To the surprise of no one, Apple continues to sell more tablets than anyone else — by some estimates, three of every four tablets sold is an iPad 2.
We all think we know why. Apple had a nearly year-long head start, an acolyte user base drawn like lemmings to whatever the company produces, great PR and marketing, a worshipful media, a dominant retail presence — and, okay, it's a pretty good product.
But from an objective standpoint, Apple has some potent competitors. Samsung, Motorola and RIM aren't exactly technology or marketing shirkers. And it can be argued that the Galaxy Tab, the Motorola Xoom and the BlackBerry PlayBook are technically superior tablets and offer myriad functional advantages over iPad 2.
So why does Apple dominate? One word: Commercials.
Apparently Apple's competitors believe a sterile, dystopic, or mechanized present or future in which no one seems to have a job are the most apropos environments in which to showcase their wares.
In its most widely-broadcast commercial, for instance, Samsung does a nice job of laying out the Galaxy Tab's varying real-world uses in an augmented upper middle class urban reality.
The problem is this reality is annoyingly augmented by the Galaxy Tab, unnaturally fixed in the center of the protagonist's field of vision, sort of a visual tinnitus. No matter where he goes, the Galaxy Tab seems to be stalking him.
Shouldn't a tablet PC complement your life rather than dominate it, and maybe get out of the way so you can see where you're going?
But, Samsung does a comparatively excellent job compared up to the almost too-easy-to-mock Xoom and PlayBook ads.
All of Motorola's Android device commercials, for the Droid as well as for the Xoom, take place on darker and stormier nights than in Blade Runner — not a place any of us live or want to live, with a tablet or not.
For instance, the current dark and stormy night Xoom ad is cheerily entitled "Vendetta." The protagonist is frighteningly enveloped in some Transformer-like pod, and we are told in a foreboding voiceover that Xoom operates "with the velocity of a 1 GHz dual core processor, 3D graphics engine, gyroscope, and a widescreen HD display."
And what do we do with all this Android-based gadgetry? Obviously, be transformed into an actual android. I know that's what I want my tablet to do.
But wait, there's more. The spot's tagline menacingly notes, "Grab it and it grabs you." Oooh, that's tempting. I've always wanted to be grabbed by a kissing cousin of The Terminator. But couldn't you arrange for me to be grabbed instead by a Victoria Secret model?
Okay, geeks like the apocalyptic World of Warcraft environment, so maybe Motorola is marketing to its key tablet constituency. But who does RIM think will be attracted its PlayBook tablet commercials?
For instance, according to its "multi-tasking" commercial, the PlayBook will apparently help you become adroit at double-dutch jump roping, an accomplishment I know every BlackBerry owner yearns to achieve.
In "Power," another ad aimed at highlighting PlayBook's multi-tasking capabilities, you can watch Thor, watch and play a car-racing video game, watch a Jennifer Lopez video and watch a video of some skiing, all at the same time!
The voiceover not-so rhetorically asks, "Why can't every tablet do that?" Uh, because we can only watch one video at a time? But if I had four sets of eyes and four brains, the PlayBook would be my tablet choice.
Most amusingly, a third ad features a white 20-something preppie protagonist — who could be the brother of the white 20-something preppie protagonist in the Samsung Galaxy Tab commercial — is seen reading George Orwell's 1984.
Get it? 1984? Like in the original 1984 Super Bowl ad for the Macintosh?
Except our sweater-clad PlayBook hero is now the conforming-busting anomaly in this sterile Big Brother/THX1138/iPad world. Our PlayBook rebel can read the subversive 1984 and check a map to allow him to move in the opposite direction of the monolithic white plastic hoodie-wearing blank-eyed masses.
But what do ANY of these silly, vacuous PlayBook ads have to do with what PlayBook does best — create a bridge with a BlackBerry — and what the prototypical white collar BlackBerry user (who obviously channel their rebellion into the mainstream) does on a daily basis? Check email. Consult a calendar. Work on a spreadsheet. Create presentations. Write a document.
You know. Work.
What Samsung, Motorola and RIM forget is that real people, different types of people, will be using a tablet, each for different reasons. And that none of these people care a whit about the technical aspects of the tablet, living in the future, becoming a machine, conforming or not conforming — only what the tablet improves their life.
Apple knows this. In one ad, Apple dismisses the digerati, noting: "Technology alone is not enough. Faster, thinner, lighter — those are all good things, but when technology gets out of the way, everything becomes more delightful, even magical."
Okay, maybe the whole "magical" thing is a bit over-cooked. But Apple address "real people" in its current ad, showing and describing how parents, musicians, doctors, CEOs, teachers and even children can use and enjoy an iPad.
Anyone who sees the ad recognizes themselves in it and examples of how an iPad can be relevant in and complement their lives. Today. In this world. In this unaugmented, warm, toasty, inviting reality.
And, not surprisingly, Apple sells a lot of iPads.
So, Samsung, Motorola, BlackBerry — want to sell more tablets? Hire another ad agency that understands your product and your constituency.