Kindle Leads Android Tablet Market Share (Localytics via Digital Trends)
Localytics, a mobile analytics firm, has released a report on the current global market share of Android tablet, and it spells good news for Amazon. According to the report, Amazon’s Kindle brand holds an impressive 33 percent of the U.S. Android tablet market, followed far behind by the Barnes & Noble Nook, Samsung’s Galaxy series, Google’s Nexus 7 and other devices.
Distantly behind Amazon is the Nook with 10 percent, the Samsung Galaxy series with 9 percent and Google’s Nexus 7 with 8 percent. In contrast to the others, Google’s Nexus 7 is just one device that has been around a mere six months. If this kind of growth continues for Google, it will challenge Amazon in the near future. Note: These numbers do not include other, non-Android tablet devices like the iPad, Surface or Playbook. Read >>
Global Smartphone OS Market Run By Two Companies (Strategy Analytics)
Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android combined to take over 92 percent of the global smartphone market in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to a report from Strategy Analytics.
Android secured 70.1 percent of the fourth quarter 2012 global smartphone market, while Apple’s iPhones accounted for 22 percent, leaving a mere 7.9 percent to competing platforms (poor Microsoft). In terms of overall shipments, global smartphones grew 38 percent annually from 157.0 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011 to 217.0 million in the fourth quarter last year. The full report can be found here. Read >>
Through all this, PCs managed to maintain one stronghold: the enterprise market. But even in the enterprise, the tablet has now risen to challenge the PC.
There is no longer any doubt that tablets are making inroads as work devices. The question is how the tablet advance will unfold. Will tablets create a brand new market for a “third device” that employees will use together with their PCs and smartphones, or will tablets cannibalize PCs by replacing them?
The answer is that both trends will occur.
- Tablets will become a new third device for workers who already have company-issued PCs and mobile phones. These workers will use the cloud to sync their data across devices.
- Tablets will completely replace PCs for many workers such as sales staff that don’t require the processing power of stationary, desktop PCs.
- The enterprise is Microsoft’s main opportunity to challenge Apple and carve out a place for Windows 8 as a mobile platform.
- As tablets proliferate in enterprise settings, developers and startups will find a deep and lucrative niche for new apps. Currently, few developers are leveraging tablets’ natural advantages as employee and productivity tools.
The Tablet Market In Numbers
Before we get into the specific role of tablets in office settings, let’s take a look at the overall tablet market and compare it to the PC market.
Worldwide sales of tablets hit 65 million in 2011, according to BI Intelligence estimates.
Sales will double this year to between 122 and 135 million units. By 2016 manufacturers will ship between 283 million and 442 million units.
Here’s a table compiling our own and other firms’ tablet shipment estimates and projections:
|Global Tablet Shipments (In Millions)||2011||2012||2016|
In all, three quarters of a billion tablets will be in use by 2016, according to Forrester analyst JP Gownder.
This compares to 2 billion PCs in use, but it took the PC market more than 20 years to accumulate an installed base of 750 million people, according to Gownder. Tablets are on pace to accomplish the same feat in only six years. Just like their cousin, the smartphone, tablets are moving into our lives at a very fast clip.
Tablet Growth In The Enterprise
It is much harder to determine how many of these tablets are being bought by companies for distribution to their employees. But by all accounts, enterprise purchases will be a huge driver of tablet sales.
While Forrester estimates that 12 percent of employees globally are already using tablets for work, a good percentage are using their own device, not one bought by their company.
Companies, meanwhile, are becoming open to buying tablets for their employees.
A Morgan Stanley survey of CIOs in April 2012 found that two-thirds of them were already purchasing tablets for employees. (See chart to the right.)
The same survey also asked what percentage of employees would receive company-purchased tablets. CIOs reported that 9 percent of employees were being issued tablets, but that the proportion would rise to 14 percent by April 2013 (see chart, below).
In September, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that 92 percent of Fortune 500 companies are testing or deploying an iPad, so it’s safe to assume that most enterprises are at least exploring how tablets fit into to their workplace, even if they aren’t yet buying them by the thousands.
Employees are certainly asking for tablets. In 2012, for every three smartphones employees requested, they requested one tablet, according to a recent survey of 1,500 IT managers sponsored by Cisco.
As for how many total units companies will really buy, there’s a wide array of projections.
- Infinite Research estimates enterprises pu! rchased 14 million tablets in 2011. Enterprise demand will grow to over 96 million units in 2016 (or about one-quarter of tablet sales).
