unbelievable head start with more than 140,000 apps. Most industry analysts are betting that HP will have the best shot at battling Apple for tablet supremacy, while others are leaning toward Google.

Here at 3Point, we provide our clients with business and marketing strategy, so when we view the “tablet wars” through our marketing lens, it’s hard to bet against Apple. After all, they beat all odds when they attacked the fortified hill of MP3 players with their iPod, and won with an all-out marketing campaign. I’m betting they’ll be just as fierce protecting their iPad fortified hill.


  1. There's a long standing marketing strategy called many things but the one I like is "Follow the Arrow". Many companies continue to be successful by letting others be the crash test dummy for a new market segments.

    In the greater computer systems and application software markets Apple is a small time player vs. HP and IBM. Those players also have their loyal followers who may look at Apple's offering, and then patiently wait for their fav to deliver.

    What Apple does and what follows is no surprise. They are the arrow that others have successfully followed since sand was first turned to silicon.

  2. Sorry, but the tablet market is not a "a market that has many competitors, with mature product lines and lots of loyal customers."

    The tablet market is at v1.0 (let's call the Microsoft tablets of the last decade beta versions).

    Apple has released a good product in the iPad but I think it is crazy to declare Apple the winner and to suggest nobody else should just try.

    It would be foolish to release an iPad competitor that isn't competitive, but it would be crazy to cede the entire tablet market to Apple. I like the iPad as much as the next guy but to think is a perfect product and leaves no room for competitors is just silly.

    Let's not forget that it wasn't so long ago that Apple "attacked a fortified hill" by entering into the cell phone market.

    I need to also ask why the author chose 140,000 as the number of Apps when Apple released a figure of over 185,000 in early April.

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