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3 reasons why most tablet makers are ignored

by Don Reisinger

November 17 2013

Don Reisinger is a New York-based technology journalist who writes for CNET, the LA Times, and other publications.


We’ve all heard it before: Apple is the world leader in tablets and for the foreseeable future, nothing is going to change that. The company’s iPad is simply too popular and its features too appealing to be anything less than the top product in the space.

Last month, research firm IDC released its findings on third-quarter tablet shipments. The company found that Apple shipped 14.1 million shipments during the period, nabbing 29.6% of the space. Samsung came in second place with 9.7 million tablet shipments and 20.4% market share. Asus was a distant third with 3.5 million tablets shipped and 7.4% market share.

The biggest success story during the quarter was Lenovo, which posted a shipment gain of 420.7%. There’s an issue, though: the company shipped just 2.3 million tablets and holds but 4.8% of the market.

Amazon and Google were conspicuously missing from the study. However, both companies launched new tablets in the fourth quarter, which means this data will likely change dramatically when this period’s sales data is tabulated.

Regardless, the data and the growing popularity of products from Amazon and Google seem to indicate one important notion: the vast majority of tablets on the market today are ignored. And no company in the space has actually proven that it can overcome the massive barriers firms like Apple, Samsung, and Amazon have erected.

(For news, trends and insights about the tablet market, sign up for the free TabTimes Daily newsletter)

Read on to find out why most tablet makers are ignored:

1. It’s all in a name

Brand-recognition has always been an important metric. Companies like McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and Disney have been successful for decades because consumers know their brands and trust them. 

The same can be said for Apple. For years, Apple’s brand has been rated highest in value. The measure includes a wide array of metrics, including how the public perceives a company. Apple performs well in that data point each year.

Samsung, Amazon, and Google are similarly popular companies. Their brands are well-respected among consumers and their tablets have, so far, proven to be reliable across the board.

But perhaps the value of those companies goes beyond tablets. Apple didn’t start out producing tablets; it was a mainstream, popular personal computer-maker first. Google builts its success as the most popular search engine. Amazon is well-known as the king of e-commerce. Samsung had a multitude of products it was best-known for before it even considered the tablet market.

For years, we’ve heard industry handicappers say that there’s a “halo effect” in the technology space that sees certain companies succeed in disparate markets because of the success of products in their core areas. At least with tablets, that appears to be the case.

2. What’s with all the standard Android versions?

Uniqueness seems to matter to today’s consumers. Samsung’s TouchWiz software, which runs atop Android, has been lauded as an interface that works far better than the standard Android build. And in my experience, that certainly appears to be the case. TouchWiz brings more integrated (Samsung) apps to the platform and delivers a more intuitive experience.

Amazon is another fine example of a company that has leveraged Android and delivered an experience people want. Amazon’s FireOS doesn’t even resemble Android and once again includes integrated services from Amazon that folks can’t find elsewhere. It’s an Apple-like model that works.

So, is there any surprise that Amazon, Apple, and Samsung are so successful? The companies aren’t just loading regular old operating systems onto their products; they’re delivering a unique experience with integrated services they’ve built to make it all the better.

(For Android tablet news, reviews, apps and tips, sign up for th free TabTimes for Android newsletter)

Consumers seem to care most about uniqueness and integration with ancillary services. At least, that’s what the market share figures seem to show.

3. The impact of marketing and advertising

Marketing and advertising plays an important role in the success of today’s top devices.

With Apple, it’s clear to see the company’s appeal – everything from its product design to its promotion to its ability to get in front of people with media frenzies helps the company sell its products.

(For iPad news, trends, apps and reviews, sign up for the free TabTimes for iPad newsletter)

Interestingly enough, Samsung is slowly but surely entering Apple’s territory. The company’s addresses announcing new products tend to get more attention than they have previously. And since Samsung’s products sell so well, retailers are more than happy to promote their products. After all, why not push the product that sells?

Amazon’s Kindle success might be due mainly to the company it comes from. Whenever Amazon launches a new product, it puts its Kindle Fire front and center on its homepage – one of the top shopping destinations on the Internet. Add that to the Kindle Fire’s price and Amazon has a product that’s awfully compelling.

The sad thing about all of this, however, is that there are some awfully compelling products that aren’t getting the attention they deserve.

Take, for example, Asus’ entire line of tablets, including the Transformers. Those devices bring together the value of both tablets and notebooks and are nearly universally beloved by their users.

Lenovo is another company that seems to understand its customers. The company’s IdeaPad slates are a fantastic option for companies that again want to combine notebook and tablet functionality.

Finally, I should note that some of the logic presented above might not hold up in the case of Microsoft and its Surface tablet. After all, the company is big, it’s running unique offerings, and it has all the budget it needs to promote its tablets. But Microsoft is the one exception to the rule. The software company was late to the tablet game and it failed to identify the ways its products would appeal to customers.

But perhaps more than anything, Microsoft has failed to prove that it’s a company worth believing in. Microsoft is the boring elder next to Apple and Samsung. And although it’s well-known among consumers, it’s hard to say it’s actually well-respected.

(For Windows tablet news, reviews, apps and tips, sign up for the free TabTimes for Windows newsletter)

Don Reisinger is a New York-based technology journalist who writes for CNET, the LA Times, and other publications.
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