- McKinsey is more conservative about the weight of enterprise sales, predicting that business adoption of tablets will drive about 4 percent of total tablet growth to 2016.
Whatever the growth drivers, Apple’s iPad and its iOS operating system (shared with iPhones) will continue to own the tablet market, at least for the next few years.
But tablets running on Windows 8 are expected to pick up momentum by 2015 or 2016, in no small part thanks to enterprise adoption.
The Windows Opportunity
In 2016, tablets running on the Windows 8 operating system will command about 10 percent of the overall tablet market, according to a forecast from IDC.
Some consumer surveys point to potential for even larger Windows gains. For example, twenty-five percent of consumers said they intended to purchase a Windows 8 tablet in a Morgan Stanley survey from 2012.
Of course, this Morgan Stanley survey focused on consumers, and not enterprise users.
Nonetheless, th! e survey shows that Windows remains a strong name with consumers. That’s important for the enterprise market because through the influence of Bring Your Own Device programs, employees have clout in deciding what hardware their companies adopt and support.
If the enterprise version of Windows 8 proves popular with businesses, Windows 8 tablets could become a popular device to replace the old PCs.
However, between now and 2016, Microsoft needs to improve its tablet offering in three ways:
- Fine-tune the Windows 8 interface to be more intuitive and less buggy.
- Fill its Windows 8 store with enterprise apps that make better use of the touchscreen.
- Add more enterprise-specific features to Windows 8 and integrate them more tightly with Microsoft’s server and commercial cloud products.
Let’s assume Microsoft makes these improvements, and also continues to leverage its strengths as a distributor of Windows and the dominant Microsoft Office suite, which includes PowerPoint and Excel. (Even if Office becomes available on iPads, Microsoft can still offer Windows tablets that better integrate Office into the operating system.)
Enterprise adoption of business-friendly Windows 8 tablets would help cement tablets as a replacement for PCs for office workers.
Meanwhile, enterprise success for Windows 8 tablets means more enterprise developers will need to write more custom applications for the platfo! rm. A fe w enterprises have already begun. For instance, Rooms to Go, a furniture retailer with $1.3 billion in revenue, developed a Windows 8 app for its showroom that lets salespeople on the sales floor help customers on the spot, rather than marching customers back to a Windows workstation.
(See section below, “Apps For The Tablet Workforce,” for more on enterprise tablet apps.)
Tablets vs. PCs?
The influx of tablets into the enterprise has already hurt the PC market, particularly the low-end, low-power netbook market.
IHS, a market research firm, has predicted that about 349 million PCs would ship overall in 2012, down from 353 million in 2011.
“Not since 2001 — more than a decade ago — has the worldwide PC industry suffered such a decline,” wrote IHS analyst Craig Stice.
But there’s a clear limit to how much the tablet can erode the PC market, even if Windows 8 enterprise tablets are a wild success, at least within the next three years. Some professions will need a more powerful computer than a tablet. These are the same professions who still use high-end desktop computers today: graphic designers, analysts, computer programmers, and so on.
Interestingly, the upswing in tablets in the enterprise could eventually have a boomerang effect and help! the des ktop PC market grow again.
Forrester analyst Frank Gillet foresees a day when workers will want a more powerful desktop machine parked at the office, and use a tablet as a portable device that syncs to the desktop, and to apps and documents stored in the cloud.
“Eventually tablets will slow laptop sales but increase sales of desktop PCs,” he writes. ”That’s because many people, especially information workers, will still need conventional PCs for any intensely creative work at a desk that requires a large display or significant processing power.”
This will hold true until there’s a major breakthrough in battery technology (which researchers are working on). Until then, there will be a trade-off between power and battery life for tablets, with most tablet makers opting for battery life over power.
Just like there will be a lingering need for some professions to use high-end desktop PCs, other professions will have no use for a PC at all.
Companies that were early to tablets are making plans for a certain proportion of tablet-only employees.
Take German enterprise software company SAP, for example. The company began buying thousands of tablets in 2010. Today it has a fleet of 18,000 iPads and 4,000 Android tablets, mainly the Galaxy Tab and Galaxy Note, says Oliver Bussmann, SAP CIO. SAP is also currently testing about 50 Windows 8 tablets.
Employees with certain jobs, such as sales staff or SAP employees that work on customer websites, are issued a tablet of their o! wn choos ing.
