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Why the iPad Wannabes Will Definitely Flop

2010.12.27   prev     next

Dominating

IF a market is kinda new, has some fledgling products that most potential buyers don’t take too seriously yet, and you enter that market with a new, solid product that a lot of these potential buyers want, then you can dominate that market.

  • IBM PC entered the fledgling personal computer market (most potential buyers didn’t have one yet) with a product that featured 80-column, upper-and-lowercase, sharply displayed text. That was what most pre-personal computer users needed and expected, and wasn’t supported by default on the existing personal computer products like the Apple II, Commodore 64, etc. The IBM PC quickly dominated the personal computer market, and over time evolved into the MS-DOS PC, then into the Windows PC.

  • iPod entered the fledgling portable digital music player market (most potential buyers didn’t have one yet) with a model that was smaller and/or higher-capacity, much more stylish, and with a better user interface than any pre-existing player. That’s what most buyers had been waiting for; the iPod quickly dominated the market.

  • iPad entered the fledgling tablet market (most potential buyers didn’t have one yet) with a model that was smaller, lighter, more touch-accurate, stylus-free, better interface, and much more robust software development and sales model than any pre-existing product. Buyers loved it; it quickly dominated the tablet market.

Doing Well

If a market is healthy and vibrant, but does not have a dominant product (or standard), and you enter that market with a good product, then you can become another healthy player in that market — but you may not dominate that market.

  • iPhone entered a healthy, vibrant smartphone market, but which wasn’t dominated by any single phone or phone standard. Quickly grew to about a quarter-of-the-market player. Not dominating, not yet. But very healthy.

  • Android entered a healthy, vibrant smartphone market, but which wasn’t dominated by any single phone or phone standard. Quickly grew to about a quarter-of-the-market player. Not dominating, not yet. But very healthy.

Flopping

If a market is healthy, and has one, big, dominant player, and you enter that market, then even if your product is significantly better than the dominant product, it’s not likely to take very much of that market. And if your product isn’t any better than what’s already dominating the market, then you may take just an insignificant sliver of the market. (This goes in spades if the dominant player has a strong software application ecosystem going.)

  • Macintosh (1984) entered a vibrant personal computer market already heavily dominated by the MS-DOS PC, which had a strong software ecosystem going. Despite the Mac’s revolutionary user interface, it barely reached 10% market share, and even that only for a short time.

  • PlaysForSure entered a vibrant portable digital music player market already heavily dominated by the iPod. Wallowed in a tiny (5%?) market share, then was cancelled by Microsoft after a few years.

  • Zune entered a vibrant portable digital music player market already heavily dominated by the iPod. Wallowed in a tiny (2%?) market share. Still exists today after four years, in about a 1% share of the market.

  • wannabe iPad-killers are just now entering a vibrant tablet market already massively dominated by the iPad, which has a strong software ecosystem going. Probable outcome? You be the judge.

 

Update 2011.01.07 — both instances of “37%” replaced with “quarter-of-the-”

 

Update 2011.02.01 — The Galaxy Tab, widely recognized over the past several months as the only iPad wannabe to be selling fairly well, was just recently found to be providing “sales” figures based on shipments to retailers. No consumer sales figures are provided. Also, ITG says that the Galaxy Tab has a return rate of 16%.

 

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