16
Feb 10

Ain’t so easy this time

This one may take a little work

Some people look at iPad and see the future. Others radiate less happy thoughts, ranging from “ho hum” to “major dud.”

Gee. Whatever happened to that air of inevitability, that “instant hit” thing that came along with iPod and iPhone?

Personally, I believe iPad will shake things up in a hundred different ways. But even those who agree with me can’t escape the feeling that something is different this time around. That avalanche of positive vibes didn’t quite materialize.

Two reasons for this:

For starters, iPad isn’t here yet. It’s a bit hard to judge this kind of technology by analyzing specs. Multiple multitouches are required.

Far more important: market conditions for iPad are strikingly different from those encountered by iPod and iPhone.

iPod actually sneaked in the back door. Music players were becoming popular, but the category was leaderless and uninspired. Apple swooped in with its irresistible combination of fun, cool and easy.

iPhone’s entrance was the antithesis of this. Thanks to iPod’s success, iPhone was hotly anticipated. This time the category was filled with heavyweights — but the natives were restless and anxious for something better. The competition awaited Apple’s entrance, then started copying their little hearts out. Droid, Storm, Pre, none of them would exist were it not for iPhone.

iPad faces entirely different circumstances. It was also hotly anticipated, but given the success of iPhone’s touch technology and the App Store, it wasn’t too hard to figure out where Apple was headed. A legion of competitors has met iPad with new ideas for netbooks, tablets and hybrids. The fact that some are in concept form is made less pitiful by the fact that iPad isn’t a real product yet either.

Google's take: looks cool, but still vaporous

HP has a neat idea, Google is previewing tablet concepts, the JooJoo tablet is making some waves, and Microsoft continues to taunt us with its Courier tablet.

Apple’s competitors are not uninspired — they’re duly inspired by Apple’s previous successes and motivated never to let such a nasty thing happen again. Though the odds are that it will — simply because Apple continues to enjoy its multi-part unfair advantage:

• Great design/superior software
• The world’s undying attention
• Far better marketing
• 150,000 apps
• A sea of developers chomping at the bit to get in on iPad’s ground floor

Looking forward to all of this becoming less theoretical in the coming months…

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  • Shehan

    Out of that list of competitors.. If Microsoft does come out with its Courier tablet, that would definitely be a competitor to Apple’s iPad.. I think it might even do better.

    Based on the videos I have seen so far, the Courier just made more sense/functionality. But I could be wrong.

    Although, yeah, just cause this has the Apple name and backing. It will do well!.

  • ChuckO

    Apple’s current product strategy as defined by Job’s himself is to look at consumer electronics categories that are taking off and do them better than anybody else.

    The iPad is a weird variation on that in that it’s Apple’s answer to the Kindle AND the netbook but isn’t either of those exactly and it’s using those devices as a trojan horse to introduce a new product type so it makes sense that it’s having a wobbly start.

    The other thing is the tech press is never going to like Apple stuff because as Ken says they aren’t about hardware specs. But that’s a good thing because real hit’s aren’t made by gadget lovers they’re made by “consumer’s” and that’s who Apple built this for.

  • rd

    I see google buying Notion Ink and their Adam tablet
    in 6 months.

    Aren’t you going to critique Windows Phone 7 Series.
    come on.

  • ChuckO

    The other thing about the gadget press, take a look at Engadget, they are driven by an intense need for new product to feed the beast of pageviews and they have their video podcast that needs CEO’s willing to come out and talk to Topolsky. Beating up on Apple makes a lot more sense for them business wise and politically.

  • neilw

    iPod was certainly not an instant hit, and took plenty of lumps from the tech press, similar to the iPad. See this quiz (http://www.fastcompany.com/article/quiz-are-these-comments-about-2001-ipod-or-2010-ipad) for a fun recap. And really, it wasn’t until Apple introduced Windows compatibility that it really took off.

    The iPhone had much more hype, and generally more favorable reaction to the introduction.

    I do agree that the iPad exists in a weirder place than the others, and as such it will take some time to evolve to a killer product (much like the iPod, to be honest.) Apple’s ace in the hole is that they can (I think!) use that multi-part unfair advantage to get critical mass quickly, and build up a sufficient embedded base to keep pushing forward. The iPad won’t just die on the vine like some no-name vendors’ products might. Apple still has some work ahead of them, though, to refine the product to where it becomes viable long-term.

  • Jimi

    @Ken

    I was expecting a Windows Phone 7 Series post:

    http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/presskits/windowsphone/videogallery.aspx

    I actually cringed far less during the Microsoft tech guys demo than I did when Steve Jobs was magicing all over the iPad. I think it’s also safe to say that this isn’t an iPhone clone operating system either. Very interesting…

    Also, Steve Ballmer’s speech volume control appears to be broken… What’s with that?

  • looks like kindle has made a first reach out to stake a claim :

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/ref=pe_70030_14357510_hi_img_1/?ie=UTF8&docId=1000301301

    a kindle iPhone app can only mean a kindle iPad app, yes?