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Samsung wins competitive assessment of tablets - bigger surprise is who took 3rd place

by David Needle

August 16 2013

Deciding which tablet to buy can be tricky, particularly for companies that want a single vendor to cover many different use cases.

Market intelligence firm ABI Research set out to rank the leading tablet makers in a head-to-head “vendor matrix” that used several different criteria related to both product implementation and innovation.

While the iPad is the best-selling tablet, Samsung’s tablet line narrowly beat Apple’s in ABI’s overall ranking that covered 19 different tablet vendors in all.

“There is kind of a misnomer out there that Apple's iPad is good at everything, but that’s not the case,” ABI Research analyst Jeff Orr told TabTimes. “We looked at a lot of things like thought leadership, design capability, ownership of technology, partnerships and the ability to impact the marketplace.”

And while Apple scored plenty high on a lot of those categories, Orr said Samsung finished slightly higher overall.

“Samsung not only designs its own tablets, but it also has a broad portfolio of products for different audiences and different geographies,” he said. “Contrast that with Apple that doubled the size of its iPad portfolio with the iPad mini, but still maintains a kind of hero device strategy that the iPad can be adapted to all the different audience types.”

He also noted that Samsung is arguably in a stronger position than Apple because it makes more of its own components and is less reliant on third party suppliers than Apple.

That said, one of Apple CEO Tim Cook’s strengths is a keen management of the supply chain that has kept a ready supply of components available to the device maker.

(Choosing which tablet to buy and rugged tablet options will be among the key topics discussed at the upcoming TabletBiz conference coming to New York on November 13, 2013). 

Rugged tablet maker Xplore Technologies makes a strong showing

A surprise third place winner was Xplore Technologies, known for its line of rugged Windows-based tablets designed for harsh environments like the factory floor and where extreme weather conditions prevail (e.g. military deployments). Xplore recently added ruggedized Android tablets to its mix.

Orr said Xplore scored high because it had good marks across the board where many competitors scored lower in at least some of the criteria.

“You don’t usually see that consistency across so many areas,” said Orr. “But specialized vendors like Xplore and Motion Computing scored very well.”

Bigger brand names like Dell, HP and Lenovo finished 4th, 5th and 6th Orr said, partly because they don’t offer the same level of innovation and features directly customized for specific customer segments as Xplore.

“They have some great tablets, but it’s not innovation when you take a reference design and use a standard OS,” said Orr. “The specialized vendors have those relationships in areas like healthcare where they know the hurdles companies face with regulations and what software they need.”

Two other well known tablet makers, Google and Amazon, came in lower, though Orr said they scored high in a number of categories.

“I would say Google from a brand perspective has done a good job of being a role model for other Android tablet makers, but OEMing the design [from Asus] and slapping your logo on it ... we don’t see that as the same level of innovation that Samsung or even its manufacturing partner Asus has done overall.”

He said Microsoft, with its Surface line of tablets, finished "in the middle of the pack" in the final rankings. 

David Needle is Editor of TabTimes and based in Silicon Valley
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