Are Tablet Customers Being Duped? Can Apple Do Anything?

The tablets released in 2012 are strong competitors to the Apple iPads in many ways. And yet, customers who buy these competing tablets don't seem to be doing much with them. At least, visibly, on the Internet. Is that because customers are being duped by clever advertising that hides the deficiencies of these tablets? What can Apple do to fight back?

According to recent reports, Apple's iPad accounted for over 88 percent of the Black Friday online purchases made by tablets. Apple's Tim Cook has noted the dominance of the iPad in Web traffic and has publicly wondered what people are doing with their non-Apple tablets? Putting them in a bottom drawer?

The recent TMO series on eBooks and tablets has revealed that the competing tablets have good hardware, good design, and good user interfaces. Consumer tablets and pure tablets alike have browsers, email, Twitter, Netflix and perhaps Skype if there's a front facing camera. But some are very much lacking in other key features and functionality. So the natural question to ask is: why aren't customers using these devices more to get online: browse, email and perhaps do some shopping?

Gee, they all look alike.  Which one is cheapest?

The basic idea is that the iPad has only 55 percent market share in tablets but has 91 percent of the Web traffic and 88+ percent of the shopping, at least on a busy day. While there may be some room for additional rigor in this kind of analysis, the trend is clear. People are buying non-Apple tablets, then those tablets are very much less visible on the Internet.

No one seems to know why this is so.

One reason could be that when people buy a less expensive tablet, say, for $199, they're under the impression that it's just as good as an iPad. But when they get it in their hands, they either don't like the browser -- or worse -- they can't find it or figure out how to use it. Perhaps these customers, often befuddled by their PCs are overwhelmed when it comes to configuring a modern tablet. Yet the tablet setup in Android is almost identical to iOS.

Another reason might be that consumers are buying these tablets to engage, occasionally a trusted ecosphere like Google Play, Amazon or Barnes & Noble, but when it comes to general online shopping with an Android OS, they don't trust the security of their tablet. Perhaps because they were bound to buy a less expensive tablet, they're not often in an expansive, buying and communicating mood.

It's likely that Apple's focus on curation, control, privacy and security may be going a long ways towards putting customers at ease when it comes to providing a credit card number to a merchant via Safari on an iPad.

If it's true that modern TV advertising is so compelling and convincing that potential tablet customers think they're getting an iPad equivalent -- but for simply less money -- then it's a real shame that Apple isn't differentiating itself more. It's something that Apple has failed to address explicitly.

Here's one notion of what may be happening. Apple has long considered its products to be like BMW cars. The quality is very high and so is the price. Profits are good, so market share doesn't matter. For example, no one believes that a Chevrolet Cruze for US$19,000 is the equivalent of a BMW 335i for $45,000. There is implied value and quality in the price without detailed, degrading comparisons.

Could it be that Apple feels that the price of the iPad mini at $329 so clearly sends a message that it is vastly superior to a $199 consumer tablet that nothing more needs to be done? Could it be that many customers think that they're getting the same tablet fundamentals without paying the suspected Apple premium? Some of us at TMO are thinking that perhaps, before Apple's tablet market share drops any further, the company should engage in a TV advertising campaign to clearly show people what they're getting with a tablet like the iPad. And not getting with the rest.

That brought us to a discussion of Apple's previous, very successful, "Get a Mac" campaign with John Hodgman and Justin Long. Those ads clearly but humorously spelled out the advantages of a Mac over a PC. Now that we're in the Post-PC era, perhaps it's time to spell it out for the iPad. Just a thought, of course.

"Get a Mac" campaign. Image Credit: Apple


There was no technical news debris worth digging into this week, what with the holidays upon us. Particle Debris will return on January 4, 2013.