Tablets: In The Land Of Vaporware, The One iPad Is King

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There‚Äôs no doubt that the iPad is a runaway success, and has been since Day One.  (4.5 million units sold per quarter‚Ķnumbers don‚Äôt lie.)  It wasn‚Äôt the first tablet computer to market ‚Äì in the same way the iPod wasn‚Äôt the first MP3 player, or the iPhone wasn‚Äôt the first smartphone ‚Äì but it continued that magic confluence of design style and instant usability of its iBuddies, and basically created a market where almost none had existed before. 

A story at CNBC‚Äôs Fast Money site predicts that the iPad will become the 4th biggest consumer electronics category ‚Äì not product, category ‚Äì blowing past gaming hardware and even cell phones.  It‚Äôs already smoked the DVD player in the ‚Äúmost quickly adopted non-phone electronic product‚Äù category, and a recent study of Best Buy (the first non-Apple Store retailer to offer the iPad) also reveals that iPad sales are cannibalizing those of netbook/notebook computers ‚Äì and TV‚Äôs and digital cameras could be next.


Apple, in fact, is so far ahead of the competition in tablet computing that, unlike the ‚ÄúiPhone killers‚Äù that surfaced in the wake of the iPhone‚Äôs success, not one major manufacturer has a tablet even close to hitting the retail channels any time soon.  This chart, with data culled variously from the Wall Street Journal, CNET, Engadget, and the manufacturers‚Äô own websites, tells the tale:
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chart data from

As you can see, the companies are evenly split between a promised late 2010/early 2011 delivery.  Just looking at the former for a second: where‚Äôs Dell‚Äôs tablet?  Not for sale anywhere we can tell.  LG‚Äôs?  Ditto.  NEC‚Äôs?  Um, see a pattern emerging?
Part of the reason for the lack of iPad competitors is Apple‚Äôs buying power.  Even before the first iPad was delivered to the first Apple Store, the House of Jobs was a parts-buyin‚Äô behemoth, the world‚Äôs undisputed champ when it came to buying flash memory and capacitive touchscreen technology in bulk.  It has the power to buy more parts for less, thereby assuring more profit per iPad sold.  No one else on the above list can even catch up.
But there’s another element, just as important as innovative design and mega-buying power, that is keeping Apple in the forefront of the tablet wars:
When Apple has a product in the pipeline, they don‚Äôt say squat.  Obviously, stuff leaks out, third parties can be plied with strong drink and spill state secrets, etc.  But Cupertino proper?  Lips zipped tight until the big public unveiling.
Too many companies promise the moon to grab public attention, then fall on their butts when the promised game changer either doesn‚Äôt get released at all, or is released with less than promised.  Apple Outsider brings up the example of the aforementioned LG Android tablet won‚Äôt ship when scheduled because ‚Äì surprise! ‚Äì LG don‚Äôt know HOW to build an Android tablet.  (It didn‚Äôt help LG ‚Äì or anyone else on the ‚Äúpowered by Droid‚Äù list above ‚Äì when Google themselves admitted that Android wasn‚Äôt a tablet-optimized OS‚Ķbut don‚Äôt worry, they‚Äôd cobble something together Real Soon Now.)  So now LG is left with egg on their faces, and vapor in their hands.  And the iPad continues to steamroll its way into the hearts and minds of users worldwide, with zero competition on the horizon.