Apple Hasn’t Sewn Up the Tablet Market Yet

CrunchGear’s Matt Burns created a stir last week when he asked whether Apple had “preemptively killed” the U.S. tablet market with its iPad. But as I explain in my weekly column over at GigaOM Pro, all Apple really did was create a tablet market that simply didn’t exist before. And it’s one that still contains plenty of opportunity for competing devices.

Though enormously popular, the iPad remains primarily a complementary gadget: It isn’t functional enough to replace a laptop (at least for most of us) and it obviously won’t replace your smartphone. So the demand should be relatively small, especially given the starting price point of $500. In fact, the iPad’s enormous popularity owes more to the fact that it can do so many things well, from gaming to casually surfing the web to delivering video for individual consumption. But none of those qualities are unique to the iPad — any similarly sized tablet could offer the same features.

And the iPad isn’t without its shortcomings — a lack of Flash support, so-so integration with programs like Microsoft Word, the absence of any sort of camera or space for removable media, along with a price point beyond the range of many consumers. Those vulnerabilities leave the door wide open for vendors who can build a better — or less expensive — mousetrap. Just as it did with its iPhone, Apple has done a remarkable job of creating demand for devices and services users may not have even known they wanted previously. Now it’s up to Cupertino’s competitors to improve on the iPad and prevent Apple from owning a space that simply wasn’t there just a few short months ago.

Read the full post here.

Image courtesy Flickr user Yutaka Tsutano.