Maybe you’re too young to remember a scrappy Apple taking a bold swipe at Microsoft in a famous television commercial introducing the Macintosh.
The year was 1984. An attractive blond-haired woman in a white tank-top and orange shorts storms a gloomy room filled with people mindlessly staring at a big screen. On the screen is a close-up shot of an authoritative figure telling the masses what to think. The police are chasing her. But the woman gets close enough to throw a sledgehammer that smashes the big screen, freeing the captive audience.
If you don’t remember the commercial, you’ve probably read the classic novel upon which this commercial was based, 1984 by George Orwell. His book brought the phrase “Big Brother” into American pop culture and stirred the rebelliousness of a generation.
The iconic commercial also gave birth to Apple’s marketing machine—a force that continues to hold consumer sway, most recently with the iPad’s amazing success.
More than 80 Android tablets were showcased last month at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, yet analysts predict that many won’t make it through the year due to lack of marketing resources and prowess. As the tablet war heats up, this doesn’t bode well for iPad competitors.
“They will need to fund adequate advertising, and I doubt many will do that,” says tech analyst Rob Enderle. “There is a chance that there may be too many tablet products in the second half [of this year], confusing customers, which could work for Apple or hurt the entire class.”
Already the tablet market looks to be a wild ride. Android’s global tablet marketshare grew nearly tenfold in the fourth quarter of 2010, to 22 percent of shipments, up from 2.3 percent in the preceding quarter, according to new research released earlier this week from Strategy Analytics.
Another research note released this week by ITG Investment Research shows Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, a small tablet released last November, having a high return rate of 13 percent. That return rate could be as high as 16 percent among people who received a Galaxy Tab as a holiday gift. In comparison, the return rate for the iPad at Verizon is only 2 percent.
If marketing plays a pivotal role in the great tablet market shakeout, better place your bet on Apple and the iPad. When it comes to consumer technology marketing, Apple has no equal.
Case-in-point: This week Motorola released a Super Bowl teaser ad for the Xoom tablet that repeats the 1984 theme. The commercial is chock full of text about the Xoom’s technical features. It starts out with the words, “2011 looks a lot like 1984,” and ends with, “It’s time to live a free life.” In television, images tell stories, not written words.
Let’s face it, the commercial is very confusing. You’re moving at warp speed in space with words flying past you, like the opening of a Star Trek television show. There isn’t a single human being or human voice in the commercial, yet tablets are supposed to be highly personal devices.
The underlying message is not that Motorola is innovating or even rebelling. Rather, Motorola is simply following in Apple’s footsteps—and doing a very poor job. If this is the best tablet makers can offer, then this tablet war will be over before it begins.
Tom Kaneshige covers Apple and Networking for CIO.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tom Kaneshige has been covering business and technology in Silicon Valley for two decades. As senior online writer at CIO.com, Tom covers Silicon Valley culture, BYOD and consumer tech in the enterprise.