Apple announced it’s rumored tablet device yesterday and chose to call it the Apple iPad – a very strange and difficult choice. “iPad” is a trademark that is apparently at present owned by Fujitsu. Apple had a similar problem with the iPhone and Cisco, which they were able to resolve with a bit of cash. I suspect that Apple will have to get out their wallet again to make Fujitsu go away. But even more troubling for Apple is that “iPad” is also the name of a fictious product that was lampooned by Mad TV three years ago in a less than flattering video. This has sparked the kind of viral buzz that a new product lauch hopes to avoid – the kind that may cause prospective buyers to not take the device seriously.
The launch of the iPhone was a home run. People immediately got it and lined up around the block to get it when it first came out. The launch of the Apple iPad, like I said before the launch, will likely turn out to be much more like that of the iPod – a single followed by a few more singles to finally score a couple of years later. Why?
Well, Apple themsleves didn’t exactly convince everyone that they know why the Apple iPad is a revolutionary device. Here is the tagline for the device:
“Our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price.”
This would make you think that the Apple iPad is aimed at the tecno-lusting, uber-geek apple faithful who always want to be earliest of early adopters for any gadget from Apple. But from those people, the response to the device was a yawn. Those people are going to want the $829 version and that is a lot of cash for a piece a tecno-jewelry in this economy.
Will they buy a backlit-LCD iPad to use as an eReader or a portable DVD player? No, this group of consumers is not likely to do that either in the volume necessary to make the rumored 10 million first year unit sales. I’m not even sure there are 10 million of this consumer group out there. And if there are, they’ve probably already got an iPhone or an iPod touch or a Macbook Air that does pretty much anything that they might want to do on an Apple iPad.
Apple has definitely launched a solution in search of a problem. Apple’s launch marketing shows that. In my mind the key question as to whether the iPad will be a success or not is this one:
“Do people want or need a fourth screen?
Most people already have three types of screens:
- Large Screen (currently a television)
- Personal Computer (Desktop, Laptop, or Netbook)
- Mobile Phone (increasingly shifting to pocketable PC/phone devices)
Will the iPad realistically replace one of these? Probably not. Head-to-head it doesn’t solve the relevant problem any better than the device in use. So it has to be a fourth screen – for most people. And, that is the way they’ve launched it. The iPad is a fourth screen for people who have lots of cash and can afford to have the iPad just laying around to pick up and use when their iPhone screen is too small and they can’t be bothered to go boot up their computer. In the home it will probably be used most often when the Large Screen is already on. But that’s a tiny market.
Apple doesn’t know who this device is really for. But, when you’re so focused on the technology and the design, somtimes you forget about the customer. Is the Apple iPad cool? Yes. Will Apple sell massive quantities of them in its first year? No. Will they eventually? Maybe.
For innovation to occur you must progress all the way from insight to adoption. Here is how I lay that out in my Innovation Moonshot framework:
- Getting it in customers hands
- Having them experience it
- Enhancing the device
- Finding ways to lower the price
$499 is a lot for a fourth screen. To do big numbers as a fourth screen, the iPad is going to have hit the $199-299 price point (or lower). I can’t see Apple wanting to go there for a couple of years (if ever).
So, if Apple wants to sell large numbers of these, they might consider targeting non-customers in the primary screen market. These would be people who don’t have a computer or have one but don’t really want one. Let me explain. These are people like mother-in-law or my dad, who have no interest in computers or their complexity, but might want to do a bit of e-mail, get on the internet and look at some photos that people e-mail them or post online. For this group of non-customers, $499 isn’t a bad price point because for them they would be buying one of their first three screens (probably their second or third). You can read more on this particular insight here.
But, if you’re listening Apple, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.
“People don’t want a fourth screen. What they want to do is extend the screen they have in their pocket.”
In the future as I see it, three screens will be too many. I’ve laid out my vision for the digital future before and I’ll give a snapshot here again. If a hardware manufacturer would actually like to discuss my vision at length, please contact me. Here is my vision again:
What would be most valuable for people, what they really want, is an extensible, pocketable device that connect wirelessly to whatever input or output devices that they might need to fit the context of what they want to do. To keep it simple and Apple-specific, in one pocket you’ve got your iPhone, and in your other pocket you’ve got a larger screen with limited intelligence that folds in half and connects to your iPhone and can also transmit touch and gesture input for those times when you want a bigger screen. When you get to work you put your iPhone on the desk and it connects to your monitor, keyboard, and possibly even auxiliary storage and processing unit to augment the iPhone’s onboard capabilities. Ooops! Time for a meeting, so I grab my iPhone, get to the conference room and wirelessly connect my iPhone to the in-room projector and do my presentation. On the bus home I can watch a movie or read a book, and when I get home I can connect my iPhone to the television and download a movie or watch something from my TV subscriptions. So why do I need to spend $800 for a fourth screen again?
Tell me Apple…
For some of my other articles on the Apple iPad written pre-launch, please go here.
Braden Kelley is the editor of Blogging Innovation and founder of Business Strategy Innovation, a consultancy focusing on innovation and marketing strategy. Braden is also @innovate on Twitter.