Tablet Wars : Competition Analysis and Future outlook

Thu, Sep 1, 2011

Social Issues

The recent gizmo that has come out with a bang for the tech savvy consumers (mostly internet or music lovers) is the Tablet pc. It is a very light weight (avg. wt 604gms), portable, ultra-mobile and very convenient to use hand-held pc and is equipped with essentials like wireless internet adapter and a local area network connection. The ease with which it straddles the smart phone and pc market makes it the next battleground for the big players to slug it out. This article aims at highlighting the development of the industry, its current turf-wars, the developments globally and the key success factors needed for further maturity.

Top leader of the industry

The complete concept of tablets, developed in 1960 as ‘DynaBook’ was conceptualised by Alan Kay. However, the company responsible for marketing the name “tablets” to every individual and the current top leader in this segment is Apple with its Apple ipad and ipad2 product variants. Its technical features of 1GHz dual-core Apple A5 high-performance chip running iOS4 show the performance being packed into the platform. It has an elegant and intuitive interface with amazing features loaded with thousands of applications to cater to your every need and fuel your imagination.

Samsung: the iPad challenger

The next company catching up with Apple’s ipad2 is Samsung with its Galaxy Tab 10.1, Galaxy Tab 750, P1000 Galaxy Tab and others. Slightly lower in price, Galaxy Tab 10.1 is posing a tough competition to Apple’s ipad2. Alongside, Samsung also offers a variety of other tablets at a much lower  price with  reduced functionality but overall a good buy for price conscious consumers in emerging markets.

Patent wars

The tablet war has already begun with many companies lining up their forces (tablets) in global markets. Nothing gives a better signal of the ferocity of the war in this high-tech segment than the preliminary court injunctions granted to Apple against Samsung, barring the latter from selling its Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia and Germany. Apple accuses Samsung not only of copying its technology, but also its look, feel and intuitive interface. Both the Samsung device and Apple’s iPad have screens of around 10 inches in diagonal width. To be precise, the iPad is 9.7” – regarded by many as the ideal tablet size. Apple is doing so on the basis of 10 patents it has already acquired. It is no coincidence that Apple went after Samsung as the Galaxy Tab offers the strongest challenge to the Apple iPad’s domination of the tablet market. The future would definitely be peppered with many such IPR and Patent challenges as the big players step on each others’ toes to grab a stronger foothold on this dynamic and explosively growing market.

New Entrants

As the war continues, many new entrants are also coming up with their own low priced, affordable tablets causing a plummet in the prices of tablet pc ranging from Rs.2200 to Rs.40000.

Among the new entrants, most visible names are:

  • Reliance branded and ZTE telecom manufactured tablet: 3G enabled, 7-inch screen and runs on Android* 2.3OS for high performance delivery and access to the largest collection of free apps on Android market**. It also has 512Mb Ram and 4GB SD card and you have to spend around Rs.13000 only.
  • Joining the fray is the tablet Magiq under the psychological figure of Rs.10000 by Beetel Teletech, a unit owned by the leading telecom giant Bharti AirTel: Powered by a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor it is an Android* 2.2 Froyo. It has 3G/2G SIM card slot, wifi, 7-inch touch screen.
  • Dell streak Android 5 and 7: Streak 7 has  1Ghz Tegra 2 dual core processor, 7-inch display and Google Android 2.2 Froyo operating system and is priced around $299 (Rs.13762)
  • Other players include Hp, Wespro (at an amazing price of Rs.5220), HCL (around Rs.2200!!) and a lot more.

Winners and Losers

Falling from ‘Rs.40000 to Rs.2200!’ is a clear result of the flood caused by branded Tablets in the market which has limited number of buyers currently.

Some of the products ground to dust include: Dell streak Android 5 , hp’s tablet pc and many more  following the suit. While there are others which are still struggling: a must mention is the Dell streak Android 7 which has come down to $299 from an initial price of $380.

Lower prices, good performance and mobility are bound to push the tablet market in a positive manner and consumers will have a large number of choices to suit both their needs and pocket. But the companies that will benefit most from the tablet wars will be the Telecom giants. Ultimately large number of tablet users implies large number of 2G/3G connections and hence increasing revenue from the service side.

Looking Ahead

With the market penetration of smart phones and laptops being very high in developed countries, there is an undercurrent of desirability over true consumer need fuelling its purchase. Due to this, the technological and sensory packaging of these tablets is crucial for its success in such markets having techno-savvy consumers and heavy competition. Emerging markets, in contrast, pose a challenge in the back-end infrastructure frontier. With 3G still in its nascent phase, 4G distant in the horizon, under-penetration of wi-fi networks in public spaces and low percentage of internet, the emerging markets are characterized by price wars and a nascent market size. Strategies for penetration in such markets require a rethink of the firms strategies, its product variants and its marketing to emerge victorious. It important to state here that the consumer behaviour is always unpredictable and as such, necessity factor is quite missing in Tablets. So it might be very interesting to see how this event will unfold in the future where we are hearing the terms like “Recession and Slowdowns”.

*Android is an operating system developed by Open Handset Alliance led by Google.

**Android Market is the online software store developed by Google for Android devices

Abhishek Sahu

Masters of Business Administration (2011 – 2013)

IIT Kanpur


One Response to “Tablet Wars : Competition Analysis and Future outlook”

  1. Manu Says:

    Kudos to you for researching the topic well, Abhishek – loads of information !

    The structuring is a bit offkey – perhaps ‘Patent Wars’ can be a comprehensive topic for another article, and the comparisons between all the tablets would have been better understood in a tabular format.
    Do add references too(if you used any).

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