For the first time in years I think Apple has missed the target. There are so many problems that I see, right now, with the iPad.
What is it?
Let’s define what the iPad really is. It isn’t a mobile device (it doesn’t fit in any pocket I’ve seen). It isn’t a laptop (only an onscreen keyboard?). So what is it?
It supposed to fill in a role we have yet to define, in between a mobile and laptop. The iPad is trying to position itself as not a utility, but an entertainment device.
Why is it an entertainment device? It doesn’t handle communications well (no cellular voice signal, I know Skype would work, but it’s not the most convenient communications device), it doesn’t handle office tasks particularly well (other than email). The target audience of the iPad is one that wants to read virtual books, watch downloaded tv shows/movies, listen to music, and (hopefully) read magazines in this new format.
Please post below if you disagree. I know there are some uses for it (bringing recipes to the kitchen, reading email, etc), but that is really what Apple is looking at. It is very similar to the Apple TV in many respects. The Apple TV is a middle man, between DVR and Computer. How did that sell? Not too well from what I know of (and certainly nowhere near as successful as the iPhone).
Who is the audience?
Who is Apple selling this product to? Who would buy a $500 large iPod Touch?
It seems, so far, that the target demographic is iPhone owners. If you don’t have an iPhone (or other fancy mobile device), it makes much more sense to get the same iPad functionality in a device that you can go anywhere with. I can’t imagine thinking “Hey, why not spend a few hundred more and get the bigger one without being able to make calls or bring it everywhere?”. I feel the itch the iPad is supposed to scratch, is just easier scratched by an iPhone or iPod Touch.
If someone has an iPhone or mobile device, but no laptop — would they buy an Apple laptop for a couple of hundred bucks more, or an iPad. I would imagine for just about $200 more, a consumer would go for the full laptop with a video camera, usable keyboard, and applications to do any type of office task.
So we’re looking at people who already have an iPhone and already have a laptop. I could see someone having a desktop instead of a laptop, but people will want to fill the void with a computer/laptop instead of an iPad.
We are looking at a potential customer being someone who already has their mobile “toy” set, and a decent computing platform … and is looking for more. To me that sounds like the set of people who are pretty much geeks / techies who love their iPhones/Droids.
So the audience is the tech savvy for the most part. You may argue that the audience is actually also people who want to read eBooks. Well with the Kindle being available for less than half the price, having a much larger library already — and with free wireless access, who would pick an iPad that doesn’t read just like paper? That just doesn’t make sense.
Basically, the iPad has a very limited audience, and I doubt would affect the Apple bottom line anywhere near the amount that has been hyped up (or even a fraction of how much the iPhone has).
The iPad Device Itself
Now lets look at things the device doesn’t do, that could have made it a big winner:
- Video conferencing (no camera device)
- Office tasks (no usable keyboard really, limited to App store products, storage system seems hard to work with — forget working with it in a corporate environment)
- Compatibility with other networks (who, at this point, is going to want to buy a product tied in with AT&T)
The iPad can do things well, but it has let down most tech savvy users (the target demographic for most Apple products in my opinion, they make ‘easy to use’ devices, but Apple’s have a price premium for a reason — you get one when you know you want one). The only demographic it may appeal to is the individual who doesn’t want a mobile device, doesn’t want a computer, but wants to replace the magazines he/she is reading and get online. Then the iPad is more of a form of computer training wheels.
I’m sure the device itself looks nice, but in a world of high resolution everything — is 1024×768 really going to cut it?
The most impressive feature of the device is the battery life. I’d kill to have my iPhone last for 10 hours in full use. As it is, my standby time and daily use barely gets me through a heavy phone call day.
Conclusion, Will I Buy One?
I’m a PC guy, but one that can appreciate all the things Apple does. I was blown away by the original iPhone, and have happily been a dedicated iPhone / iPod user since the products came out. My home theater has an Apple TV that drives about 50% of my TV watching. I love watching part of a show on my TV, heading out and watching the remainder on a plane ride without blinking an eye. I think Apple has done many amazing things to the world of “tech” over the past few years, but I just can’t say this is a continuation of that trend.
A friend of mine pointed out that this has been Steve Jobs’ baby, a tablet mac, for the past 20 years and maybe he needed to see this through. It would be the right time to try, given Apple’s huge success introducing these multimedia agents over the past few years, their current domination of App sales, the position to distribute content (and quite the position to negotiate it).
I will not be buying one, at least until I have some type of proof that it is worth it. What will make it worth it? The only reason I can see is if developers properly take advantage of the platform. The fate of the iPad rests in the hands of App developers. Maybe Apple should start treating App developers a little better.