Today, the tablet is an additional device that complements a PC, says Bussmann, but “we see more and more users” who don’t need their PCs once they get a tablet.
He says the tablet-only employee will never be 100 percent of SAP’s workforce “but I think in the next 12 months, certain user groups” will get tablets instead of PCs, such as salespeople.
As the company deployed all those tablets, the IT team started building apps for them and now has “50 mobile apps internally deployed,” Bussmann says.
SAP is a software development company, so some of this app development was a matter of eating its own dog food, meaning using the mobile tools internally that it wants to sell to customers. But even so, SAP’s experience demonstrates a trajectory many other large companies will take. For instance, one of the internally developed apps lets sales reps access SAP’s internal data about the customer, as well as relevant information about a customer from social media and news reports.
That way, as sales representatives “enter a customer meeting, they are always up to date,” Bussmann says.
Beyond SAP’s own workforce, the company also sees clients adopting tablets, and SAP wants to support all their clients’ tablet choices, according to the head of SAP’s mobile division, Sanjay Poonen.
“We want to be a Switzerland-style player,” and support iOS, Android tablets, and Windows 8 tablets, he says.
Over the next three years, tablets will become a common tool in the workforce. They will be used for more than just checking email, looking at a web page, reading a document, or carrying a presentation. They will become a new class of business tool on par with a laptop, and a good percentage of employees won’t want, or need, anything more.
Apps For The Tablet Workforce
Once employees own a tablet, even if they bought one themselves, they are likely to use it for work. For instance, 21 percent of owners of the http://w ww.businessinsider.com/blackboard/ipad-3″>iPad 3 say they use it for work, and, across iPad owners generally, 13 percent say they use it for work, according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.
As tablets in the enterprise reach critical mass, more software and cloud services will be developed specifically for the tablet platform.
Li says he sees an influx of startups working on enterprise apps designed exclusively for the tablet.
He offers as an example the spreadsheet, which is one of the most used, most popular enterprise apps of all times. But using it on a tablet with a touchscreen is difficult “because Excel is not designed” for a small touchscreen, he says.
Apps that address that problem are just one idea. “There’s lots of opportunity.”
(In an effort to meet this challenge, Microsoft’s new version of Office has tried to make its enterprise apps, including Excel, touch-friendly.)
Tablet-specific apps have already begun to transform certain industries and certain roles within every enterprise.
For instance, tablets are replacing paper catalogs in the pharmaceutical industry and the food distribution industry. Even as of 2011 most salespeople in these industries would still travel door-to-door with printed binders. Today they use an elect! ronic ca talog on an iPad, and tablet-specific order-entry software.
Tablets have also changed retail point-of-sale (POS) systems. It has become a new device that retail clerks can use while they roam the floor working with customers. It is capable of doing everything from checking on inventory to ringing up the purchase.
POS systems like those offered by LightSpeed, Revel Systems, ShopKeep, and POSLavu replace a PC-based cash register with a tablet.
THE BOTTOM LINE
- One-tenth of enterprise employees are already being issued company-owned tablets.
- Hundreds of thousands of employees may become mobile-only as PCs are phased out for certain job functions.
- Microsoft’s quest to create a tablet platform via Windows 8 will succeed in part thanks to enterprise preference for Windows. Windows 8 will lend impetus to a new wave of development focused on enterprise tablet apps.
Cutting-edge technology is expensive enough as it is; why overpay for the stuff that’s not a good value? Laptop Magazine’s Avram Piltch breaks down some of the worst all-time bargains in tech.
Hate gallery view? Go ahead and check out the post in one page here.
Laptopmag.com brings you in-depth reviews of the hottest mobile products, the latest tech news, helpful how-to advice, and expert analysis of the latest tech trends.
Microsoft Surface RT ($619 w/ Touch Cover)
How would you like a brand new convertible with a one-of-a-kind retractable roof for the reasonable price of $22,000? There’s just one catch. You must pay an extra $10,000 for the convertible roof you saw highlighted in all the commercials.
At its $499 base price, Microsoft’s first tablet costs the same as the fourth-generation iPad, the well-established leader in the tablet market. The attractive Surface has a worse screen than the iPad, it lasts 5 hours less on a charge and, at launch time, had only a handful of decent apps for its nascent Windows RT operating system.
