A few weeks ago I was in Abilene Texas at Abilene Christian University (ACU), which was the first university in the world to hand out iPhones to all its students. This they fall will be giving their students the option of using their mobile technology credit for an iPhone or for an iPad. To stay current some ACU IT staff purchase and experiment with Android tablets to make sure that these devices will work satisfactorily on the university network just in case the occasional student brings one in. Many people speculate that the Android tablets are the only true competition to the iPad so it doesn’t hurt stay up on what devices may also be coming to campus. The Blackbery Playbook is really not even considered as a device to worry about because so few people use or even want them.
What a difference a few weeks make. I am now in Alberta Canada in my new position as the VP Academic of Concordia University College of Alberta and I have been involved in several conversations about the merits of the Blackberry Playbook over the Apple iPad 2. I consider this a moot discussion since the Blackberry Playbook has neither top of mind awareness with more than 82% of people surveyed planning to purchase an iPad compared to 3% planning to purchase a playbook (see above onlinemarkettrend data) nor does it have any market share (3.3% according to Strategy Analysis). RIM advocates may be quick to point out that the iPad market share dropped from 95% to 61% in the past year but that drop was directly due to the fact that it took almost a full year for the wide assortment of Android tablets to come up that now make up 30% of the market. The Blackberry Playbook is at 3.3% which is quite good considering the lack of innovation that RIM has been able to muster with its product line.
Perhaps one of the most significant factors in selecting a tablet is deciding what you plan to do with it…and that means what apps will be available to help you accomplish the desired task. With over a half a million apps in the App store and more than a third of them free the iPad is the clear winner in this category.
If you want to be open for innovation and if you want to bet on what your students will be walking onto campus with then your safer bet is the iPad. Our Concordia Tomorrow strategy emphasizes being student centric–this means we need to know and understand who our students are and what they need. This also includes knowing what they come to campus with. The chances are overwhelming greater that they will be using the iPad or to a lesser extent the Android.
The question of what tablet should one purchase should also be asked with a specific time frame in mind. Any tablet is really a 12 to 18 month device. Whatever you buy today will be replaced in a year to year and a half. The innovation in this space is so significant that these devices will be obsolete much more quickly than PCs or even phones. All hardware companies build in a significant aspect of designed obsolescence into their devices and I would argue that Apple is the best at this. So purchasing and using a Playbook today is fine if that is what you can tether and are prepared to use. Next summer we will be talking about whether one should purchase the iPad 3 or save money on the iPad 2 or perhaps an Android device will have some must have features. I would also be willing to bet on the Android tablets playing a more significant role.
I have my doubts that RIM will be a player in this space. In order to survive they will have to focus on a very small security niche market as many industry writers suggest. It is really too bad. I have used RIM for many years and remember when they were the innovation leader and not the company being displaced by the new disruptive innovation. I started off with the Blackberry 850 and then the 857 shortly after which were the first two devices ever released by RIM so I have a longer history of using the Blackberry then I do with the iPhone. If they truly had a better device I would switch back to RIM in an instant–but they don’t.
It is in everyone’s best interest for the tablet and the smartphone market to have stiff competition from as many vendors as possible. We have lived through over a decade and a half of monopoly with Microsoft and now that we are moving into the post PC era I would hate to be subjected to yet another monopoly.