The iPad dominates the tablet market -- but will that ever change? Noah Elkin, principal analyst at eMarketer, answers this and other pressing questions about the ever-evolving tablet space.
Noah Elkin, principal analyst at eMarketer, opened his insight address at the iMedia Breakthrough Summit in Miami by informing the audience that tablets aren't exactly new -- they've been around for about a decade. "Until Apple introduced the iPad, no one wanted them because they offered a pretty bad user experience," he said.
Apple has essentially recreated the tablet market, and everyone is now rushing to get into it; at CES alone, there were more than 100 tablets introduced. This influx has led people to question whether this will be the year of the tablet. According to Elkin, it would be more accurate to ask whether it will be the year of the iPad.
Right now, the iPad owns the tablet market. According to eMarketer's research, Apple's tablet market share will ultimately erode, as it will in the smartphone market. Apple's iOS will remain the dominant U.S. smartphone platform in 2011, but Android will pull ahead in the near future. Tablets are essentially an additional front in the operating system (OS) war.
Tablet awareness and purchase intent are healthy, especially among young consumers. After establishing that kids of this generation are only going to know touch-screen devices, Elkin noted that part of Apple's marketing strategy includes targeting 2-year-olds. Using his own daughter as an example, Elkin noted, "She can barely speak, but she knows how to swipe photos on my iPhone and change it from landscape to portrait mode... Apple has designed an interface that someone who is functionally illiterate can use."
In addition, tablet owners are more receptive to advertising. Not only are they more open to a range of different advertising formats, but the richer ads delivered on tablets bring high engagement rates. Using Hyundai's Equus as a case study, Elkin explained how the automotive company is taking full advantage of what tablets have to offer.
When Hyundai introduced the Equus, every model came with an iPad. While this was a great marketing gimmick that gained immediate attention, the company didn't stop there: Each iPad was preinstalled with an application meant to function as the central point of consumer-brand interaction. New Equus owners can not only schedule service appointments on their iPads, but the service department will also come to their houses and pick up the cars. Further, the application takes the owner's manual to new heights with the interactive capabilities of tablet technology. Features include a demo on how to use the navigation system, as well as a car driving game aimed at showcasing the lane departure warning system. These features not only answer any questions drivers could have, but also make it fun.
Elkin emphasized that marketers should leverage this form factor when designing applications: While smartphones and tablets run on the same OS, the size of the tablet screen offers benefits that the smartphone does not. Focusing on these differences, as Hyundai did, can lead to a more rewarding user experience.
So will the iPad dominate the tablet market for the foreseeable future? Apple still has the advantage for now, due to its brand appeal, the breadth of its content, the iTunes interface, and the company's large retail presence. But, Elkin said, the Android "is maturing quickly and has strength in numbers." The mobile platform competition will continue to be ferocious, and it's shaping up as a one-on-one battle between Apple and Android.
This year, however, goes to Apple.
Lucia Davis is associate editor at iMedia Connection.
On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.
Follow the conversation at this week's Breakthrough Summit with the hashtag #iMediaSummit.