Is The iPad A Fine Young Cannibal?!

SCap_ 2010-04-03_58In the larger “tech wars” of Apple vs. Microsoft vs. Google, the tablet form factor has all of a sudden gone from a relative novelty (even though Microsoft had tried to establish stylus-based tablets for years) to one of the key battle fronts.

Why? Because the iPad, barely 6 months old, has already sold around 7-8 Million units, and is on track to break through 10M units for the year. That makes it the fastest electronic gadget sales ramp-up in history!

Still think that Apple’s deep Archetype Branding to create aspirational products is meaningless? Keep in mind that this record is being set as the wider economy is still largely suffering the after-effects of The Great Recession, and is at best in a tepid recovery.

And as Business Insider reports,

Apple is gearing up to sell 45 million (!) of them next year, says Ticonderoga Securities analyst Brian White who just chatted with supply-chain vendors in China and Taiwan (via Elizabeth Woyke at Forbes).

Sales are rising so quickly that according to BestBuy and other retail outlets, the iPad is beginning to truly “cannibalize” netbook and even laptop sales (by as much as 50%!). I had predicted the former in my Deeper iPad Intel post, but the sheer speed of the impact is surprising even to me.

How did this happen so quickly? First off, it turns out that the majority of people really didn’t need/want major creation powers with their computing devices, making the issue of “no physical keyboard”, etc. a moot point.

Sure, Bloggers and other writers are still going to need more powerful text input, image/video artists/designers/editors more finely grained image manipulation via a mouse, asf. But this “creative class” is only a fraction of everybody, and even they might enjoy some simple social media, video, reading, etc. consumption every so often.

And keep in mind that people are now able to edit photos/videos on their i- or Android Phones. Not super sophisticated, but I’ve seen some pretty impressive photo alteration results in recent months.

And people love the direct touch interaction, very long battery life (when compared to most laptops), and quiet/cool running with “rapid-ON” startup of the device.

Also as I predicted in that same post, Amazon appears to have successfully positioned the Kindle as the cheaper, and more task specific eReader. There even is a TV commercial out with a lady tanning/reading poolside, that makes fun of iPad’s outdoor glare problem. Smart positioning move by Bezos & Co.

And of course there are signs that the iPad will be sold at Amazon, Target & Walmart just in time for the Holiday shopping season. Somewhat related, Amazon is also coming out with its own App Store for Android smart phone apps. What it means is this: All mobile/tablets, all the time, everywhere…

Which brings me to another prediction of mine and a very important point about category leadership. As I said in the Deeper iPad Intel post, the longer that potential iPad competitors wait to get their products (hopefully actually competitive ones) out the door, the more Apple gains a head start that makes it the de facto owner of the entire category.

By default! Because the competition was asleep at the switch…as Nokia, RIM (Blackberry maker), et al. already were with the iPhone.

We are reaching an important threshold in the next few weeks. Whatever tablet competitors come out in time for the holidays (like Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, which is launching at all four major wireless carriers according to their own launch schedules, but which may end up being priced too high, possibly $399 WITH contract), will have a chance at competing with iPad.

Especially on price, as is being proven by Kindle. But the window is clearly closing, so it must be disconcerting to Microsoft that there are still no particularly good/credible Windows 7 based tablets on the market. Part of the problem is that Windows 7 isn’t really optimized for touch-based computing, even though it sort of works right now.

But the much bigger issue will be the build quality and power/CPU needs of the devices that try to run with Windows 7. A current entrant into the field shows the main problem: The CPU needs a fan and creates heat/noise, same as in a laptop, while having less battery life for more weight.

So it may be well into 2011 until Microsoft is geared up to compete on par, by which time Apple could control HALF the tablet market for the long haul (as predicted by Category Leadership).

Writes PC Magazine(!) in “Windows Tablets Can’t Match the iPad’s Magic“:

“The iPad has No Competition…Sure the Samsung Galaxy Tab looks cool. Dell has Streak in the wings. God knows, at some point HP will release the Slate that it has been teasing for the last six months. And Microsoft will almost certainly…well, I am sure they will do something… Nonetheless, right now, there isn’t a single tablet that can go head-to-head with the iPad. The product has been on the market for six months and no rival… By the time The BlackBerry PlayBook comes out next year, Apple will be releasing the iPad 2.”

BTW, that 2nd generation of iPads could easily include the 7″ screen form factor I’ve been clamoring for.

Will Apple be running away with it? And if so, how much will it ultimately cannibalize Windows, and how fast? Certainly Wall Street has been in the mood to punish Microsoft’s stock of late.

Opines Goldman Sachs, heretofore forever bullish on the company who’s IPO it once underwrote:

…investor sentiment on Microsoft’s core Windows and Office franchises is unlikely to improve until the company gains a firmer foothold in the growing migration to mobile devices – both smartphones and tablets. We don’t see this happening this year as Apple’s iPad and iPhone plus Google’s Android operating system are well established; a Windows-based mobile device could certainly begin to garner momentum in 2011, but the stock remains in show-me mode until at least then…

The bet seems to be that iPad and possibly Android-based iPad clones will be “fine young cannibals”…

Deeper iPad Intel: To Buy Or Not To Buy

SCap_ 2010-04-06_75Now that the dust has settled a bit on the iPad launch (unlike that from the Icelandic volcano which is keeping me in Europe for a few days longer than planned), it is time for a round-up of initial impressions.

