Before I begin here, allow me to address the cost factor – when begin thinking about purchasing a tablet, you’ve got to weigh the cost of the tablet against the benefits of owning it. This is the same thing you really ought to be doing, in my humble opinion, whenever you decide you’re going to buy a bit of technology, or a car, or a house, or whatever other item you’re going to purchase for the benefits of owning it. On the other hand, if you’re thinking of purchasing a tablet so you can use it for entertainment alone, you’ve got an ever-so-slightly different set of circumstances you’re going to deal with – BUT, as I’ll maintain through the entirety of this text, comparing one tablet to the other based on specifications is, as Erica Sadun puts it, “missing the point.” You must go forth and buy the tablet you know, in your heart, if you will, will be the one you’ll love the best.
As it was announced the other day, iPad 2 is not only the same price as the first iPad was, it’s 33% thinner that the original. And it’s got a white front. And it’s a good shape for your hands. And it’s got a super cool new magnetic “Smart” cover. But the XOOM has a Silver edition. And it’s got access to the Android Marketplace. And its operating system has been developed specifically for tablets. But none of that matters to the average consumer when they’re comparing the two – because not only do they not compare the two, they’ve decided on a product almost instantly after they’ve seen the first advertisement for it.
Then there’s the now-depreciated Mac vs PC war. That war is over. Mac has taken one batch of people and PC has taken the other. The Android vs iOS (vs BlackBerry?) battle is still raging. This is a race toward the ultimate easy-to-use set of devices (not a single device) that work in an environment that works. The brand that will take the gold in people’s minds will be the one that integrates itself into our daily lives the best, does everything the average consumer wants it to the easiest, and has the best logo.
Because whether we like it or not, branding and brand power are very real forces in our technology world, just as real as they are in the political world, selling us the belief that we’ve got to believe in a person to lead us, or in the food and drink industry, selling us the belief that something man-made is better than bits of nature. Well-set type and a catchy jingle can make us hope for, want, and need a product – case in point, “video mirroring.” This is what Apple is saying is a brand new feature for iPad, one that it’s essentially revolutionary in that you can plug your device in to a bigger screen and have it display everything that’s going on on your smaller one. Sounds great! I’ve been waiting for such functionality for what seems like forever! But wait – can’t I already do that on every computer I’ve owned for the past 10+ years at least? Yes indeed. But set next to things like “AirPrint” for wireless sending of documents to super-sharp photo-quality ink spreaders and a handheld touchscreen computer that weighs only 1.33 pounds, it sounds fantastic!
Beyond that, there’s usability. Where we are today in devices between us and work is the ease in which we attain our goals. If I want a device that allows me to do the following things: play movies, read texts (books, work files, emails,) access webpages, display images, and maybe even make video phone calls, I’ll choose the device that seems to attain all of these goals in the neatest package. What’s important to me and the majority of consumers in our modern world is that I’m going to be able to do the things I want to do in the package that feels best. Feels best. That’s the sort of thing that’s beyond specs, beyond aesthetics, even beyond price.
There is a synergy in a device, that being a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts, that brands are attempting to attain because that power is what sells devices, brings in the profit, and allows them to stay in the business of creating the next best singularly successful device.