The tablet wars have yet to be decided, but so far every iPad killer has ultimately met with failure. Even in the smartphone space, despite Android’s lead, every study found that iTMS’s AppStore collects more money than competing digital stores. About the only thing you can say with certainty is that UNIX derived mobile operating systems (mOSes) have won the first battle in the mobile space. Why is this? Taking a glance at the history of mobile computing tablets gives us some clues…
Well by now those savvy tech people have already heard that HP today decided to fold its tablet device offering not long after cutting the price by $100. This doesn’t mean much in isolation, but then news comes that Galaxy Tablets will be given away with purchase of large LED HDTV at Best Buy. Is Samsung also suffering more than they can accept from the iPad’s dominance in the tablet space? Probably. I read a recent survey where about 90% of the people who were considering a tablet planning to purchase an iPad.
Just from personal hands on experience with several different tablets and their respective OSes, I can see why. Android, with its splatter painting approach to UI consistency and no quality standards is great for people who want the flexibility to customize everything and don’t want or need a walled garden approach. However, the geeks and technology hipsters are vastly outnumbered by the people that just want to get stuff done on a portable device. They, the unwashed masses, don’t care about customization beyond the very basics: wallpaper, app arrangement, alert/notification systems and what case they think looks cool or will protect their device best.
After 15 years in tech related jobs, I too am sick of the added complexity of managing aspects of eye candy the way Android and other OSes handle it. Also, most of those features the device manufacturers are touting are like greek to the average consumer. Who cares it your device runs on a 1.6GHz dual-core Atom or Snapdragon or whatever the marketing department’s “hot processor” du-jour is. What people really care about is how difficult it is to use your product, and how easy it is to learn. When you do update the OS, users expect the interface not to dramatically change and leave them lost until they relearn the GUI. Oh, and if your device crashes, you might as well count every crash as decreasing the likelihood of repeat business by 1% or 2%.
This is where Apple has the upper hand: They not only make sure things are consistent, and test the hell out of the stability and foundation of their UI standards on top of the research they put into making the UIs intuitive as possible. They also add things later that, in a way, make sense. In the rare case that a convention is changed, it is with thought and often allows the older users the option to do it the old-fashioned way. None of the other mobile platforms can claim this level of scrutiny and planning.
Sure it’d be easy to brand me an Apple Fanboy and move on. But read on. Everyone who knows me knows I’ve been an advocate of a lot of Apple products. But what is less known is there are times I reject requests to purchase Apple hardware or software based on what’s available. This was when OS X was just getting off the ground and Apple’s product line up wasn’t nearly as focused as it is now. Newton and the first rev of the AppleTV were rejected based on their lack of focus as products or features.