However, you may want the Surface because of its heavily-advertised Touch Cover keyboard, a must-have accessory that will set you back an extra $119, even though it costs Microsoft only $16 to manufacture. That’s $619 for a new, unproven tablet which trails the $499 market leader in most ways.
Voodoo Envy 133 ($2,099 – $3,299)
One of the most anticipated products of 2008, the .7-inch thin Envy 133 notebook was supposed to inspire its name in all of your friends. But at a starting price of over $2,099 that jumped up to $3,300 when fully configured, this 3.4-pound notebook was far too light on performance and specs to justify its heavy price.
The high-end Envy 133 configuration featured a modest 1.8-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, just 2GB of RAM and 64GB of internal Flash storage that copied files so slowly it was more of a Solid State Park than a Solid State Drive. Worse still, the notebook lasted just 2 hours and 32 minutes on a charge, making this ultraportable not very portable at all.
More: Top 10 Ultrabooks
Cisco umi ($599 Plus $24.99 a Month)
Psst. Come over here. I have a copy of this week’s Village Voice newspaper that I’d like to sell you for just $25. What? “It’s free,” you say? Well, my version has slightly sharper print so I’m sure you and millions of others will be more than willing to pay my premium.
Cisco applied this perverse logic to its 2010-era umi home telepresence system, which cost an eye-popping $599 for equipment plus $24.99 a month to provide a slightly better video chat service than competitors like Skype and Google offered for free. With the umi, which was short for You / Me, you could hook up a camera to the top of your TV and either talk to one of the five other umi users — or with your friends on Google Talk who were paying nothing at all.
Sony VAIO P Series ($899)
Back in 2009, netbooks were as hot as the Jonas Brothers, and everyone wanted to get in on the action. On the low end, non-computer companies like Sylvania (yes, the light bulb people) were making their own versions of netbook. On the high end, Sony tried to reinvent the genre with its 1.4-pound, 8-inch VAIO P.
At first glance, the VAIO P was an engineering marvel. The system was thin and narrow enough to fit into an overcoat pocket while providing premium features like a bright 1600 x 768 pixel display and 3G connectivity. However, with super-sluggish performance, mediocre battery life and a stiff keyboard, the notebook wasn’t good enough for extended use. At $899 and up, the value just wasn’t there when the best premium netbooks at the time cost $499.
More: Longest Lasting Laptops
Apple Lisa ($10,000)
In the early 1980s, few people had seen a computer with a graphical user interface. Xerox had been experimenting with GUIs since the 1970s and launched its Xerox Star 8010 in 1981, but it was Apple’s Lisa that finally brought windowed operating systems to the mainstream in early 1983.
Unfortunately, for the privilege of rolling a mouse around Lisa’s 12-inch, 720 x 360 black-and-white screen, you had to pay a cool $10,000 ($22,000 in 2011 dollars) and put up with a pair of unreliable “Twiggy” floppy drives that used their own proprietary 860K disks. At the same time, you could buy a brand new Apple IIe, the leading home computer, for just $1,395, a Compaq Portable PC for $3,590 or an original PC for far less.
Nokia Booklet 3G ($1,720 Over Two Years)
Subsidized netbooks with two-year 3G contracts were always a bad idea, but never more so than with the 2010 Nokia Booklet 3G. For $299 and a commitment to give AT&T $60 a month for two years ($1,720), unsuspecting shoppers got an attractive but incredibly incapable 10-inch netbook.
Perhaps Nokia and AT&T thought the Booklet’s Macbook-esque aluminum chassis would distract consumers long enough that they would make it through the return period without noticing the system’s glacial 4,200-rpm hard drive, painfully slow Atom Z530 processor or cramped keyboard.
DIVX ($499 Plus $4.50 per Disc)
How would you like to pay $500 just for the right to pay another $4.50 every time you want to rent a movie? That was the premise behind DIVX, a late 1990s movie rental system designed by someone who had watched too many episodes of “Mission Impossible” and loved the idea of self-destructing media.
After buying a $500 DIVX Player, you could then purchase any of about 400 movies on disc for about $4.50. A mere 48 hours after you watched the film, it would expire and you would have to throw away the disc or pay another $3.25 for another 48 hours. Circuit City, the leading seller of DIVX players and discs, touted the new technology as a convenience that would help you avoid late fees. However, the player was $100 more than a regular DVD player and the discs were more expensive than renting a film at the store.
