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:

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Key excerpt on Decoy Pricing from: “TechCrunch: The Subplots Of The iPad”

TechCrunch writes in The Subplots Of The iPad Blockbuster:

As I laid out a few weeks ago, it seems pretty likely that it was Apple that leaked much of the information to The Wall Street Journal about the tablet device prior to its launch — including the bogus $1,000 price from “analysts.” Later, a former Apple employee corroborated this.

Why would they do this? It’s simple. As I said at the time, if they plant the idea in peoples’ minds that a product will be $1,000, then release it for significantly cheaper, it’s a huge win for Apple. So when Jobs announced the entry-level iPad would be $499 yesterday, it was an absolute home run.

I have said for a good while that Apple is purposefully leaking "information" (mixed with misinformation) in just the right doses and intervals to keep the launch mania pot stewing, ending in a rolling boil crescendo right at launch.

(See: The Apple Tablet And Planned Insanity and as early as 8/08: Apple’s "Magician" Archetype Branding Revisited: Good News – Bad News .)

Now when it comes to seeding these price point speculations, they added yet another twist I’ve previously reported on: Decoy Offers or Decoy Pricing.

What it boils down to is that since all price perceptions are relative to a given context (ALL meaning arises in context by the way), if you can create a context where the price point at which you eventually offer something appears low, you will sell a lot more.

To quote my prior post:

Dan Ariely’s excellent "Predictably Irrational" talks about such contextual "decoy offers" that can boost sales for the item the seller really wants people to buy. As an example he uses a past offer by british business magazine The Economist:

It had listed $59 for on-line access only, $125 for print-only, and $125 for print & Web combo subscriptions, and had thereby significantly boosted the number of the expensive combo subscriptions sold (vs. test offers that omitted the seemingly non-sensical $125 print-only option)!

Obviously Apple just took things a step further: Since the Decoy Offer is not expected to be taken by anyone, it really doesn’t matter if you ever really formally write it up anywhere. Just introduce a high price point via a leak and nurture it (by not disputing the rumors) for a while, then triumphantly announce that the thing is actually going to cost HALF that.

If there had been no context of the prior (seeded) expectations, then the announcement of the entry-level iPad costing $499 would have been only referenced against other things in the consumer’s/prospect’s (that includes you!) mind:

Prices for other electronics items, other computers, other Apple products, asf. And the comparison may not have been favorable, or, a wash (no signal one way or the other).

Instead it was compared to a price point that for many months had already been talked about by all and sundry as reasonable, maybe high, yes, but definitely in the realm of the possible.

The expectation that the iPad was going to be a rather expensive and substantive device became more and more firmly established in people’s minds everyday this way. Now if you announce it at HALF, everybody’s knee-jerk reaction becomes: "This is a bargain!"

One more thing that Apple pulled off here is to establish the low $499 entry-level price as an ANCHOR price to pull this stunt off. Even though most people will spend substantially more for the iPad they really want, with 3G wireless and not just Wifi, and with more memory storage.

I doubt apple expects to ship too many of the $499 iPads. In essence, they created yet another decoy offer!

Writes TheNextWeb in I Call It The iLetdown – Why The iPad Missed The Mark And Blew Its Big Day:

Getting right into it, the lowest price for the iPad point is a mirage. A non-expandable device that has a total of 16 gigabytes of storage? Assuming a usable 15 gigabytes of space, I can fit less than a third of my music onto the device. Excellent. And zero percent of my photos. And videos. And apps, of course. So to say that Apple has created a mass market tablet for $500 is a little disingenuous.

So really what we have here is a Double Decoy, so to speak…

Twitter Tries To Change Retweets, Doesn’t Get The Social In Social Media

A passage from Twitter CEO Evan Williams’ post why the new, formalized Retweet function "works the way it does" shows lack of depth and clarity in Twitter’s thinking about the significance of trying to replace the "Retweet" (RT) forwarding convention, something that arose organically from its community without any assistance by the company whatsoever:

The attribution problem: In order to get rid of the attribution confusion, in your timeline we show the avatar and username of the original author of the tweet—with the person who retweeted it (whom you actually follow) in the metadata underneath. The decision is that this:

…is a better presentation than this:

No fault of @AleciaHuck’s but the first is simply easier to read, and it gives proper credit to @badbanana. Even if you know @AleciaHuck, there’s no benefit to having her picture in there.

 

So here is the big problem: That last half sentence (my BOLD highlight) shows complete ignorance of the way that Twitter works as a social engine and calculus.

Twitter users, whether consciously or not, are with each tweet putting a little bit of previously accrued social capital they have with their "followers" (Twitter users that are subscribed to them) on the line. So the act of forwarding another, often third party user’s tweet is significant in that it is a form of a micro-endorsement for this user that their followers are themselves typically not even subscribed to.

If the text of the forwarded tweet or (in many cases) the link to further content that it contains is ill received, the retweeting user in some sense is held accountable by their followers. At best, only a little bit of "social capital" is deducted, at worst, some will unfollow completely.

The user has put their stamp of approval on the retweeted content, and if it contained a link, it is largely expected that by extension the content at the end of that link was read and approved of as well.

(There are some exceptions to this when the news contained in a tweet is considered "breaking" enough so that the timeliness criterion overrides the need for checking out all of the content at the end of a link first. But, as most Twitter users have discovered before, the risk of forwarding something that turns out to be of questionable quality or outright bogus or even harmful goes up exponentially. "Blind" retweeting of links should be avoided.)

So, because of this micro-endorsement element, a Retweet has always gone well beyond a mere surfacing mechanism. Social media statistician Dan Zarrella in a prescient post a few months ago warned that the proposed RT formalization would do away with this form of social proof inherent in the RT convention ("Using the orig­i­nal poster’s pic & name in my time­line destroys any social proof the ReTweeter may have lent the Tweet.").

Known Avatar = Benefit

Back to the example given in the excerpt, there is in fact a GREAT benefit inherent in the picture/avatar of a user you have been following for any length of time: It is known to you, it is far less of a stranger all things being equal.

You have imbued it in your mind, by way of repetition (active Twitter users may be seeing the profile pictures/avatars of other active followed/friended users hundreds or even many thousands of times), with some trust and social capital.

It has been pointed out by multiple people that the surprise of seeing a "stranger’s" avatar in one’s Twitter inbound stream is downright shocking to some people, so strong is the identification with known people one has been following.

This has been one of the 1st rules of Twitter: You see only who you elect to see (i.e. follow).

If the avatar is now switched out to show that of the original author of the forwarded tweet, this trust is gone, unless the recipients (your followers) also happened to be following that same user. But even if they were, you, the Retweeter, are now cut out of the equation!

The social capital you put on the line is now not really rewarded anymore by having you be clearly associated with the surfacing of the information for the benefit of your followers. This can, especially over time, have several unintended consequences:

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