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Is There an iPad Killer?

It’s not news that tablets have been on the rise in the last few years. In fact, 40 million customers have bought an iPad or other tablet in the last two years. And tablets as a whole are actually a faster growing market than smartphones.

Obviously, the iPad has a clear and dominant lead over other tablets, including the Samsung Galaxy Tab, BlackBerry Playbook and Amazon’s Kindle Fire. But as the competition grows and other brands begin improving in the tablet arena, could another tablet step up and squash the iPad’s success?

The answer, as debated at ad:tech’s “Tablet Wars: Is There an iPad Killer?” is a bit complicated.

The debate was hosted by Mark Donovan, Senior VP of comScore, Inc, who led three panelists: David Tucker, Principal Architect, iOS Practice Manager at Universal Mind; Avi Zimak, Advertising Director of Tablet Media at Hearst Magazines; and Leslie Darling, Senior VP, Digital Innovation at Kantar Media Intelligence.

The complexity lies in tablets providing a more immersive experience for users. For instance, Hearst Magazines experimented with static, digital and hybrid translations of print to tablet-friendly media. They found that out of the three, hybrid actually performed best with readers, who wanted ads formulated specifically for their tablets but without anything too complex—none of the “bells and whistles” effects of fully digitized ads.

Tablet magazine apps are great as they link desirable products directly to a commerce page where customers can easily purchase, therefore making tablet ads far more useful than print ads. Additionally, tablets give advertisers more creative freedom. In one wintertime Knob Creek ad, users shook their iPad to reveal a snow globe effect, layering the ad in virtual snowflakes. There are a few other examples of tablet superiority, like a Cosmopolitan version for men only (Hearst feared the three million male Cosmopolitan readers would only read the magazine from the privacy of their tablet), and a L'Oreal makeup “canvas” where users could paint a model’s face before purchasing beauty products. Point being, when ads become high-tech and highly creative, they are more effective at drawing users in.

However, not all tablets provide ideal visibility or even the ability to surf the web with a few simple swipes, taps or clicks necessary for efficacious advertising. Additionally, as Zimak pointed out, Androids don’t have the same customer base and storefront (complete with user’s credit card info) in their storage system as Apple does, making something like the already mentioned URL link in an ad to purchase a product more trouble than it’s worth. Google Play is a great start at building that storefront—and perhaps Samsung will one day be a serious contender in the tablet industry—but Samsung has a long way to catch up. Amazon’s Kindle on the other hand, has a great physical tablet, but lacks a decent layout. The screen size and functionality aren’t quite up to par with Apple’s iPad. Zimak does believe the Kindle will eventually catch up to the iPad, but it will take another year or so.

The consensus: in the present, no, there is not an iPad killer. However, competitors are lurking, closer behind than Apple might think.

This article is part of Allvoices’ series on ad:tech, the largest digital marketing and technology conferences and expositions. Check out allvoices.com/adtech for more of Allvoices’ ad:tech San Francisco event coverage. This series is supported by ad:tech.