More: Best Smart TVs
BlackBerry PlayBook ($499)
Research in Motion Co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie must have been eating some psychotropic blackberries when they laid out the MSRP for the company’s first tablet in spring 2011. At $499 – the same price as the industry-leading iPad 2 – the BlackBerry PlayBook provided a significantly smaller screen and an operating system so half-baked that it didn’t even include native email support at launch.
Within a few months, the price of the PlayBook had dropped dramatically. Today, you can get one for just under $180, which is still too expensive. Much-better 7-inch Android devices like the Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire cost around the same price and have a far better selection of apps.
Motorola Laptop Dock ($499)
A dual-core smartphone is already more powerful than an older PC, so why not use it as one? That was Motorola’s thinking when the company launched the Laptop Dock, a keyboard / screen combo that turned the Atrix 4G handset into a notebook runnin, the browser-centric Webtop OS.
At $499 by itself, or $300 when bought together with the Atrix, the 11.6-inch Laptop Dock cost the same or more than a full-fledged Windows 7 netbook that could run all of your software. Considering that its cramped keyboard was worse than those on most netbooks, Motorola’s dock was one of the biggest rip-offs of 2011.
AT&T VideoPhone 2500 ($1,599)
Today, anyone can conduct an online video chat for free, using Skype, Google Talk, FaceTime or any of a dozen other solutions. But back in 1992, we didn’t have broadband Internet or HD webcams. So when AT&T released the VideoPhone 2500, a standard landline handset that could send and receive video, the world took notice . . . of its whopping $1,599 price.
Considering that it both sent and received video on a sluggish 19.2bps modem, the VideoPhone 2500′s 10 frame-per-second performance was pretty impressive for the time. However, to use the device, you needed your friends and family to buy it too, something few consumers were willing to do.
More: Best Bluetooth Speakers
Apple Macintosh G4 Cube ($1,799)
How much extra would you pay for sexy? If you were a Mac maven in 2000, Steve Jobs thought you would spend $1,799 for the PowerMac G4 Cube, a tiny cube-shaped version of Apple’s PowerMac G4 desktop. Unfortunately, at that price, the Cube was a square peg trying to fit into the round hole of Apple’s product line.
At the time, consumers could pay $1,000 less and get an iMac, which came with a monitor included. Creative professionals who had the money to spend preferred to buy a PowerMac G4 tower with better performance and the ability to upgrade.
Motorola Xoom ($1,079 Over Two Years)
When they released the first true Android slate in early 2011, Google and Motorola were a year late to the party and yet they wanted hundreds of dollars more than Apple’s belle of the ball.
At a time when the iPad 2 cost $499 with Wi-Fi, or $629 with contract-free 3G service, the Motorola Xoom launched at $599 and required you to sign a two-year contract with Verizon at a minimum of $20 per month ($1,079), or $799 sans contract. While the cheaper iPad 2 had access to thousands of apps, at launch, the Xoom had a measly 46 tablet-optimized apps.
IBM PCJr ($669 to $1,269)
A stripped-down chip off the old block, 1983′s IBM PCJr (PC Junior) would have been overpriced at any cost. At $1,269 with the absolutely necessary floppy drive ($669 without), the PC Jr. was quite a bit cheaper than full-fledged IBM PCs of the time, but about on a par with the Apple IIe and far more expensive than home-computing competitors like the $200 Commodore 64 and $150 TI-99/4A.
Unfortunately, with its horribly stiff chiclet keyboard, slow performance, and a slew of compatibility issues that kept it from running popular PC programs, the JR wasn’t worth the premium. That year, I arrived at computer camp earlier than the other kids, just so I could grab a seat in front of a real PC rather than this awful offspring.
OQO Model 01 ($1,899)
In launching the world’s first 14-ounce Windows PC, OQO’s 2004 Model 01 was a true trailblazer. However, even by early 21st century standards, the Lilliputian laptop’s 1-GHz Transmeta CPU, 20GB hard drive and 256MB of RAM provided sluggish performance. Meanwhile, the tiny keyboard just felt awkward.
Considering that you could get a fully functioning laptop for hundreds of dollars less, it was hard for most consumers and business users to imagine buying this severely neutered novelty for such a high price.
Newton MessagePad 2100 ($1,000)
By 1997, Apple had improved the software and solved a lot of the handwriting recognition problems on its Newton PDA. Perhaps because of these improvements, the company felt it could price its grayscale handheld at a whopping $1,000, more than some PCs cost.
