Tablets: Best enjoyed as a loss leader

by Rafael Hernandez on September 28, 2011 · 0 comments

Apple’s iPad is an accessory and app wonderland that has yet to be matched. The bulk of the tablets making their way to the market are an intriguing mix of hardware with an odd collection of software which may, or may not, stick around long enough to make any measurable difference.

Why the disparity? Well aside from the integration aspects and system likeness between Apple’s computer and mobile divisions, which means its fans are quick on the uptake, there are just too many me-too tablet makers.

Barring fire sales, there’s very little incentive for users to jump on a gadget that doesn’t do what it’s meant to do very well. Tablets are entertainment devices pure and simple. You’re not going to be running major applications on one any time soon so you’ll keep your trusty computer around for another few years thus leaving you with a very expensive toy to view cats playing keyboards with.

If you view tablets in the “dumping everything because we think we failed” context there is no bigger winner than the HP TouchPad. Sure WebOS may not stick around during the company’s future but people snapped them up purely on the possibility that it can be modded to run Android… or perhaps for fancy picture frame duty.

The Amazon Kindle Fire is an interesting exception to the tablet rule. It’s tightly integrated into the Amazon ecosystem, which might just explain its low cost of entry, that has made it an especially popular item. Its low price also goes a long way towards getting people into their way of thinking which is a nice play that’s rarely seen outside of a few markets such as printers and gaming consoles.

Loss leaders get them in the door and make it very difficult to leave. I mean when was the last time you saw Xbox 360 users abandoning ship, or PlayStation 3 users with the hacking nonsense. If they’re locked in to a way of thinking, or entertaining themselves, users will stick around as long as it’s of even a minor benefit to them.

Unfortunately most companies are in a profits now mode so few have the stomach, or bank roll, to undercut the competition and offer entertainment capabilities on par with Apple or Amazon so we’ll have to suffer through the waves of sub-par tablet experiences for the foreseeable future.

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