During this weekend I had some time to think about the Apple iPad a bit more. I still believe that the current product is not right for me yet and that I will have to wait for version 2.0 or 3.0 before buying one. But after talking to some other people I realize the iPad now already fills a niche.
For example, this weekend my parents visited us in Shanghai and I talked to them about the iPad. I explained them the functions and its weaknesses, but for them these weaknesses are not such a big problem. For example multitasking (a MAJOR problem for me), if they write an email that’s all they do. They don’t have an IM window open at the same time, nor are they listening to iTunes in the background. The thing is that probably most casual computer users use their computers mainly in this way, and that this is therefore not such a big problem as it is for me. The same with flash, likely most people don’t even know what flash is and they won’t miss it. They’ll just notice some blank space in their browser and won’t care about it.
I guess I, and with me most people who have been blogging about the iPad so far, am not the main target group of this product. At least not initially. My parents have been traveling for the past weeks and they had a Macbook Pro with them on their trip. They found it too big, and they would have loved to have a smaller device like the iPad. As long as it easily connects to wifi, has a decent browser and an email client it is fine for them. There must be many people out there like that who don’t care about all iPad’s weaknesses.
And don’t forget about kids. My son Scott who turned 2 years on already knows how to turn on my iPhone and launch applications. On my laptop he knows how to launch a video on Tudou and he can play some very basic games. This would be the ideal tool for him. No confusing keyboard (he cannot read yet), just a large screen to play games on or to watch videos. He does not care about the device’s limitations. The New York Times sees that as well, in a piece yesterday they summed up why this may be the Toy of the Year. Among others: Kids think with their fingers (touch screen!), the 10 hour battery life (long car rides get a lot shorter with this device), 140,000 apps available already (iPhone apps work on the iPad as well) and it’s the perfect gadget for interactive books. I might actually buy one for Scott when it starts selling.
So maybe the early adopters won’t buy it right away. Or maybe they still do because the product looks so cool and we all hope that a software upgrade will remove some of the current problems. Just like with the iPhone that initially did not even have copy/paste! But if the early adopters don’t purchase yet, there is a big group of other people for who this may the exact right product. Once they are happy there will be a version 2.0 and then the consumers with more requirements will get one.
In my last piece I also mentioned that I think that Apple put the product on the market too quickly because competitors might be entering the market as well. One of my favorite bloggers, Dave Winer, seems to have the same thoughts. This weekend he wrote: Another thought occurred to me — iPad looks rushed. It seems possible that Apple pushed it out sooner because it got wind of a competitive product. Could it be that Google has a DroidPad in the pipe?
Even though he is also not impressed with the product he also feels it has a big potential: The stakes are much higher than with the iPhone. No one should underestimate the potential of iPad. That’s why I said, ironically, there’s no doubt I will buy one as soon as I can. For the same reason I bought an iPhone. You have to understand this product if you want to stay current.
Let’s wait and see what will happen, and how many iPads my family will own by the end of 2010.