Interesting weekend piece by AP business writer Mae Anderson, who opines that Apple’s iPad is on the verge of being ‘genericized’ – i.e. the brand name is now nearly synonymous to the ‘tablet computer’ class of products as a whole – joining the likes of Kleenex, Photoshop, Xerox, Rollerblade, Google, Yo-Yo and Band-Aid.
It’s a valid argument, although it’s of course impossible to pinpoint when such a brand ‘genericization’ occurs exactly.
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I do know from hanging around with people who aren’t as embedded in the tech industry as I am that Apple’s iPod and iPhone have reached that very status – some of my friends will call any smartphone with a touch screen an iPhone, whichever operating system the phone in question runs, and not out of sheer ignorance.
Apple didn’t exactly invent the tablet computer category, but they might as well have. The first-generation iPad was a trailblazer, released at a perfect time, and of course benefited greatly from Apple’s existing armies of customers, developers and brand advocates. No other tablet computer has been able to touch the iPad let alone threaten its dominance on the market, and it seems Apple is doing its utmost to stay a few steps ahead of its competitors at every turn.
We genuinely look forward to trying out high-end Android tablets, and soon, tablets running Microsoft’s latest Windows operating system, but Anderson’s words ring true: when you’d ask people what they think off when you mention the term ‘tablet computer’, they’re most likely to project an iPad in their minds and not, say, a Toshiba Folio 100 or Acer Iconia Tab A500.
Anderson points out that brand genericization isn’t always a good thing; building on the previous para, you can imagine Apple wouldn’t be excited about people consistently calling the Toshiba Folio 100 ‘an iPad’.
Theoretically, if iPad becomes too synonymous with the term ‘tablet computers’, rivals could actually sue to have Apple stripped of its U.S. trademark (see what happened to ‘aspirin’). As tech industry bloggers, we genuinely hope one of Apple’s competitors ever tries to do just that (field day!), but we doubt it’ll happen.
There isn’t much a company can do about its brand becoming so ‘household’ that it turns into a generic trademark. We also doubt Apple really worries as long as pretty much everyone is buying iPads and it reapings all the profits.
So don’t break out the Kleenex for Apple just yet – it’s not like it has hurt sales for the iPod or iPhone much in past times. We know because we Googled it.