How the iPad Is Like the Tesla Roadster

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Courtesy of my dear friend Peer Munck (Founder of MunckMix, a music distributor), I just had my first ride in a Tesla Roadster, the $129,000 electric sports car. It blew me away, because I was reminded what can happen when innovators lovingly create something that has design integrity — by which I mean the solution (e.g., the Roadster’s total reliance on battery power) does not compromise on critical dimensions (e.g., speed, handling and range).

If you want to know what it is like to ride in a Tesla, imagine a bumper car that can go 0-60 in 3.9 seconds, has a top speed of about 130 mph, a body designed by Lotus, and go-cart handling. Not only that, but it is gorgeous, and the engine sounds like a turbine from the year 2050. (The Batman movie The Dark Knight sampled the Tesla motor to use as the sound of Batman’s Batcycle.)

The most profound thing for me was not the great fun of spending an evening shooting around the highways and streets of Chicago being gawked at by passers-by. Rather, this one night’s experience completely redefined what I imagined transportation could be. I always thought of electric cars as a pipe dream of the best car minds in the world — that the best they could do was to come up with something with the range and performance of a souped-up golf cart, only uglier. The Tesla showed me I had been thinking about the problem entirely wrong.

For me, products or services with design integrity make you rethink the whole category. The Tesla Roadster not only fun, it’s highly efficient: It has a range of over 200 miles per charge, which costs about $5, according to Tesla Motors. (My buddy Peer claims it costs him only $4.)

As soon as I began experience the car, I began to rethink how the world could change as a result of such innovations. Could the U.S. use less oil, and thereby change its foreign policy? What would transportation look like as Tesla and its competitors ride the cost curve down? Could the price of such cars plunge from $129,000 today to $40,000 or even $10,000 or less?

In thinking about the Tesla, my mind went to the release of the Apple iPad. Like the Tesla Roadster, the iPad has design integrity. I agree with Steve Jobs’s assertion that the iPad is a new category and early adopters will show the rest of the market a new way to think about “information.” Just as the iPhone redefined what a cell phone could be, I believe that the iPad and Apple’s community of more than 100,000 developers will make it possible to combine media such as video, text, and games and integrate social networks in ways that will provide a new platform for telling stories. This is vitally important, because, as I’ve blogged about before, the 8-to-18 generation is in and around media 10 hours and 45 minutes a day (aka Generation 10:45).

There will be competitors and copycats for sure. Also, one can argue that Apple should have included support for the ubiquitous Flash software. But overall, like Tesla Motors, Apple is creating a new category — one that will change the way we think about information, media, and work itself.

My questions to you are:

  1. Does your company’s offering have so much design integrity that you redefine the category?
  2. Is your firm ready for the revolution in transportation?
  3. Is your firm prepared for the revolution in information?

This post is also published at Harvard Business Review.

Image source: harry_nl 

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