By Alok Saboo on April 14th, 2010
Apple reportedly sold over 700,000 iPads (including pre-orders) on day 1. iPad were also sold out at Best Buy nationwide. Considering that the iPad is not the first tablet device, it struck me as a huge feat by Apple to succeed in a domain where the veterans like Microsoft have failed. This got me thinking as to what did Apple do (or did not do) that got iPad this huge response. There are obviously lot of factors, but here’s my take on the 6 most important things that boosted iPad’s and Apple’s fortunes.
1. Preparing the market for such a device
The biggest thing that Apple did was to prepare consumers for a tablet device and convinced the consumers that Apple can do it.
Before Apple introduced the iPad/iPhone, consumers, in general, were skeptical of the utility and the life of touch-screen based device. Apple delivered an exceptional product (at least according to standards back then) in the form of iPhone and convinced the consumers of the utility and value of touch-screen based device. After the iPhone/iPod, consumers were more willing to try out a tablet device.
More importantly, Apple created a complete ecosystem to support the iPad, including a payment platform in iTunes, a content distribution platform in the App store, etc. Most iPad buyers are not first time Apple customers, they already own an Apple iDevice. Given that most consumers had a good experience with their iPhones/iPods, they were more likely to adopt the iPad.
2. Expand the market
If you haven’t seen this already, have a look at the video below – a 2.5 year old girl maneuvering the iPad.
I am not encouraging to hand over your iPads to your kids, but the point is the iPad is an amazingly intuitive device and can be used by almost anyone. This is in line with Apple’s philosophy of positioning the iPad as a consumer device rather than as another gadget for the geeks.
By providing such an easy to use interface, Apple has significantly expanded the pie. The iPad market is no longer restricted to “geeks”, but it has almost something for everyone.
3. Expectation Management – Avoiding comparison with a computer
This is one trap that many companies fell into – trying to replicate the desktop experience on a tablet device. The windows environment, physical keyboards, and the user interface reminded users of their computers, thus, incorrectly “anchoring” consumers’ expectations. Since these tablets were not as powerful or as user-friendly as a desktop/laptop computer, consumers evaluations were disappointing.
Apple carefully avoided this trap by refraining any association with computers or other computing device. I was amazed at how smartly Steve Jobs avoided references to laptops during his keynote address. Despite pressures from puritans, Apple decided to remain keyboard-less to avoid this association.
If anything, consumers were “anchored” to the iPhone and so the expectations were set accordingly. iPad is clearly a superior device as compared to the iPhone and thus received rave reviews from consumers.
In terms of the graphic below, Apple took the upper path, whereas the others took the bottom path. As a consequence, the reference point for the iPad was the iPhone. Whereas, the reference point for previous tablet devices was the laptop/notebook.
4. Custom Content
This flows directly from the previous point. Since the early tablet manufacturers treated tablets as mini-laptops, they did not focus too much on the content or applications to run on them. The assumption was that consumers would use the same applications that they use on their computers.
Apple, on the other hand, created specialized content and apps for the iPad. Instead of viewing itself as a pure consumer electronic company, Apple viewed itself as an end-to-end provider and took the responsibility to develop (or help develop) content to be “consumed” on the iPad. The iPad has some exclusive iPad apps other than the thousands of iPhone apps. In addition, Apple created exclusive deals with content partners like Wall Street Journal and New York Times for the iPad.
Apple had a huge carrot for the developers to work with Apple in the form of a huge captive audience. iPhone/iPod users were already buying off iTunes and this app distribution model was tried and tested. Also, since developers did not have to learn new technology to develop apps for iPad, they were more willing to adopt the new platform.
5. Apple’s reputation to deliver a consumer friendly device
Being a Marketing student, I have to talk about Apple’s brand equity!!
Apple reportedly has been working on the iPad for years now. It probably was ready in some form and could have been released a while back, but Apple (or Steve Jobs) waited to get it perfect before releasing it. It is this desire for perfection and no tolerance for mediocrity that has developed this reputation for Apple to deliver quality devices.
Apple goes to extreme lengths to provide quality experience to its users. The draconian app store approval rules and the complete control on the iPhone platform are some examples of this ideology. While the geeks among us may hate Apple for this, the average Apple user is quite happy with this sort of control. At least the users do not keep staring at the BSOD (blue screen of death). The device works as expected…
iPad is extremely easy to use (more on that later – usability) and requires little intervention from the users. Installing and removing apps is a breeze. Apple has leveraged the familiar iTunes platform to deliver/enhance the iPad experience.
By positioning the iPad as a “consumer” device, Apple could target a wider market. This is in stark contrast to the earlier devices, which were designed for “geeks” and thus targeted to a niche audience.
Finally, by positioning iPad as a media “consumption” device, Apple could further lower the expectations. Remember, producing media is a lot more intensive and demanding, in terms of processing power, battery consumption, etc.
6. Technological Enhancements
This may be a stroke of luck, but the iPad timing was just about perfect. The battery technology (although nowhere close to the ideal state) has advanced significantly to provide a battery life of 10 hours on a single charge. Most users would be able to run the iPad throughout the day with a single charge in the morning. Contrast that with last generation tablets, which could not deliver more than 3-4 hours of usage.
Availability and affordability of capacitive screen also boosted the iPad fortunes. Capacitive screens are significantly advanced as compared to the previous generation resistive screens. Users to do not have to carry the never-to-be-found stylus all the time.
What it means for the rest?
Apple already has the “first mover” advantage in the tablet/smartphone space. As we all know from the iPhone experience, this first mover advantage can be very sticky – Google, Motorola, HTC, Palm, and Nokia are still catching up with the mindshare that Apple has. So what does it mean for the other players?
Fortunately for them, Apple has done the ground work. Apple has educated the consumer and they are more willing than ever to purchase a tablet device. Also, if we look at the above list, other than point number 4, which is specific to Apple, companies should be able to capitalize on everything else. More importantly, the iPad is not a perfect device. There are significant issues that have plagued the iDevices since the beginning and iPad is no exception, including the closed nature, absence of flash, etc. Companies such as Google, HTC, Motorola, or even Microsoft should seize the opportunity and introduce devices that significantly improve on the iPad.
Remember, this is a huge market and can easily accommodate more than one player!!