Apple seems to have captured something with the iPad that is far more than just a tablet-shaped computer. They hit upon some “X factor” in the combination of the pleasing physical design of the iPad, and the simple, intuitive and pleasing look-and-feel of a user interface.
This X-factor, whatever it is, will be very hard to duplicate by companies that aren’t Apple. Other companies will build products to compete with it, but they’ll never manage to build anything that comes close to what consumers see as the real thing. In fact, I’m not sure that tablets will ever be a space where numerous brands with strong product offerings will constantly fight it out for market share. The “front-runner and also-rans” dynamic will always exist.
I wouldn’t be surprised if many critics would argue (with a fair bit of snark) that the x-factor is the Apple logo alone. However, people who’ve gotten their hands on the iPad and have explored the App Store ecosystem know the iPad is much more than just good looks wrapped around a mediocre OS. Apple gets both hardware and software right: whatever you think of their multitasking solution or lack of openness, the “limited” features critics bash it for work a hundred times better than the “real deal” competitors are supposed to be offering. Everything on the iPad is fluid, simply just works, and for the “lack of features,” no one seems to be complaining about missing anything once they’ve set up their iPad. Apple is smart to know that they’re going to implement features and make that experience perfect before shipping lots of features that are half baked. This is what puts Apple above the competition.
Not to pick on the Xoom as there are other competitors, but I’ll be blunt when I say it’s a joke. Honeycomb is jittery as you scroll and navigate apps, Adobe still can’t get Flash to run buttery smooth on something that’s dual-core(Flash being an advertised feature that’s supposed to just work), and Motorola shipped the Xoom without 4G and an unusable SD card slot. Apple would never ship a product like this, which is why the delay has been so great on the white iPhone (presumably an issue revolving around light sensitivity with the proximity and camera sensors). If Apple does have a software bug in their product, they promptly fix it with an update via iTunes. Aren’t those 3G Honeycomb tablets at the mercy of the carriers? Android feels messy – this is why the masses don’t want to buy these tablets.