And while everyone has predictably been falling all over themselves to get in a lot of general reporting about the debut, yours truly has been busy curating the less obvious, in order to get to the bottom of the question – to buy or not to buy…

The Form Factor Issue

After testing out the iPad at the Apple Store in Austin for about 20 minutes, and then again the following Monday at BestBuy for nearly 2 hours, I have to concur with the commentators that said it was a bit on the heavy side.

Not so much in the sense of the weight itself, but in the sense of being distributed in slightly too large of a form factor (kind of like overly large furniture making moving of it more awkward even if the item isn’t that heavy).

Not once did I think that that there wasn’t enough shown on the 9.7″ screen. Instead, it was almost too much. And watching various commentators such as Scoble et al. on the review by The Gillmor Gang wield theirs for the camera, they looked a bit too large as well. Wield is the right word for it come to think of it.

I said in January after the announcement that I had wished for the iPad to be “one size smaller”, about paperback size. Slightly smaller screen, less bezel instead, to keep it at about 4 x times iPhone size, rather than 6 x. If it had to be slightly thicker to fit batteries and other entrails, then so be it. No one seems quite as obsessed with (device) thinness as Steve Jobs come to think of it.

We’ll see if one of the other tablets planned for Android/Chrome OS or Windows will take advantage of this smaller form factor. [UPDATE: Looks like Dell is going to, with 5″ and 7″ screen versions of its Streak tablet. 5″ seems a bit too small given that the current largest smartphones are already nearing 4.5 inch screens.]

Think about it like this: A 10″ screen held at 2 feet equates to a 50″ screen at 10 feet! (This is why no one thinks that hard about the little screens in the airplane seat backs being too small to watch many hours of movies on long flights.)

Right now I have my laptop on my lap, with the 15″ screen about 2 feet away. The iPad would have to be held with your arms fully out-stretched to create the same distance. At about 1/2 – 2/3 of that distance, the current iPad screen size will actually be the same (at 2/3) or even bigger than that (at 1/2 distance). I really think a 7-8″ diagonal screen would be completely sufficient.

And make the tablets much easier to wield…

The keyboard issue

There are several aspects to this:

Continue reading “Deeper iPad Intel: To Buy Or Not To Buy”

Dreams of the iPad…

jobs_ipadThe iPad is set to finally get into the hands of the public Saturday, April 3, after another 2.5 months of additional waiting and speculating. This after the many months of waiting and speculating that had built up before the official iPad announcement in January…

Predictably orchestrated with Apple’s ingenious Archetype Branding, the secrecy has continued unabated, with iPad app developers with actual units in hand apparently having to guard them in a set-up that sounds like something out of a Tom Clancy spy novel:

Blacked out windows, iPads chained to physical desks, no-one-leaks-nothing (unless we want them to), etc.

Yet the pre-sales that started a few weeks ago have been going briskly, with up to 240,000 devices pre-sold for pick-up at Apple stores come Saturday. The remainder (rumors around supply problems continue, but are they put out there by Apple deliberately?) is held back for live store sales, which Apple needs in order to generate the by now pre-requisite Apple Store “I’m getting my iXYZ” camp-out scenes.

Social proof you couldn’t buy with all of the ad money in the world…

Much of the immediate knee-jerk criticism, which was almost inevitable due to the massive pre-announcement hype, seems to have dissipated. Not too many left in the Beavis-and-Butthead gallery left to snicker…”it’s called iPad…hehe” either (no one ever complained about “notepads” or similar before).

Daniel Lyons of Newsweek, one of the early critics, even had a massive change of heart recently as he explains in the digital pre-release of his upcoming news-stand article “Why the iPad Will Change Everything”:

Jobs calls it “a truly magical and revolutionary device,” and supposedly has told people close to him that the iPad is the most important thing he’s ever done.

Which is why so many of us raced to San Francisco in January to get an up-close view of the miraculous tablet. Yet my first thought, as I watched Jobs run through his demo, was that it seemed like no big deal. It’s a bigger version of the iPod Touch, right? Then I got a chance to use an iPad, and it hit me: I want one. Like the best Apple products, the user interface is so natural it disappears.

Elsewhere, the discussion is raging as to if, and if so how much, the iPad will change the fortunes of the deeply troubled publishing industry, especially for magazines, but for e/Books as well. After all, among many other things, the iPad is being positioned, or at least talked up as, a “Kindle Killer” (referring to Amazon’s efficient, yet somewhat ungainly and black-and-white-only eBook reader device).

The opinions range from “god-sent”, to “it won’t do much”. Scott Rosenberg argues: “For The Media Business, The iPad In 2010 Is The Same As The CD-ROM In 1994“, i.e. a relative dud.

Do I want one?

So, with all of that said, here are some of my own thoughts on use cases for the iPad, and why I’ve come around to wanting one myself before long:

Continue reading “Dreams of the iPad…”