Apple’s Second iPad Hits the Market, While Most Rivals Haven’t Shipped Their First Tablet
As of right about now, the iPad 2 should be hitting the virtual shelves of Apple’s online store. Starting at 5 p.m., it should also be available in Apple’s retail outlets as well as Best Buy, Target and Wal-Mart. AT&T and Verizon Wireless stores will also have the models that work on their respective networks.
But, what strikes me is that while Apple is now ready with its second-generation tablet, many of its would-be rivals still haven’t made it out of the starting gate.
Google has its tablet-optimized version, known as Honeycomb, but only the lead device–the Motorola Xoom–has actually made it on the market ahead of the iPad 2. Other products, such as T-Mobile’s LG G-Slate and Honeycomb tablets from Samsung, Toshiba and others still have yet to get a firm ship date, let alone go on sale.
The same goes for other iPad rivals. Research In Motion has been talking about its PlayBook for months and showing glimpses of it at various events, but it has yet to announce when the product will go on sale. It has said it will hit the market this quarter, so it should be out soon, assuming no further delay.
Hewlett-Packard, meanwhile, has announced its WebOS-based TouchPad, but it too falls into the category of announced-but-not-shipped.
What does all that mean?
Well, for one thing, it means that Apple is virtually guaranteed of extending its lead in the tablet market, making the game of catch-up all the harder for those seeking to dethrone the iPad.
Apple also gets other benefits for being first to the party. Because it knew what was coming, Apple did one of the many things it does well–tie up supply of key components.
Apple makes only a handful of products and bets big on those it launches. Some years ago, the company recognized that most of those products would depend on flash memory and struck deals that ensured it would have enough supply. It has made similar moves on other components and said during last month’s earnings call that it was prepaying for a bunch of goods, though it declined to identify just which parts its rivals would be short.
And, because Apple is also a tough negotiator, it also often gets volume deals that others have a tough time matching. The result is that would-be rivals not only can’t get enough parts, they have a tough time competing with Apple on price.
While a few tablets are priced less than Apple, most of them lack the same screen size and other capabilities. Those that do pack similar components are often priced higher than Apple, further blunting their impact.