This holiday season Amazon introduced its tablet, the Kindle Fire. It was seen as a major move for Amazon, a possible threat to Netflix and an attractively priced alternative to the iPad. The media gushed. Jeff Bezos did his best Steve Jobs impression.
It won’t mean a thing. A year from now, the iPad will still rule the tablet world. Since Apple introduced it, numerous companies have jumped into the market with their own tablet offerings. HP has one. Samsung has the Galaxy. RIM came late to the party with its own sad tablet entry, the PlayBook. Lenovo has its IdeaPad. Motorola has the Xoom. Panasonic came out with the Viera. ViewSonic debuted the G Tablet. Have I missed any?
The market’s reaction to these tablets? A collective yawn followed by, “Cool. When is the iPad 3 coming out?” Not only is each tablet clearly a design clone of the iPad, but the media is already defining them as “iPad killers.” As I say in Provoke, if the market is already defining your brand in terms of your competitor, you’ve lost the war.
The iPad was not the first tablet, but Apple was the first company to get it right, and that’s what the market cares about. Their product was packed with innovations, and now consumers anticipate each new iPad like kids waiting for Santa at Christmas. Why? Because Apple doesn’t play it safe. The company takes risks and believes in its visions. It doesn’t focus group its ideas to death. It goes for it and doesn’t fear being ridiculed. Where are the folks now who were calling the iPad an oversized iPod?
What I don’t understand is why so many other good companies think that they can hop on the “me too” bandwagon and be seen as innovative. Do they think for one second that their customers see such moves as anything but desperate? You can see some freaked-out CEO shouting into his phone, “Jenkins, Apple has a tablet! We need one, too! Get me Engineering!”
It never works, because these companies are not innovating. They’re making bad copies. Example: In the PC world, we’ve seen many players try to mimic what Dell did so brilliantly. Dell’s innovations in inventory management, custom PC development and customer support made the company a legend. Michael Dell’s departure has cost the company in terms of the will to innovate, and time will tell whether that disruptive spirit remains. But so far, no one has stepped up to out-innovate Dell in that space.
Unless your new offerings in an established space introduce startlingly new and creative ideas that advance the product category, you’ll be seen as a me-too. With Amazon, which already disrupted and changed online retailing, distribution and then cloud infrastructure, I would have said, “Why bother with an iPad clone? Why not take the Kindle in a completely different direction?”Amazon’s ability to disrupt is massive, and Bezos’s ability to execute is exceptional, so why go after the tablet? What is the plan?
Me-too strategies, either done organically or by acquisition, no longer impress consumers. We are too savvy. If you want to own your market, you need to think originally, take risks and disrupt, and delight the market!
Linda Bernardi is a Technology Strategist, Investor, and Founder & CEO at StraTerra Partners, The Bernardi Leadership Institute and a Strategic Advisor at Cloudant Inc. She is also the Author of Provoke, Why the Global Culture of Disruption is the Only Hope for Innovation. For more information: www.lindabernardi.com