28 January 2010

The iPad: more for less?

Filed under: Apple, complacency, iPhone, strategy — David Wood @ 12:36 pm

There are plenty of reasons to be critical about the Apple iPad.  If they feel inclined, Apple’s competitors and detractors can lick their lips.

For example, an article in Gizmodo enumerates “8 Things That Suck About the iPad“:

  1. Big, Ugly Bezel
  2. No Multitasking
  3. No Cameras
  4. Touch Keyboard
  5. No HDMI Out
  6. The Name “iPad”
  7. No Flash
  8. Adapters, Adapters, Adapters (“if you want to plug anything into this, such as a digital camera, you need all sorts of ugly adapters. You need an adapter for USB for god’s sake”)
  9. It’s Not Widescreen
  10. Doesn’t Support T-Mobile 3G (“it uses microSIMs that literally no one else uses”)
  11. A Closed App Ecosystem.

(The last three items on the list were added after the article was first published.)

In similar vein, Robert Scoble reported the view of his 16 year old son: “iFail“:

  1. It isn’t compelling enough for a high school student who already has a Macintosh notebook and an iPhone.
  2. It is missing features that a high school student would like, like handwriting recognition to take notes, a camera to take pictures of the board in class (and girls), and the ability to print out documents for class.
  3. He hasn’t seen his textbooks on it yet, so the usecase of replacing heavy textbooks hasn’t shown up yet.
  4. The gaming features aren’t compelling enough for him to give up either the Xbox or the iPhone. The iPhone wins because it fits in his pocket. The Xbox wins because of Xbox live so he can play against his friends (not to mention engaging HD quality and wide variety of titles).
  5. He doesn’t like the file limitations. His friends send him videos that he can’t play in iTunes and the iPad doesn’t support Flash.
  6. It isn’t game changing like the iPhone was.

However, let’s remember that iPhone initially received a similar swathe of criticisms.  It, too, omitted lots of features that everyone took for granted would need to be part of a successful smartphone: multi-tasking, 3G, MMS, copy-and-paste…

The iPad shouldn’t be judged against existing markets.  Rather than participating in a “red ocean” that’s already swarming with active competitors, it has the chance to define and participate in an empty “blue ocean”.

  • Here, I’m using the language of W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne of INSEAD.
  • Blue ocean products avoid matching existing products feature-for-feature.
  • They miss out some items completely, but, instead, deliver big time on some other points.

It’s similar to how Palm made the first commercially successful pen-based handheld computer.  In comparison to predecessors – like the Casio Zoomer, the General Magic “Magic Cap”, and (ironically) the Apple Newton – the Palm Pilot delivered much less functionality.  But what it did deliver was a delight to use.  (I made a similar point in an earlier blog posting, reviewing the growth of the iPhone market share: “Market share is no comfort“.)

This is the “less is more” philosophy.  It’s a good philosophy!

Around the world, hundreds of millions of people are saying to themselves: the iPad is not for them.  But a different, large, group of potential users are likely to be interested.

It’s early days, but it looks as if the iPad will support excellent browsing of many kinds of content – content that previously would be read in physical books, newspapers, and magazines.  That’s a big market.

What’s more, reports suggest that the iPad packs tremendous speed.  For example, John Gruber reports the following on Daring Fireball:

…the iPad is using a new CPU designed and made by Apple itself: the Apple A4. This is a huge deal. I got about 20 blessed minutes of time using the iPad demo units Apple had at the event today, and if I had to sum up the device with one word, that word would be “fast”.

It is fast, fast, fast…

I expected the screen size to be the biggest differentiating factor in how the iPad feels compared to an iPhone, but I think the speed difference is just as big a factor. Web pages render so fast it was hard to believe. After using the iPhone so much for two and a half years, I’ve become accustomed to web pages rendering (relative to the Mac) slowly. On the iPad, they seem to render nearly instantly. (802.11n Wi-Fi helps too.)

The Maps app is crazy fast. Apps launch fast. Scrolling is fast. The Photos app is fast.

…everyone I spoke to in the press room was raving first and foremost about the speed. None of us could shut up about it. It feels impossibly fast.

Speed, for the iPad, might the special extra blast of usability that the new pen interface was the iPhone.


  1. I totally agree. With all the focus on functions/features the stories people are going to tell are quickly forgotten or glossed over. I feel like this device will generate stories… and that’s the key to success. By launch time we will see some pretty neat new applications too.

    I’m also impressed with Apple’s price and costing strategy and particularly how pricing escalates. You could buy the basic iPad although I’m betting there will be plenty of profitable upsells. The miniSIM may not be liked by us when we want to trade out our SIM’s… yet the primary targets for the device aren’t on iPhones. No SD slot etc.. No camera… none of these things make any real difference to first generation sales. They help it hit their price point. They keep the product simple and should provide it with a better focus as it evolves.

    The iPhone still sucks on features 3 years later. The camera on my N95 was way better. Yet I happily accepted the tradeoffs and won’t go back. Apple was just easier to live with. The competition doesn’t seem to be learning the lessons.

    Comment by Stuart Henshall — 28 January 2010 @ 10:20 pm

    • Good points Stuart.

      Perhaps your most contentious comment is that “The competition doesn’t seem to be learning the lessons”.

      On the one hand, competing manufacturers surely have learnt the lesson that usability has prime importance. On the other hand, the question is whether competing manufacturers are able to act on that understanding. They need to show that they can bridge the “knowing-doing gap” – which I addressed in an earlier blog posting.

      Comment by David Wood — 29 January 2010 @ 11:13 am

  2. DW2:”It’s early days, but it looks as if the iPad will support excellent browsing of many kinds of content – content that previously would be read in physical books, newspapers, and magazines. That’s a big market.”

    Spot on!

    This is a”new-market disruptive innovation” (which I’m sure it will be followed by an associated business model and service by the time it ships) although it may initially appear as just an evolution of the eReader as we knew it until now.

    Here’s a reminder….
    “Disruptive technologies: Technology Innovations that in the near term result in worse product performance, but nevertheless bring to a market a different value proposition, that had been available before, which ultimately is sufficient to precipitate the leading firms’ failure.” –The Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton M. Christensen, Harvard Business School Press, 1997

    Lets hope one day we get the DynaBook finally

    Comment by John Pagonis — 29 January 2010 @ 11:11 am

    • John,

      >Lets hope one day we get the DynaBook finally

      I’m eagerly looking forward to that day!

      I notice that quite a few people are criticising Apple’s publicity regarding the iPad, pointing out that other companies already released similar devices in the past. Therefore (the critics say) the iPad can’t be claimed to be defining a new product category.

      However, the question isn’t “who first had the idea for a product category?”. or even “who first released a product in that category?”, but “who first released a product in that category that was sufficiently usable and useful?”.

      We’ll have to wait and see whether the iPad lives up to that potential.

      Comment by David Wood — 29 January 2010 @ 11:32 am

  3. […] Steve Jobs has made a habit of breakthrough product announcements: the iPod, the iPhone, and now (depending on opinion) the iPad.  Perhaps one day in, say, 10-20 years time, Steve Jobs (or one of his successors) will […]

    Pingback by iHuman or inhuman? -Humanity+ UK 2010 — 11 February 2010 @ 6:45 pm

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