At the same time, the PalmPilot Personal cost just $299. Yes, the Newton had a better processor, more storage and a larger screen, but none of these features justified spending $700 more, even during the Internet bubble.
iOS users are much more active on their devices than Android users, judging by traffic to U.S. e-commerce websites.
iOS accounted for over 70 percent of e-commerce websites’ mobile traffic last quarter, according to Monetate, which includes international visitors in its data.
Android, with a commanding 65 percent of global mobile platform market share last quarter—more than three times that of iOS— drove a relatively weak 23 percent of traffic.
Apple’s strength is partly the result of the iPad’s continued dominance in the tablet market. The iPad accounted for 89 percent of tablet traffic and is the largest single driver of mobile traffic, reflecting tablets’ strength as a consumption device.
However, even among smartphones, which drive more overall traffic than tablets, the iPhone drove 61 percent of e-commerce traffic last quarter to Android’s 38 percent. (Android had a 72 percent global smartphone market share to the iPhone’s 14 percent.)
Tablets and smartphones will not completely displace PCs. But they will quickly overwhelm them in terms of unit sales. When, where, how and to what degree this occurs will have tremendous implications across many businesses and industries.
Here are some of the growth drivers:
- The average sales price of tablets are falling: Through the first six months of the year, tablet prices have seen a pretty steep drop off, despite the iPad’s continued dominance. The ASP of the iPad is down more than 11% from its 2011 price. The introduction of mini tablets, beginning with the Kindle Fire, disrupted the pricing dynamics of the market and will drive the huge drop in ASP over the next few years.
- Increased penetration in existing markets: Penetration will increase in markets where tablets already have a foothold. Increased adoption will be driven by falling prices and the tablet market’s subsumption of the e-reader market, which sold more than 20 million devices in 2011. The replacement rate of tablets is also somewhere between smartphones and PCs, indicating that sales can scale and grow rapidly.
- Tablets are disruptive: Tablets are poor substitute for PCs if you are trying to run data intensive spreadsheets, but they vastly improve upon the media consumption experience. Tablet owners consume a huge amount of content, from news to magazines to movies to TV shows. And again, they are cheaper and getting even cheaper every day.
- Multiple emerging markets are ripe for tablet disruption: As we discuss in! our mob ile enterprise report, tablets have only started making their way into the enterprise — a hardware market that will top $420 billion this year. Education is another opportunity; U.S. K-12 schools spend about $5.5 billion on textbooks in 2010, and college students spend hundreds of dollars per semester on textbooks they’ll only use once.
In full, the report:
- Explains why the average selling price of tablets has fallen, and will continue to fall
- Analyzes why tablets will benefit from increased penetration in existing markets
- Details why tablets are indeed a disruptive technology
- Explores the growth opportunities that exist in enterprise, education, and emerging markets
This is what we can say with some certainty about Apple’s tiny tablet: It will look somewhere between a large iPhone and a small iPad, will have a 7.85-inch display that’s not quite retina, will share guts with the iPad 2 and iPod touch, and will be announced sometime in the next several weeks. It will likely come in black, anodized aluminum, and possibly white. There could very well be a 3G version.
That makes price the only real question left. It’s also the one Apple’s going to have the hardest time answering.
A Premium Blend
This should be easy. After all, unlike the iPad—which established the 10-inch tablet market to Apple’s devastating advantage—there are already a host of 7-inchers in the world. There have been for some time; long enough, at least, to cement consumer expectations of what a 7-inch tablet should cost. And that amount is between $200 and $250.
So, no problem! Let’s say the iPad Mini starts at 16GB (reasonable, since all the other iPads do). That would put it up against the equivalent $200 Kindle Fire HD, the $230 Nook HD, and the $250 Nexus 7. Assuming Apple doesn’t mind sitting on top of the pricing totem pole, $300 makes perfect sense. Done.
But let’s take one more look at those devices. The Nook HD has the best display of any 7-inch tablet, and an OMAP processor that outclocks the Kindle Fire, and the Nexus 7 (and iPad Mini’s rumored A5). In fact, at that $300 price point you could score a 32GB, 9-inch Nook HD+. Similarly, the Nexus 7 can match any tablet on design, has a blazing Tegra 3 processor and 1GB of RAM muscling a silky Android Jelly Bean platform, a near-retina display, and the full might of the Google Play store behind it. In both cases, at $300 Apple would be asking people to pay significantly more for a product that offers, on many fronts, less.
