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    This is the personal blog of Simon Kendrick and covers my interests in media, technology and popular culture. All opinions expressed are my own and may not be representative of past or present employers
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The general public doesn’t need an iPad

iPad - evolution by Steve JobsSteve Jobs’ powers of presentation and salesmanship have been well remarked upon. However, one statement in his recent keynote address launching the iPad jarred for me.

All of us use laptops and smartphones now

Who is this “us”? The people in the audience? The people in Apple’s target market? Because it certainly isn’t everyone.

Data from Brandheld indicates 24% of UK mobile phone owners aged 16 or over think they have a smartphone (given our consumer-friendly definition of one), while 59% say that they have a laptop with wireless broadband. 17% say that they have access to both.

To an extent, this is just me being pedantic. Of course everyone doesn’t have a smartphone or laptop. Not everyone has a phone of any kind, let alone food, clothing or shelter.

A device doesn’t necessarily need 95% penetration to be ubiquitous; it merely needs to be the most desirable. Look at the iPhone. While sales are still increasing, probably no more than 1 in 20 people in the UK currently own one. Yet it has defined the category.

But I think the turn of phrase is interesting because it indicates the scope of the iPad. It is not a mainstream device. Not yet, anyway.

More so than the iPod and iPhone, the iPad is a disruptive technology. The market for tablet computers isn’t yet fully defined. There is no well established pre-cursor like the Walkman or Nokia series to create consumer expectation, for Apple to then surpass. The Kindle, the e-reader et al are nothing more than niche.

Unlike the iPod and iPhone, there is no obvious unique selling point to differentiate the device. Certainly, nothing to rival “1,000 songs in your pocket” or touch screen mobile web browsing. It will be a tough sell.

The five (original) steps in Everett Rogers diffusion of innovations model are

  • Awareness
  • Interest
  • Trial
  • Evaluation
  • Adoption

With disruptive technologies, the challenge is getting beyond the second stage. Aside from going to the Apple store on Regent Street in London, the only opportunity people in the UK will have to trial the technology is by testing an iPad that a friend or associate purchased. The path to adoption will be very slow.

Additionally, interest piques if, in general terms, a device is able to demonstrably save someone time, money or effort. The iPad appears to be a jack of all trades, but is it a master of any?

  • Web browsing: Web browsers themselves are optimised for mouse and keyboard navigation. Nevertheless, touch-screen specific web applications can modify and improve the experience
  • Video: Video is passive, so a touch screen isn’t really relevant. For lengthy programmes, the iPad will also become uncomfortable unless some sort of docking station is purchased in addition
  • Reading: This is where the potential lies. Somewhat unfairly, the iPad is essentially a glorified Kindle. But as with the Kindle, the high outlay and the ongoing costs render it worthwhile to only the most avid readers
  • Music: There seems to be little discernable additional benefit
  • Gaming: There is some real opportunity for multi-touch gaming but there is also a danger the iPad gets caught between the more portable iPhone and the more immersive Project Natal/Motion sensitive in-home gaming
  • Photos: There are certainly advantages to storing and displaying photos, but the lack of camera on the iPad is a startling omission
  • Brushes – an application that could be genuinely useful, but it is not a deal-breaker. Unless you want to pay $500 for a glorified etch-a-sketch.

Admittedly, the first generation iPod (bulky, mac only) and iPhone (2G, no GPS or cut, copy & paste) were relatively poor. A killer feature could emerge on the 2nd or 3rd generation iPad. But at this stage, it appears to be little more than a status symbol for a small niche of technology enthusiasts to store next to their minidisc, neo geo and em@iler.


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16 Responses

  1. […] their rececent podcast discussing the iPad to be quite a surprise! lol maybee me , From The general public doesn’t need an iPad Curiously Persistent I belive the advertising of this iDad be very wrong because Apple show how many i things you need […]

  2. It’s utter pedantry, but there’s an apple store in Norwich now…beyond that I am pretty sure I agree with you…Give it all 5 years and we will see…

  3. Ah yes, it would appear there are about 25 of them now. Good subbing, sir!

  4. “Additionally, interest piques if, in general terms”
    Piques? Think you mean peaks mate, dunno what the world has come to if techies need to invent new ways of spelling old words to get their kicks.

    I’m having one. I don’t own a lap top (still haven’t seen a decent, stable one worth the 50% mark up from DT) or a smart fone (the web in squint-o-vision… pass)
    The way i see it, it leaves me without the need to have the latest, greatest fone, which becomes a talk, text, and image capture device. Also I always have a bag with me as i’m a cyclist.

  5. Well, each to their own. Choice is undoubtedly a good thing.

    And FYI: the definition of pique

  6. alex, on February 2nd, 2010 at 10:18 pm Said:

    Piques? Think you mean peaks mate, dunno what the world has come to if techies need to invent new ways of spelling old words to get their kicks.

    Alex, it is pretty easy to check a dictionary – online or in print – before posting your attempted correction of word use.

    verb ( piques , piqued , piquing )
    1 [ trans. ] stimulate (interest or curiosity): you have piqued my curiosity about the man.

  7. alex,


  8. Wait, what?

    An American CEO, presenting a forthcoming product from an American company to an American audience (in California no less) didn’t get his numbers right for the UK?

    The wrong-headed jerk! What was Steve thinking?

    Also, just for the record, my Wife wanted a Nook (the B&N version of the Kindle). She will probably end up with a iPad (regardless of the dumb name) because why get a one trick pony when we can get something that does oh, so much more than just an e-book reader? Besides it’s exactly because she is a little LESS than an avid reader that it makes sense to get this device. Why drop 200 or 300 dollars on some ebook reader that will only get used a few times a month?

    Agreed it will probably be a few years before the iPad is really great, but for the required needs it is more than sufficient.

