Forbes, a highly influential American business magazine, has run an article claiming that the iPad will begin to lose market share to the combined pincer attack of Microsoft’s Surface and Google’s Nexus 7.
Forbes columnist Panos Mourdoukoutas writes “Microsoft and Google are latecomers in a brutal industry that has already taken casualties ... But, perhaps, they have learned a thing or two from the mistakes of those that came before it.”
Perhaps? But we’re not quite so convinced by Mourdoutoutas’ underlying arguments.
He claims that Microsoft’s standard inclusion of a keyboard in the Surface and Windows 8 will appeal “to users who seek the full functionality of a laptop rather than a smartphone in a tablet.”
Microsoft's Surface tablet will come with a keyboard and run Windows 8
Meanwhile, Mourdoutoutas claims that Google’s Nexus 7 has “enticed consumers with a significantly lower price point than the iPad”
See also: Google Nexus 7 (vs iPad) review
The comment regarding the Nexus 7 is superficially true, and Google’s device is certainly showing strong launch sales. However, there’s no evidence to suggest that in the long term what the market wants is cheaper, smaller, less-capable tablets. Google also has to contend with the spectre of Apple responding with its own cheaper, smaller, iPad. If it can’t compete in the 9in tablet space with a price that matches, or sometimes slightly undercuts, Apple’s, there’s little reason to think Google can compete in the 7in tablet space either.
Microsoft’s Surface is, to our mind, built on even shakier foundations. As with Windows Phone, Microsoft does deserve credit for attempting to create a mobile device with a different approach to Apple; the Surface could broaden the definition of what a tablet is for.
On the other hand, Microsoft has spent a considerable amount of time and money over the years attempting to make tablets that run the Windows operating system, and it wasn’t until Apple came along with a completely different approach that tablet devices went mainstream. Apple’s 70% market share (with the remaining 30% largely made up of cheaper devices that mimic the iPad) suggests that Apple had the correct approach when it launched the iPad. Just how different the Surface really is to older Windows-based tablets remains to be seen.
And we're not wholly convinced that people are short of options for truly lightweight portable computers with good keyboards, decent trackpads long-lasting batteries, connectivity options and storage options.
But it is generally assumed that Apple cannot completely control the tablet market indefinitely, and that this may not neccessarily be a good thing; convincing consumers to buy non-Apple tablets, however, may be harder than Forbes thinks.