One of the most hotly anticipated products launched this year was Apple’s iPad 2. As CEO Steve Jobs launched the product earlier this month, he noted many of the updated product’s new features: a thinner body, a longer-lasting battery, built-in camera, faster processor, and a slick updated OS to go along with it. Interestingly enough, the price-point for the updated iPad remained the same (starting at just under $500), despite the technological improvements. And when the product finally made its way to physical and virtual shelves two weeks later, consumers responded positively in full force: the product sold out in less than three days, with 70% of the units sold going to first-time buyers.
The initial success and overwhelming popularity of the iPad 2 means a lot for the emerging tablet market. For starters, Apple is clearly emerging as the industry leader in a field of competing products and software platforms. Here is how they’re doing it:
- Similar devices from manufacturers such as RIM and HP and those running Android don’t have, as one reviewer notes, a “focus on the entire user experience” and the sleek, stylish hardware that has become part of Apple’s signature design.
- Many users are first-time buyers, Apple is still attracting plenty of upgrade buyers eager to take advantage of the new product’s upgraded OS or physical features. This elevates the product to “status symbol” level, something that similar products and competitors have failed to capture.
- The surge in iPad 2 sales are largely in part thanks to a growing demand for tablets. Presenters and manufacturers at last December’s CES Expo and last February’s Mobile World Congress foresee 2011 being the “Year of the Tablet,” with tablet sales and demand to surge upward despite steady prices, and with more consumers owning smartphones or tablets compared to laptops by the end of the year.
While Apple is enjoying its current position as the arbiter of what works and doesn’t work in the mobile web market, some argue that Apple is taking its power too far. Last month, Apple rolled out a new policy that it would keep 30% of all revenues for music, magazine, or newspaper subscriptions sold through the App Store, and that if the developer chooses to offer the same service outside the store, their offering through the App store must be the same or better. Despite complaints from critics and developers, Jobs believes that developers will have access to more potential users and markets compared to similar retailers (e.g. Android Market).
Does Apple’s emerging role in the tablet market and dominant mobile web presence give it the license to dictate website design standards and application pricing guidelines? As long as consumers are still buying and developers are still developing, Apple continues to make a strong case for its self-appointed position and status in the market.