    Besides, the laptop is on in years, and the smart phones aren’t as nice to browse on as something bigger. (yes we both have both devices. As far as I can tell, so do most of the people on this side of the pond)

    And a camera? Seriously? How stupid would you look trying to take pictures with that thing? My guess? Really effin stupid. All that’s left for the camera is video chat. ooooh a phone call where you can see the person you are talking to! How futuristic! Stupid.

    Speaking of stupid, I wonder to myself how stupid this article will look in oh, say six to twelve months or so…? Probably pretty dumb, but luckily it’s just one of thousands that are saying the same thing: “I think the iPad sucks even though I have never actually seen it.”

  9. Daniel – is the opinion “I think the iPad sucks even though I have never actually seen it.” (which I’m not saying) any less valid than “I think the iPad rocks even though I have never actually seen it.”?

    What I am saying is that the device won’t take off in the mainstream to the same extent as the iPod or iPhone because – for most people – it is a new category and not redefining an existing one. The need for a $500 web browser/video player isn’t apparent for the masses. Why spend this on a touchscreen device with no keyboard, when I get can a laptop – a device I’m far more familiar with and can do far more – for less.

    What is the source of your data that suggests most Americans have both a laptop and smartphone?

    I agree that the iPad stands a better chance of niche success than the Nook or Kindle though…


  10. I don’t think it rocks… I am just saying, its a better contender for the purchase we are considering than the Nook or the Kindle. Actually it probably needs some work. I seem to recall IPhone V1 being only MEH.

    To throw it in the bin with a MiniDisk, Neo Geo, and whatever the hell that last one was seems just not quite right. I get that those products were good, and I get that some technical ‘leets’ were the audience. I think this is nothing like this.

    You see, allot of people who were “ok” with a phone just ringing and texting changed their opinion when the IPhone came out. I know total Luddites that must have their mobile web at all times now. And that’s what Apple does, it brings technology to the masses. Time and time again, they apply their polish to things that are not all that groundbreaking and time and time again tech people bash it, call it “not good enough’, but yet time and time again non-tech consumers flock to it.

    Smart Phones were a niche market. Now it is becoming the main market. ( http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=1126812 ) Intro Android and soon a phone that just rings and does texts will be as quaint as a rotary dial phone. Who brought this appeal to the masses? Who put the technology within reach of the average non-tech? Who redefined a niche category and made it the mainstream? Yup, it was Apple.

    NetBooks are a niche market. Generally speaking for an average consumer, NetBooks suck. I think this is the market that is getting redefined. Not everyone wants or needs an ssh shell or the ability to FTP files all around the internet. Many average consumers just want an easy to use, non-overwhelming device to surf, read, do light tasks, and email with. My bet? In a few years it will be obvious that this is the form factor for that market. Not a tiny-tiny netbook running a Linux derivative.

    This same company introduced a product called the Apple Computer when desktop computing was unheard of. Without their definition of the category, there would be no personal computer today. They really didn’t even invent the concept as much as “borrow” it from Xerox Park. But that’s not what they do. They take existing ideas and execute them so average consumers can use them. Nowadays it seems obvious that computers should have a keyboard and a mouse. Well, someone had to go first.

    I don’t know if this iPad (argh I hate that name!) will go mainstream or not, but I wouldn’t bet against it. Betting against Apple is just a dumb move. They have had way more successes than failures, and the failures they have had were mostly because they were too early to market (Newton anyone?).

    And I am just so tired of the same old rant on each and every blog in the universe saying the same exact thing. I don’t even know how I ended up here. Just hitting the stumble-upon button. This was the sixth rant about “no camera” “no benefits” “It’s a glorified Kindle” etcetera. Throw in the “$500 etch-a-sketch” comment and I just had to finally say something. At least you didn’t rant on about the omission of Flash. For the record, Flash mostly sucks. It tears up available resources, wears down batteries, and will hopefully be replaced by HTML5. I wont miss it.

    No, I have no data about laptop usage over here. Everyone in my immediate world seems to have at least some kind of terminal usually a laptop, and a Smart Phone. By everyone, I mean EVERYONE, Moms and Dads and Grandparents and Nieces and neighbors and colleagues and friends. I am struggling to think of a person I know who doesn’t have them and I can’t think of any. To me it seems like everybody has them.

  11. I just saw the Em@iler thing!

    HAHA! I can picture some stuffed-shirt CEO using this thing!

    I think I mentioned this in my first rant… It’s seems like Video-Phones were a kinda Epcot Center, future tech thing that seemed to go along with the flying cars and personal servant robots.

    The future is calling…. on a Em@iler…!


  12. Hi Daniel – thanks for the detailed comments. The etch-a-sketch comment was just a glib aside, but I stand by my main point that I just don’t see the iPad in its current form taking off in the mainstream. The iPod built on Walkman and Sandisk and Creative products. The iPhone took a combination of Nokia, BlackBerry and LG USPs. The iPad merges a netbook with an e-reader with a tablet. In my opinion the latter is a harder sell and the benefits of replacing a keyboard with a touchscreen aren’t apparent.

    I have no specific data to back this up, but I could forsee a future where laptops/netbooks have touchscreens – I just can’t see people giving up the keyboard. It’s been with us since the typewriter in the 19th century, and is something several generations have grown up with.


  13. Sir,
    Will you make another analysis on the iPad in next 2/3 months, since it is now going on sale, so the data will be available?
    Just wondering if you still stand with your point that iPad will not take off in the mainstream.


  14. Hi, I’m not expecting the first couple of months to indicate its mainstream viability (since it will be the early adopters initiating early sales) but I will certainly be watching with interest. Looking at the iPod and iPhone, if the iPad is to catch on, it may still take several iterations and the introduction of a game-changing use (such as iTunes or the App store)

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