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Why do tablet makers keep making these 5 mistakes?

by Don Reisinger

May 5 2013

TabTimes columnist Don Reisinger is a New York-based technology writer whose work has appeared in CNet, eWeek and other publications.


When I walk through my local Best Buy store or check out tablets online, or even see the latest devices shown off by tablet makers, I’m struck by the sheer number of companies that make the same mistakes over and over again.

As an avid tablet buyer and self-proclaimed addict of all things slate-related, I feel I’m in the perfect position to do something that too few people actually do nowadays: admonish tablet makers for delivering the same, old boring garbage that we as customers are tired of buying.

So, speaking on behalf of my fellow tablet lovers I’d like to point out to all of the tablet makers in the world just how badly they’re screwing up. Not even the beloved Apple or the cherished Samsung will be safe from my wrath.

Unfortunately, every company is making mistakes in the tablet market. And so far, they’ve been skating by without any acknowledgement of their mistakes – until now.

1. Poor branding

Dear LG, BlackBerry, Asus, Barnes & Noble, and Vizio: why in the world would you try to launch tablets knowing all too well that most consumers and enterprise users couldn’t care less about your products? The central tenet of any successful product strategy is proper branding. And yet none of those companies (and several others not listed for the sake of space and my sanity) have done what they should to properly position themselves to appeal to customers.

BlackBerry is arguably the worst example of the bunch. The company was once the enterprise’s favorite mobile partner. But after continued software delays and one boring device after another, the company formerly known as RIM has gone underground after launching its Z10 handset. Where’s the promise of greatness? Where’s the guarantee that products will only get better? Where’s the trusted brand?

Sorry, but without all of that, your tablets are doomed, guys.

2. Poor timing

I’m always shocked at the number of tablet makers that don’t understand consumer-buying patterns. Here’s a clue, folks: we buy devices around the holiday season, in the spring, and around the beginning of school time. Other than that, we’re ignoring you.

That’s why I don’t understand why companies will unveil new tablets in January or February at Mobile World Congress and expect customers to care. It’s just dumb.

There’s also the issue of failing to understand the impact Apple has on the marketplace. Launching a tablet around the same time as the iPad means a product will be ignored. Launching a tablet too soon to a possible iPad launch will mean it’ll fail.

The tablet market is all about timing.

3. Outdated Android anyone?

We’re all sick and tired of Android fragmentation. Yes, I know that Google pretends like it doesn’t exist and its faithful followers will shout the same, but it’s about time we stop the nonsense.

According to Google’s own data, Gingerbread owns 38.4% of the Android market, followed by 27.5% for Ice Cream Sandwich and about 29% for Jelly Bean (the newest version of Android). And here’s another problem: Amazon, with its Kindle Fire, is offering an Android version that is entirely different from what customers will find elsewhere. What does all of that translate to, you ask? Confusion. And confusion translates to companies and consumers buying outdated products because they don’t know any better.

Enough is enough. We need Google to fix Android fragmentation issues and do a better job of getting its vendor partners to use the latest software. To not do so would be a crying shame.

4. What about the enterprise?

Did the enterprise vanish without us knowing it? If you ask the vast majority of tablet makers, they’d probably say yes.

Looking around the tablet market, it’s hard to find companies that are actually appealing to enterprise customers. Perhaps most surprisingly, not even BlackBerry is doing it. The company’s own marketing around its PlayBook tablet centered on appealing to consumers. BlackBerry 10 is another piece of software that’s trying to walk the fine line between consumers and corporate customers.

Who would have thought that Apple is the company that’s actually doing the most to advance tablet computing in the enterprise? Each earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook tells shareholders that the vast majority of Fortune 500 companies are using the iPad in some fashion, and his competitors have largely stayed quiet on the topic.

5. The same, old boring designs

I’m disappointed in tablet makers’ lack of innovation. It seems that everywhere I turn, the same product is showing up with different names on them.

Do me a favor and compare the Google Nexus 7 or Nexus 10 with every other tablet on the market. Notice many differences? No? That’s because they all come with the same black finish, the same rounded corners, and the same prominent displays. 

The iPad is another loser when it comes to design. Sure, the device looks slightly different, but Apple has done little to actually change the way the larger slate looks. The iPad Mini isn’t even all that interesting.

Design matters, tablet makers. And yet, it’s as if us customers are the only ones who understand that. Wake up. The best-looking device really can top our list of most desirable slates, as long as you follow the previous rules.

It’s really not hard. Believe us.

TabTimes columnist Don Reisinger is a New York-based technology writer whose work has appeared in CNet, eWeek and other publications.
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Comments

 
  • jeparsons
    1 year 2 months ago

    Don, I agree with all five of your complaints, but I'm curious as to why you don't suggest substantive alternatives -- you know: real strategy. You said, "it's really not hard." Actually, it IS hard. If it were easy, they'd all be doing it, and pundits would be out of a job.

    It's easy to yell insults from the cheap seats.

  • scunliffe
    1 year 2 months ago

    Unfortunately although I agree with some of your thoughts I don't think anyone will take a lick of your commentary seriously as long as you keep referring to tablets as a "slate".

    I know of no one... anywhere in the world that calls tablets a "slate".

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