Eating Apple’s dust

August 14, 2011, 1:59 PM UTC

Why can’t HP, Dell, Sony or Samsung compete with the iPad and MacBook Air?

Photo: Afrigator

The old conventional wisdom was that any advantage Apple (AAPL) gained in the marketplace was necessarily short-lived. Competitors licensing widely available operating systems — from Microsoft (MSFT) or Google (GOOG) — would soon undercut Apple’s premium pricing and steal its market share. Case in point: The army of Android phones that now commands roughly 50% of the world’s smartphone market.

The new conventional wisdom — captured by a pair of stories published over the weekend — is that Apple’s competitors may be eating Cupertino’s dust in two of the hottest market categories for some time to come.

In The Motley Fool, Cindy Johnson asks “Are Tablets Becoming a One-Horse Race?” and answers her own question by quoting Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang on why Android tablets aren’t selling well against the iPad:

“It’s a point of sales problem. It’s an expertise at retail problem. It’s a marketing problem to consumers. It is a price point problem.” And that, according to CNET‘s Brooke Crothers, who nabbed the quote last May, is just for starters.

Meanwhile, over at PC World, Jason Cross summarizes the situation in the ultra-lightweight computer market with a piece entitled “Windows Laptop Makers Can’t Catch Up to the MacBook Air.” He points out that Sony (SNE) and Dell (DELL) both brought out razor-thin notebooks long before Apple launched the Air. Like the first-generation Air they were overpriced and lacked sufficient battery life. They didn’t sell and were summarily killed. Apple, however, persisted. According to Cross, the fourth-generation Air has become “the must-have laptop of the year,” and Sony, Dell, HP and the rest are scrambling to catch up.

“There are other pretenders to the ultrabook throne coming this fall,” he writes. “There’s the Asus UX51, and the Acer Aspire 3951. Rumor has it HP will unveil an ultrabook soon. What do all these systems have in common? They’re too late.”

In other words, the iPad and the MacBook Air may be less like the original Mac — which had the buzz but lost the desktop wars — and more like the original iPod.