Last November when Ben Parr asked Mark Zuckerberg whether Facebook was making an iPad app, Zuckerberg responded, “iPad’s not mobile. Next question.” Given that the iPad was wildly successful at that point, Zuckerberg’s comments seemed odd and caused some to wonder whether he had something against Apple. While there is no question that Apple and Facebook do not have a close working relationship, I think Pew Internet’s recent report showing that eReaders sales are outpacing tablets lends support to Zuckerberg’s statement.
According to a Pew Internet report, eReader sales have significantly outpaced tablet sales, with the share of ownership growing from 6% in November 2010 to 12% in May 2011. Over the same time frame tablet sales increased by 3%. Data like this shows that eReader sales continue to defy predictions that general purpose tablets like the iPad will cause dedicated eReaders to disappear. It’s possible that the iPad is actually helping to grow eReader sales.
Truth is that the $499 price of an iPad is too expensive for many people. Still, the publicity that the iPad has gained has likely caused some people to think about buying a tablet-like device, but when they think about what they would do with the device, like read books, I think people are opting to buy the much cheaper Kindle or nook.
James Kendrick, writing for ZDNet, recently created a buzz by saying that he believes Android is failing as a tablet platform. I’ve been thinking about the tablet market ever since reading James’ article and I think the problem might be that there really isn’t a tablet market. Instead there is an iPad market, by which I mean that would be competitors are simply trying to match the iPad features rather than creating something different. The problem of competitors mimicing Apple is that they don’t provide a good reason for chosing their product over Apple’s, particularly when their product is priced the same as the iPad.
In the end the real problem is that no one has come up with a real good reason for the average person to buy a tablet. People who read books see the benefit of eBooks and eReaders, but those are specialized devices that have a much cheaper price. eReaders provide a very clear function and benefit, while tablets not so much.
What all this means for social media companies is that they shouldn’t get distracted developing tablet apps, particularly if it becomes a matter of managing resources between developing for smartphones or tablets. I notice that even Google seems to agree as today’s launch of their new social network, Google+ only has an Android phone and mobile web component and they state that they hope to develop tablet-specific versions in the future.