Then there’s the Kindle Fire HD, from a company with nearly as much brand recognition as Apple, a content ecosystem that beats the crap out of iTunes, a retina display. All for—again, hypothetically—a hundred bucks cheaper. In fact, for $300 you can get 9-inch, retina display Kindle Fire HD, a free month of Amazon Prime, and (in most places, still) not pay taxes on any of it. Buying that over a smaller, less equipped iPad Mini may not be a no-brainer. But it’s closer to one than Apple should be comfortable with.
So why not go cheaper? It’s not that Apple can’t afford to. It’s that it doesn’t appear to want to.
The iPod Precedent
One of the not-so-secrets to Apple’s retail success is that it keeps things like pricing so simple you don’t have to give it much thought. Nearly every product in the Apple Store—the Shuffle, the nano, and the 3G iPads being the exceptions—costs a multiple of $100. Want the slightly better version of something? That’ll be a Benjamin.
It’s such an established system, in fact, that Apple may have priced itself into a corner. An iPad Mini would fall squarely between two devices: the iPod touch and the iPad. It’s expected to share the same processor with both, and will roughly split the difference in size. The 32GB iPod touch—the smallest available model—costs $300. The entry-level 16GB iPad 2 costs $400. It’s nearly impossible to imagine the iPad Mini costing less than the former and more than the latter. It would be confusing, and Apple hates confusion.
But $300 for a 16GB iPad Mini would be the sweet spot, wouldn’t it? Especially given that $100 increment fetish. Start with the $300 32GB iPod touch, add size (+$100), subtract storage (-$100), end up at $300. Start with the $400 iPad 2, subtract size (-$100), keep everything else the same, end up at $300. It also happens to fill in the pricing pattern every iProduct has marched to since forever (left, via Ryan Jones).
When Apple refreshed its iPod touch line-up just last month, it could’ve easily set a lower price in anticipation of the incoming iPad Mini. But it didn’t. And that’s worrisome.
Regression to the Mean
Not too long ago, people happily paid an Apple premium. You’d spend more for the same basic product because you trusted the brand and appreciated the aesthetic. Apple made a lot less money back then.
Now, though? Look around. Intel had to pay out $300 million to ultrabook OEMs to keep up with MacBook Air pricing. It’s commonplace for top-shelf Android handsets to start at $300 on contract; the iPhone still comes in at (a heavily subsidized) $200.
And then there’s the iPad. It’s easy to forget now, but one of the most remarkable things about the original Apple tablet was its price. It was cheap, for what it was, a budget Adonis forged by Tim Cook’s supply chain heroics and Apple Store retail efficiency. It took a year for Apple’s competitors to produce a reasonably decent 10-inch tablet at $500, and another to drive the price down to $400. And still no one buys them.
People buy the Kindle Fire, though. By the millions. The small tablet market is mature and competitive in a way that the 10-inch market—outside of the iPad itself—has never been. The Toshiba Thrive is Glass Joe; the Nexus 7 is Mr. Sandman. And it’s way cheaper than $300.
How Apple prices the iPad Mini matters beyond just the number of units it sells. If it’s less than $300, CEO Tim Cook has keyed into the threat that Amazon and Google pose to its handheld computing empire. And he’ll crush them. If not? Then it’s another sign—along with Maps, along with that $30 dock connector adapter—that the old Apple hubris might be sneaking back in. The kind that dominated back when Apple was cool and niche, not the most successful business in the world.
So maybe the biggest question about the iPad Mini isn’t really price after all. Maybe it’s: What kind of company does Apple want to be?
The Average Selling Price (ASP) of Apple’s iPad has fallen more than $100 in the past year.
The iPad’s ASP has dropped significantly since it was first introduced, which is not surprising, but it appears Apple wasn’t able to produce a bump in the ASP this year by introducing a new model, the way it did last year.
The iPhone’s ASP, on the other hand, has been remarkably stable since the beginning of 2009, despite Apple’s introduction of lower-cost options. The disparity probably reflects the relative maturity of the smartphone market versus the tablet market, where Apple is starting to shed its near-total dominance.
Dr. Augustine Fou is Digital Consigliere to marketing executives, advising them on digital strategy and Unified Marketing(tm). Dr Fou has over 17 years of in-the-trenches, hands-on experience, which enables him to provide objective, in-depth assessments of their current marketing programs and recommendations for improving business impact and ROI using digital insights.
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