Yesterday, Apple announced the iPad 2 in San Francisco. I won't go over the details, since it seems like every news outlet in the U.S. has already covered them. However, I want to point out one thing that Apple does consistently that its competitors still do all too rarely: Apple announced hard retail availability dates and prices for the iPad 2, iMovie and GarageBand for iOS, as well as the availability date for iOS 4.3. When the event was over, everyone knew when the products would be available and how much they'll cost. Apple regularly does this; in fact, it's rare when Apple announces a product without giving hard prices and availability dates.
Compare that to what its competitors have done. When Samsung announced the original Galaxy Tab Android tablet, it didn't release any prices or availability dates. The information leaked out over the next several weeks. Motorola and Verizon didn't announce prices or availability dates when the Xoom tablet was shown at Mobile World Congress; that information leaked out of Best Buy weeks later. LG's G-Slate came out with German pricing but no U.S. pricing or availability date. Samsung's new Galaxy Tab 10.1 doesn't have either availbility dates or prices.
It's not just the Android tablet vendors who can't get their numbers straight. RIM has been showing the BlackBerry PlayBook for months, still without hard prices or a release date, although a date of April 11th has been leaked. HP held a big event in San Francisco to launch its new WebOS-based smartphones and TouchPad tablet, but gave no prices. As for the ship dates, HP was unwilling to get more specific than "Spring" or "Summer".
It's difficult to take a product announcement seriously if the manufacturer isn't willing to say how much it will cost or when it will be available. I understand the problem when products are sold through mobile carriers, who have their own release schedules and pricing plans. However, Apple works with carriers around the world and has managed to be able to announce consistent release dates and prices.
In hindsight, given the difficulties that Samsung had with the original Galaxy Tab and that Motorola is having with the Xoom, it wouldn't have hurt to delay the announcements until price and availability dates were set. In the Xoom's case, it probably wouldn't have hurt to wait until it ships with LTE built-in and until there's a decent population of tablet-optimized Android apps. Rushing product announcements out in order to "freeze" the market and prevent consumers from buying competitive products may have worked once, but today, when new products are released continuously, consumers won't wait. For example, they're going to compare the second-generation iPad 2 and its 65,000 tablet-optimized apps with a version 0.9 Xoom--not quite ready to ship and with less than 100 tablet-optimized apps--and in the vast majority of cases, the iPad 2 will win.
Google and its partners went through this with Google TV, which should have been announced as a product concept to encourage app developers, but instead was rushed to market at too high a price, with inadequate content partnerships and insufficient user experience testing. RED preannounced its Scarlet camcorder years before it was ready, and ended up educating its competitors, frustrating its customers and frittering away its market credibility.
If you can't announce a hard price and release date, you shouldn't announce a product. It's as simple as that.