On TechCrunch, Matt Burns provocatively asks if the iPad has “preemptively killed” the tablet market in the US in the same way that the Kindle and Nook have “killed” the e-book reader market.

Burns points out that if you want an e-book reader in the US, you basically have two choices: Kindle or Nook. (He apparently does not think that the Kobo or Sony are worthy of much attention.) He also notes that the US tablet market has been strangely silent over the last few months.

Nearly every week something drops that says Acer, Asus, Lenovo, everyone is working on a so-called iPad killer. But where are they? Did the iPad really come out of nowhere and catch everyone off guard? Surely it doesn’t take that much time to design and manufacture a keyboardless-netbook running Android?

But the only such devices hitting the market lately have been cheap Android tablets from China—nice for those who can’t afford better, but hardly likely to steal any marketshare from the iPad.

Burns worries that the iPad may have preempted any of its competitors in the US even more than the iPod dominated the MP3 player market. Given that tablets are pretty expensive to develop and manufacture, competitors (with the possible exception of HP and its Palmpad) may simply have ceded the field.

It’s easy to dismiss this as more of the same sort of paranoia that tends to surround anything that is both popular and Apple. Still, he does have a point: as we’ve mentioned before, no real major competitors to the iPad have yet emerged, and they’ve had plenty of time to do so.


  1. I think the key word is yet.
    It’s only been, what? Three months since the iPad shipped?
    Even me-too products take longer to design and build.
    And in the media tablet category a me-too product won’t cut it. There are too many ways to mess up the product. Realistically I wouldn’t expect anything from recognizable second-tier vendors until late fall and nothing from the bigger players until early next year.
    And the real competition, the ULV Core-based tablets won’t really get going until next spring.
    None of which matters much except to Apple’s bottom line.
    Things will play out in one of two ways:
    1- either slate computers have broad-based appeal and good for tens of millions a year
    2- slate computers are a “novelty” act that makes a big early splash and then fades into nichedom

    In the former case, competition will figure out an angle just as they’ve figured out how to compete with the iPhone. In the latter case, it won’t even matter that much as the media hype will be focused on the next novelty product. Color eink? 3D portables?

    Its too early to worry overmuch.

    (Just as it’s too early to say Kindle and Nook have killed the reader market. Let’s get real: K3 is a nice product but it hasn’t even shipped yet! How about we wait a year or so before proclaimng a winner?)

  2. Maybe this is some kind of American language issue but how can an amazingly successful product ‘kill’ the very market that it is dominating. It’s all very well to suggest that the iPad may be killing , say, the netbook market because it is offering a better device. But surely, if the English language means anything, the iPad is not only creating a tablet market out of pretty well nothing, it is now dominating that market. It seems tha tablet market is now huge (5Million by the end of the year?) and most definitely not ‘killed’ !

  3. The (poorly phrased) intent seems to be that iPad has preemptively killed all competition for the new market. Except it hasn’t.
    Because the competition hasn’t started.
    It’s just bad media hype on a slow (tech) news day.

    By that logic the Palm Pilot pre-emptively killed all competition for connected organizers back in ’95. Of course, history shows things didn’t quite turn out that way.

  4. From the leaked rumors, we’ve been hearing several reasons why all those other slates and tablets, shown at CES weeks before the iPad was announced, have not yet come to market.

    Some blame Android, which seems to be the only viable OS for slates outside WebOS and iOS. Android was meant for phones, and even Google doesn’t seem too clear as to what is an Android device and what is a ChromeOs device. Android slates are all announced with OEM specialized interfaces, implying that Android out of the box isn’t suitable for the big-screen tablets. Also, Android 3.0 has been rumored to be better adapted to larger-resolution screens, so maybe some OEMs are waiting on that version.

    Then there are hardware issues. These range from rumored troubles with Nvidia Tegra2 chipsets, the basis of many of the announced tablets, to shortage of screens (this is said to be limiting production of iPad too) to shortages of flash-rom memory. Bitten by the boom-bust cycle, and forced to liquidate flash chips at a loss when the world economy hit the skids in 2008, manufacturers held off on expansion plans. Then Android phones hit big, and iPhones have only been growing, so currently the supplies are in shortage, and expansion factories aren’t online yet.

    Another factor that blind-sided everybody was price. The world was expecting, based on the rumors, that Apple’s tablet would retail at US$800-1000. But Apple seems to have ditched some of the hardware (like the camera) and brought the price down to a very-aggressive $499 for the base iPad. This just killed all the plans of the competitors, and is the most likely reason why the alternatives that have come on market have been smaller screens with lower resolution, like the Dell Streak.

    It was supposed to be about now that the President of ARM holdings said we’d be seeing about 50 different ARM-based slates coming on sale. I believe all those plans are still undergoing development, based on getting the right hardware at the right price, getting it working, getting the software (Android as well as device-specific shells and applications) working right, and figuring out price, and just how to market the devices — how big a screen, at what price point, selling to what buyers.

    Remember, we haven’t even seen any of those ‘smartbooks’ that were going to ‘kill’ netbooks with all-day battery life, thinness, lightness, and sub-$200 retail prices, as yet.

    There are indeed problems somewhere, and they aren’t all with tablets, per se.

  5. The problem with the the tablet market is Apple came out swinging with a great, innovative product early on; usually a flood of new devices comes out in one genre and then consumer preference usually weed out the weaker competition. It appears the opposite of this has occurred with tablets, but it is–as several others have pointed out–too early to make the claim that the industry is somehow stilted. I’m interested to see how other companies intend to out-do Apple in the coming months before Christmas.

  6. “It’s only been, what? Three months since the iPad shipped?”

    But who decided that the iPad launch date is the measuring stick? Companies have been showing off Tablets before the iPad was even announced. CES was 7 months ago. The author is asking, what happened to those? And the answer, at least partly, is they went back to the drawing board or pulled out, because of the iPad.

    So yes, it is too early to count out others, and yes, the market will expand in the next couple years. But it isn’t THAT early-obviously something changed the market. In my opinion, it was the rumor (obviously planted by Apple) that the entry price of the iPad would be $1,000, and when Apple announced it at $500…companies had to rethink their strategies. Which was the point of the article.

    And yes, “Killed” is an silly term. There are plenty of MP3 players/Media players still for sale besides the iPod, for example. Perhaps a better term is “rendered irrelevant in terms of marketshare and mindshare, and headlines in Techcrunch” :p

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