Dispatches from the Digital Revolution
By KEIRA LYONS
Over the past few weeks, two more players have entered the tablet market and declared war: Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Kindle Fire will go on sale Tuesday, November 15th, the Nook Tablet, Friday, November 18th. These will be the first tablets for both companies, and it remains to be seen how effective they will be in challenging Apple’s iPad, the tablet leader since 2010 when the iPad was first debuted.
How will Apple react to presence of these two huge entities in the otherwise monopolized tablet market it has enjoyed thus far? As with all other things Apple, no one will know until it happens. The cloak of secrecy the hardware company has always worn inhibits the ability to guess what’s really going on behind closed doors: are they calm, collected, and unafraid of its two newest hardware rivals? Or are executives silently panicking and preparing the release of a watered-down, less expensive version of the iPad?
Perhaps the panic will set in later–years from now, even–but in the meantime, most industry analysts agree that Apple’s iPad sales will continue to thrive. This is simply because no one is sure just how Kindle Fire or the Nook Tablet will perform in comparison with the iPad. eWeek.com recalls “successive ‘iPad Killers’ [that] have arrived on the scene only to promptly expire amidst withered expectations.” In reality, Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet are not really iPad competitors; the competition they’ve created is between each other, for the sale of content. Because of this, Apple can sit back and watch the battle rage and slowly fizzle out from its safely entrenched position high above the fray.
Apple will coast along unaffected by the two new tablets because of the iPad’s ability to do so much more than these glorified eReaders. The iPad is able to function in both the business and consumer spheres, whereas Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are marketed primarily for the easy purchase, organization, and presentation of digital media. Even Jeff Bezos made this distinction in his unveiling of Kindle Fire back on September 28: “We don’t think of the Kindle Fire as a tablet. We think of it as a service.”
Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet will have a more immediate effect on existing tablets that are not the iPad, such as the HP TouchPad, BlackBerry PlayBook, Motorola Xoom, and Samsung Galaxy Tab. The brand power of Amazon and Barnes and Noble will be the greatest factor in propelling their new tablets to the forefront of the everything-else-besides-the-iPad tablet market.
Will Apple develop a less powerful, more affordable version of the iPad? Probably not anytime soon. iPad sales are still growing exponentially with each passing sales quarter, so where is the motivation for Apple to lower prices? According to its quarterly sales earnings reports, Apple has sold 39.85 million iPads since the iPad debut in 2010. Should comparable sales for Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet emerge, however, Apple’s self-confidence may start to waver, and its apathetic war strategy will have to be reevaluated.