Tablets at SXSWi: How the Big Three Were Positioning Themselves


ipad 2
Alexia Tsotsis interviewing an iPad 2 owner. At one point he said “I’m so excited I can’t talk.” I think that perfectly sums up Apple fans.

While SXSWi was mostly about apps and software, there was still some buzz about tablets. The three big players were there showing off their tablets: Android had the Motorola XOOM, Apple had their iPad 2 and RIM was present with the PlayBook. All three players had different strategies at the show and some were by far more effective than others.

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Motorola XOOM

The Motorola XOOM had a few marketing initiatives but since the product was already available for sale and had already gone through its hype building phase, the tablet had a more behind the scenes marketing approach. There were some cool partnerships through companies like neustar and AppCircus, who were offering a free XOOM for the best app at South by. The XOOM also sponsored GeekBeat.TV and Revision 3, tying the product to Diggnation which had its 299th episode at South by, attracting a ton of influencers and key people in the tech industry. What really made the XOOM stand out was that it seemed to be decently competing with the iPad in terms of people using at the show. Walking down the street or sitting in a session, it was hard to not see someone using a XOOM.

Apple iPad 2

At SXSW, Apple set up a temporary store that let them sell the iPad 2 to attendees. The store was an incredible hit and potential customers lined up around the block day after day. It was an incredible move on Apple’s part as it gave them the most exposure you could possibly get at South by. Not only did they not have to spend a ton of money on marketing dollars, but they probably made a killing in iPad 2 sales. Even after many of the iPads went out of stock, people were still lining up in the hopes of getting their hands on something, even if it’s not the model they wanted. Both Motorola and BlackBerry’s tablets seemed nonexistent compared to the hype that this store generated and it’s a great marketing/sales lesson for other companies.

BlackBerry PlayBook

The PlayBook looks like an awesome piece of hardware but the competition is strong and RIM has been really slow to market. At South by, RIM held a Foodspotting event, Diplo show, and some celebrity spots, which were a little ho-hum, especially compared to the hype that Apple was generating with the iPad 2.

One of the more embarrassing marketing attempts for the PlayBook was the way the company tried to leverage celebrities at South by to get the PlayBook some exposure. With a conference filled with the brightest minds in tech, it’s painful to see RIM’s marketing department paying for exposure with the dullest minds in the world. A great example of this is RIM’s sponsorship of YoungHollywood’s interview with Jake Gyllenhaal. The interview had some girl asking Jake Gyllenhaal questions like “have you seen yourself in HD?” in a weak attempt to fit the PlayBook into her contrived interview. The whole experience was reminiscent of those lame Xomad parties that RIM was sponsoring.

If you want to be taken seriously as a competitor in this industry, then get the device in the hands of the reporters who cover Silicon Valley and answer their tough questions. Convince them and the tech industry will listen. Convince Jake Gyllenhaal, a DJ and some foodies and nobody cares.

  • Diego Nei, MBA

    “With a conference filled with the brightest minds in tech, it’s painful to see RIM’s marketing department paying for exposure with the dullest minds in the world.”

    Facepalm time? Nothing else can be said about some of RIM’s marketing attempts these days. :(

    Why is RIM taking so long? If they keep this pace, the hardware will be considered ancient by the time they finally start selling the PlayBook…