Mar 7th, 2011

It seems we can’t get through an Apple press conference these days without Steve Jobs or whatever Apple representative is presenting taking a jab at their competitors – namely Android. I remember a time where Apple believed they were in their own bubble. Things were much nicer then.

Now, they have a bit of an unbridled passion to diss any and everything Android whenever they get the public opportunity to do so. (More so now that Eric Schmidt has left their board of directors in what seems to have been a clash between two titans.)

Jobs must always remind everyone that the Apple App Store has more applications in it than the Android market. (Quality pending, of course.) He must always remind everyone that they were the first to change the smartphone industry while everyone else are just imitators.

The War Continues

His latest antics have spilled over from the smartphone side of things to tablets. Apple introduced the iPad 2 at their press event last Wednesday just as everyone expected them to.  There was one huge difference, though, between this revelation and the one for the original iPad: Google didn’t have a tablet specific operating system.

At the presentation, Steve Jobs plastered the logo of all their competitors who have either already released tablets or have revealed plans to do so all over that nice big slate behind him. Motorola’s logo shined through right up there with Honeycomb’s and Samsung’s. They weren’t the only ones who were called copycats, though. RIM and HP were also called out.

They singled Android and Google out because they were the only big competitor with a tablet shipping with their own operating system so far. They showed the number of apps in the Apps Store compared to the Honeycomb-specific Android market count: 65,000 compared to 100.

It’s a harsh reality and it does well to take us back to the days where the T-Mobile G1, the HTC Dream, and the Android Dev Phone 1 (same devices, if you didn’t know) were the only Android-based products on the market.

The best thing about that, though, is that we’ve seen the saying “history tends to repeat itself” proven true time and time again. Why can’t we expect what happened with smartphones to be the same for tablets? Just as with phones, Google’s looking to create an ecosystem driven by developers – as is Apple. The difference will be competition.

Competition will always be healthy

Not only will OEMs have to compete with Apple, but they’ll have to compete with each other. Major manufacturers will see at least three of their competitors with Honeycomb tablets in Q2, if not more. We’re not even counting tablets that may run other operating systems such as Blackberry OS and webOS. That competition will drive costs down and will spur innovation.

The iPad 2’s $499.99 base price is attractive and the moment one manufacturer matches that, the rest will fall in line. (Samsung may soon initiate that wave as they look to rethink their pricing strategy for the new line of Galaxy Tabs.) Carriers will look to set themselves apart with different offerings as I’m sure they don’t want to be carrying the same iPad 2 as the next guy. The cycle will always continue.

Apple knows this. They probably know it better than anyone, I bet. While they’re projected to ship 10-12 million iPad 2 units in Q2 this year, it might end up just like the iPhone has: fast start, but will soon see someone – Google and Android, we hope – catching up and surpassing them. And once that happens, it’s going to be hard for them to take their spot back.

History tends to repeat itself

Android tablets are expected to dominate the market by 2014, and while that’s three years from now, you have to guess that that time will go by fast: we’ve only just recently surpassed the two year mark since the first Android device was introduced. It seems like just yesterday I was buying my G1 without knowing how far Android would come, and now it’s one of the biggest names in smartphones.

Steve Jobs has a very good reason to be afraid, I’d say. Sure, their business model differs greatly from Google where they rely on huge profit margin and the amount of money they scrape from App Store sales. (And you better believe they make a ton from that.) But I’m a firm believer that mind share is just as important as market share and revenue, and Apple seems to be slipping in two out of those three.

Folks should be wise not to forget that the first Android tablet with Honeycomb has only been out for two weeks. Just like with the iPhone, the iPad has had a one year head start. In the end, how fast you start really doesn’t matter. It’s how you end that’ll define everything. It’ll be an interesting few years, to say the least.

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