Why is Apple on top of the tablet market? Is it because of Apple Stores? A high quality "good" product? The air of exclusivity/cool? Ease of use? Marketing? Packaging? Word of mouth? The Cult of Apple? An abundance of apps?
Apple is king of user experience from the point where you see the product for the first time on TV, in a store, or hear about it from a friend to the time you open the package up and turn on the device. They know how to create an emotional connection with the user. They create that emotional connection much more often and consistently than other companies. Their retail locations are part of the equation, but not the lone reason they are successful.
They've engineered a user experience where:
1. They show you the product
2. They show what the product can do
3. The things they show are a mix of things you really do (e.g. play games, send e-mails) and the things your fantasy self does (e.g. view tropical vacation photos, mix your latest hit CD)
4. You can see and use the REAL product at a retail location (versus a plastic mockup)
5. Everyone can do the top 5-6 things they do every day (e.g. internet, e-mail, music, photos, video, games)
Why do other companies fail? Other companies have a lack of organization around the product. It's like one area designs it throws the specks over the wall to people who market it and then another set of specks over the wall to the people who do sales and support. There's no consistency, no direction, no defined user experience.
Take the Motorolla XOOM as an example. The commercials are too abstract. They make a comparison to replacing your laptop, when many people in the target audience might not even have a laptop or might not use the product in the same way they would a laptop. They put some guy on a roof with the tagline "unhinged" and people start worrying that he might be jumping. They don't show what it can do. They don't appeal to the user's ego. Then you go to the retail location and try to find it. There it is at the end of the netbook lineup with ZERO marketing material and no demo/walk-through software running on the device. Plus, because of it's level of customization and the widget metaphor - the 50 other people who managed to find it before you have moved so many things on the screen that you can't make sense of what all the elements are for or where to even get started. The price tag has made it outside of the realm of justification for a casual purchase, which means you won't be getting a lot of word of mouth from average users, you'll get geek speak from early adopters and fan-boys.
HP/Palm - similar issue. GREAT website material, great packaging, great first user experience, HORRIBLE commercials, poor first release of hardware creating a mixed word of mouth message, leaving no cohesive end-to-end user experience.
Rinse and repeat for any number of other devices out there that use almost the same marketing tactics. They have learned ZILCH from Apple's past few years of dominance.
It's really a stupid simple formula - "simple trumps complex"
1. Have simple commercials (see Apple, Progressive - Flo, Sony PS3's latest commercials as examples)
2. Have simple product displays, signage and in store material
3. Have the simplest UI ever or barring that a hands-on quick-start guide or demo on the retail unit to show off the capability
4. Train the sales staff (or alternately the product booth/display becomes the staff's training tool with repeat exposure 8 hours a day)
5. Hit a price point that is high but not unreasonable for a casual non-aficionado (at the lower end of PC/Laptop pricing, but above Netbooks)
6. Have simple packaging with zero or next to no manual or marketing fluff
7. Align every aspect of the company to the user experience