Will the iPad be the next iPod?

As the date for the iPad to reach stores gets closer, more companies are starting to talk about their own tablet products.  HP and Microsoft tried to steel some of Apple’s supposed thunder (as no one knew for sure that Apple would announce the iPad) by having Steve Balmer show an HP Slate a few days earlier, Dell started to talk about the larger versions of its Mini 3 phone and myriad other companies were talking about it.

Just yesterday I read an article on Wired about how the iPad might come to face as many as 50 competitors this year and how Arm had rented out more floor space  at the Computex trade show in Taiwan in anticipation of this.  This got me into thinking about how this market is going to play out.  I have very little doubt that the iPad will be a hit product, as the number of posts I write about it should indicate, but obviously there will be space for other players in the market.  We are going to see a large number of devices come on the market and I’m sure we’re going to see several companies offer several different devices and form factors for tablet devices.  Once the touch interface genie is let out of the bottle, there is little chance that it will ever go back into the bottle.

But lets look back on the mp3 player market in 2001, when the iPod came out.  Every company that produced any kind of electronic device was either producing or thinking about producing an mp3 player.  In fact in the next couple of years the number of models available was so great you could never hope to have even a faint notion of all the options available.  Over the next several years, mp3 players from all those competing players steadily increased in capacity and lowered in price, but still the iPod marched steadily upwards in market share.  Several factors were involved: simplicity of use, media availability, Apple’s marketing, etc.

Now, let’s fast forward to 2010: the iPad enters the stage.  With the iPad simplicity of use seems almost guaranteed as the iPhone has shown itself, by a long shot, the easiest smartphone to use in the market.  Media availability is much greater now with iTunes being the leading digital music store and not only Apple but Amazon, FictionWise, Barnes & Noble and Kobo offering access to the users ebook collection on the device, not to mention all the eBook applications available on the AppStore.  I guess we can skip going into the power of Apple’s marketing if you’re reading this blog right now.

So, the stage is set for the iPad to be the iPod of tablet devices, but will it work out this way?

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