What do all these people have in common? They’re all (mostly) men. What are their complaints? The lack of multitasking; no Adobe Flash; no front-facing camera; it’s just a glorified iPod Touch; where’s HDMI? it doesn’t fit in a conceptual box — it’s not a smartphone, it’s not a netbook; 64 gig NAND Flash isn’t enough, why not 128? Where can I put it? Do I have to carry it under my arm?
Many of these complaints may be justified, but are missing the wood for the trees; we are men. We are nerds and geeks, we love specs, and compete for mastery over each other by comparing the wattage of our hi-fi systems. But we are only half the population. The women I have asked about the iPad (admittedly not a statistically relevant sample) seem to be viscerally enthusiastic.
Bento, you will be surprised to find I totally agree with your post below, even as I am extremely vexed you got yours out in front of mine on the subject and are thus getting all the glory. The iPad is as you say “a complex computer simplified”, and ideal for baby boomers like our parents. I was going to put it slightly differently however, and say it is a complex computer, turned into an internet appliance. Yes, it is to the internet as a blender is to food and as such it will attract the old and decrepit, it is true. But that’s a bit of a sideshow, if you don’t mind me saying so. As an appliance, iPad has the potential to tap a much greater prize, that vast hard-to-reach segment of consumer tech: busy, empowered women.
Men don’t like appliances. We want things that can do lots of different things, that we can tweak and fiddle with, and then argue with each other about which one is better. Women aren’t like this, and because of this I have a feeling that it’s women who actually determine the eventual winners in consumer tech; I believe but can’t prove that Nokia, for instance, came out on top in mobile phones in the 1990s and early noughties because it was the brand of phone women liked the most. It worked. It was simple. It didn’t attempt to wow you with numbers and specs. Nokias had great battery life so it didn’t matter if you forgot to charge it the day before. Nokias were nice to look at, in a non-flashy way. Women can accept and love mobile phones, a way to communicate, much more readily than they do PCs, for instance, which most males have used for solitary gaming or porn. That’s changing now pretty rapidly, but is still probably why almost 1.5 billion mobile handsets will be sold this year, and only 200 million PCs.
Women will like the simpleness of the iPad not because, like an increasingly creaky boomer, they cannot put up with computing complexity; they can. They just don’t see why they should have to. They can’t be arsed. They multitask in their heads; they don’t need it on their screens as well. How many gigahertzes it has is not important — does it do the job it is supposed to? And what is an Adobe Flash anyway? Embarrassingly, I am not sure I know myself. Women do not worship at the altar of technology.
Mrs Baruch often forgets to charge her mobile phone . This often drives Baruch up the wall, especially when he needs to get in touch with her. She knows it needs charging, but trusts that it will last that bit longer when she needs it. Why shouldn’t it? And really, she’s right, it should. The month-long standby time of iPad will mean this is a problem much less often. The large iPad screen should be good for sharing, for doing things together with the kids, showing things she finds interesting to all her friends over lunch, simultaneously, rather than having each of them hunch over an iPhone one by one. Through tied media content, she can buy fashion magazines full of glossy adverts and miniscule amounts of irrelevant content, and keep them on hand for instant recall while shopping. She doesn’t have to worry about carrying the iPad under her arm — she has a handbag it will fit into rather neatly.
For developers, this will be great — iPad has the potential of opening key new demographics, and will keep them working on the Apple OS platform to the exclusion of Android, Windows, and everything else. That’s the key for Apple here, I think. iPad doesn’t need to be a massive 50 million unit hit product for it to work (one hears of a production run of 5 million this year FWIW). It just goes to cement the edifice of Apple’s mobile internet platform dominance even more firmly — something we have written about before.
The other, highly important, meaning of the iPad is that it opens a wholly new battleground; it is the first new category we have seen in tech for some time. It is effectively a smartphone with gigantism– largely all its innards are shared with the iPhone — and as such it is finally signalling the collision of the PC with the mobile phone, with first round to the mobile phone. We are likely to see an explosion of me-too products from PC and smartphone makers, using Intel Atom or ARM-based processors, and a swathe of different yet similar sizes and form factors are likely to emerge. On the platform side, Windows, Windows Mobile 7, Chrome, Android and other Linux-based OS are all going to be vying for supremacy. It’s going to be a very exciting time, and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen.