Apple seems to be littering the tech landscape with competitors. Look at what the iPhone wrought. All the smart phone makers but Samsung are profitless shells of their former selves.
What about the rapidly growing tablet market? After iPad’s release, the clone-wannabes hit the market with about the same sound as a sack of excrement hits a brick wall in Brooklyn (it happens). It wasn’t pretty.
Dying a quick death were tablet offerings from HP and RIM and ASUS and ACER and Lenovo and Sony (all, if not dead, certainly lost), to be replaced by mini-me tablets like the Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook.
With the exception of Samsung, which is content to copy some of Apple’s products bit-by-bit, atom-by-atom, the latest rage among Apple’s competition is to clone each other’s seven-inch tablets and hope to make up their unit losses on volume.
How’s that working out so far?
Google just entered the competition with yet another seven-inch tablet, this one starting at $199. Microsoft entered the competition trying to Micro-clone the iPad but refuses to tell anyone the price tag.
What’s going on?
Here’s the deal as I see it. iPad competitors cannot copy the iPad and hope to compete. Since they can’t add value to an iPad-like clone, they can only undercut the iPad in price.
The only way to undercut the iPad’s price is to build a much smaller tablet and hope for the best. In other words, Apple’s iPhone and iPad competition are cloning each other at the low end of the product spectrum.
Cloning themselves into oblivion it would seem, as there’s little profit to be made continually dropping prices on smart phones and mini-me iPad wannabes.
In an odd way, this is Mac vs. Windows all over again. How so? Granted, Windows won the desktop and notebook OS wars against all comers. Apple’s penalty for losing to Microsoft was to have the most profitable computer line on the planet.
The same thing appears to happening with tablets and smart phones, except Microsoft isn’t even in the picture. Most smart phone and tablet device makers are cloning their competitors and heading for the cellar in pricing (where, with no margin, there are no profits) as quickly as possible.
In the end, Apple’s iPhone may not be the most popular platform, but it will, like the Mac, become the most beloved and most profitable. Apple’s iPad may not win the unit market share awards, but is already the most beloved and most profitable.
As Yogi Berra says, it’s déjà vu all over again.