Unless you have been living under a rock recently, I’m sure you would have heard of the Apple iPad. Pretty much everyone has. So much so that there has been a lot said about this product, both good and bad. Do a search on Google and you get 23 Million plus hits. Crazily enough, some people even claimed that it was hotter than the tablets Moses brought down from Mount Sinai.
As such I was not sure if I even wanted to write this post, or if what I am about to say has already been covered by someone else in one way or another. One thing, this post is not a rant, but I hope I can make a few educated guesses to provide some strategic clarity on Apple’s business motives.
Firstly I was quite surprised that Apple went ahead with this product. I shared my thoughts in an earlier post: “Why there will be no Apple Mac tablet“. So when they did launch it, I did some further thinking on why Apple do such a thing?
I honestly don’t have a clear answer. However I did conclude that I really should not have been surprised.
You might not be surprise when I say that Apple is actually not a technology company in the true sense of the word. In fact I would rate them as technology followers, or someone that builds products with existing or matured technology. What Apple actually does is that they are in a habit of doing the hard job of turning technology into something people can use. They are in the business of making tech mainstream.
They did it with the iMacs, iPod, and the iPhone. So is there any difference with what they are doing with the iPad? I don’t think so. They sense that the ever-evolving digital medium is moving into books and as a result, are leveraging on their existing platform to make a ebook reader more mainstream and accessible than their competitors.
Will it be a success?
I honestly don’t know and I’ll bet that Apple is also not 100% sure. That is also why I believe the iPad has not evolved in terms of a design language, and has its user interface build around something many people are already familiar with, the iPhone’s UI. They are mitigating the risk of a new platform by using familiar elements to encourage a faster user adoption rate.
But, wait there’s more!
I think there is a lot more to the story. In Apple’s case its almost always true. In many ways the iPhone was more than a phone. Many people have even said that the iPhone was Apple’s answer to the Netbook. In other words Apple probably felt they never needed to create a Netbook because of the iPhone and iTouch. Besides the margins are razor thin, and Apple is not in the low margin game.
If I can extrapolate, I would say that the iPhone/iTouch was more than a phone. It is even more than a Netbook. The 2 devices has actually brought thin client computing into the mainstream. Thin client computing was made popular when IBM was big on server systems. The idea is that the majority of the software or data resides on the Server and then shared or pulled by wired LAN on to many thin clients or lightweight computers for use.
With the advancement of technology miniaturization, 3G Internet bandwidth, and cloud computing, thin client computing now sits comfortably in your pocket.
So then why the iPad proposition?
Here we have to again look back to look forward.
Image of the Audrey via Wikipedia.
We can now see that the iPhone is pretty much a perfect thin client computer, but there are inherent problems with the platform. Screen size and processing power are some examples. If we now look at examples of what we used thin clients for in the late 90’s (at the height of the dot com boom), Internet appliances, like the Audrey, were very logical applications of the technology. We dreamt of a world filled with nice little kitchen displays that allows us to jump on the Internet to download recipes for our next big cook out or perhaps even turn the TV and lights on. Sounds like something an iPad could do?
I think there is a lot of potential for the iPad, and Apple has a really good track record in launching radical products that everyone “poo pooed” in the beginning, and then ended up changing the entire industry. Once again Apple has taken a risk to launch a radical product people did not ask for, and is likely waiting to see how the market will respond before they take the next step.
Will it be an iPhone or an Apple TV? Only time will tell.
I like to close this post with a bonus thought. You know that thick bezel around the iPad’s screen that everyone hates? It is a perfectly acceptable and understandable design element when you consider where you would put your thumbs when you are holding the iPad’s super thin body.