A week before Apple launched the iPad 2, TechCrunch ran a story titled “Apple’s iPad Still Has No Competition”. The logic behind it: Apple didn’t invent the tablet, but it made it into something that perfectly fits our lifestyle. The proof, of course, is that any tablet after the iPad is basically an iPad-wannabe.
I went into many debates in the recent weeks around Android vs. iOS, especially since the Samsung Galaxy S is marketed in Israel, as in the rest of the world, as an “iPhone Killer”. As an on-off user of the Galaxy S and iPhone (well, iPod Touch to be more accurate) I can honestly say the Galaxy S is coming close, but it’s no iPhone. And it’s not because Google don’t know how to develop a mobile OS. It’s just that the Galaxy S is not a “Google Phone”.
iPad vs. Samsung Galaxy Tab. Source: Gadjo
With the iPhone Apple controls the hardware and the software (OS). They even control the apps in some way. With Android, Google provides the OS, but then it’s every manufacturer to themselves, and some do better work than others.
The competitors were busy working on better hardware platforms (Motorola, Samsung) and better OS (RIM, HP, Nokia), but eventually discovered that it’s not the features, it’s the apps that count. And when everybody’s busy developing apps for iOS and now Android, there’s no much sense in developing new/other/unique operating system for smartphones. So RIM has now joined the Android bandwagon with its Playbook, and Nokia went to bed with Microsoft for some serious cash.
Storming The Corporate Market
But the point is that while Android phones are in a good spot to be competing with the iPhone, Android tablets are not. Even if they get all the praise in the world (and from an iPad freak like Scoble) they are still missing big times on apps. Yes, developers have all the motivation to favor Android tablets over the iPad, but at the end of the day iPad 2 is the king of the prom, and EVERYBODY wants a piece of that.
A few weeks ago I asked how would manufacturers differentiate themselves in a world of raining tablets. One answer I gave is enterprise-related unified communications, such as the SCOPIA Mobile V3 we announced last week. If you’re not going to beat Apple at its own game, how about storming the corporate market, where Apple has not gained much momentum, and where competitors like HP and RIM have a good brand and business affiliations.
The challenge here is how to be appealing for IT managers but at the same time stay cool, so that consumers would want to use these “corporate” tablets as their personal devices. The BlackBerry, for instance, is loved by IT managers, but no one thinks it’s cool. The iPad is currently quite hated by “corporate IT”, but the consumers love it. In fact, 80% of the Fortune 100 are testing the iPad as an enterprise tool. Why? Because they have to. Because it’s too cool to ignore. Because employees are using it and want the company to support it.
So far “corporate” oriented tablets, like the Cius, have failed to attract consumer attention. The next wave of devices, coming from consumer manufacturers uniting with unified communications vendors, might hit the spot better. Just imagine the iPad with a well integrated UC system, that works seamlessly with the corporate infrastructure. Or the Samsung Galaxy Tab integrating perfectly with the existing video calling infrastructure.
The iPad used for video conferencing. Photo by Kfir Pravda.
With such integration employees will be able to choose the same device for their business and pleasure purposes, and everyone’s a winner. And as you see there’s nothing new here – it’s all about the apps. A vendor that will offer the right apps, the ones that will connect its device to the enterprise properly, will be the one to come out a winner at the end of the day.
Looking at the market, the level of openness and the amount of developers, I would bet on an Android device to be the first to do that, and maybe beat Apple for the first time.