4 Reasons Why the iPad Will Be A Huge Success and One Reason Why It May Not

by Hadley Stern Feb 08, 2010

Pundits are a funny lot, especially when it comes to Apple. They simply don't get it. They obsess on a single new feature that proves an Apple product will fail. When the iPod came out it was too expensive, and it didn't have Wi-Fi. When the iPhone came out it didn't have—gasp—3G. Or pundits fall back on bringing up Apple products that haven't been successful, like the Newton (way ahead of its time) or the Cube (too expensive, although it did presage the very successful Mac Mini).

So too with the iPad. It doesn't have a camera! Or, my favorite, it's just a big iPod Touch (as if that is horrible thing, even though it's much more than that). Let us take a historical view of the original Macintosh, the iPod and the iPhone and look at why the iPad will be a huge success, and the one reason why it may not.

1. It Is the Platform, Stupid

The iPad is just a vessel for whatever other people bring to the table. In this case, the iPad is way ahead of the iPhone—140,000 Applications ahead to be specific. The now oft-quoted statement, "There is an app for that," is very true for the iPhone, and it will be true for the iPad out of the gate.

But for the iPad this is really just the beginning. Once developers start writing applications for iPad's form factor expect an explosion of use cases for this device previously thought unimaginable. In education, medicine, and all sorts of business applications the iPad will become the base platform for Tablet computing. Forgoing the complexity of the Windows Tablet operating system and powered by a simple yet powerful SDK the iPad will become the dominant Tablet device across a wide swath of businesses. Applications will be written by developers that will be as innovative, if not more innovative than the iPad itself. 

This platform will go far beyond software into hardware applications. Go to pretty much any hotel these days and it will probably have a clock radio with an iPod/iPhone dock (never seen a Zune dock, actually, I don't know anyone who owns a Zune). Think about that for a moment, the iPod is so dominant that hotels take it for granted a traveller will have one. Of course this dock will also probably work with the iPad but this is just the beginning. Look for companies to leverage the iPad for multiple touch displays, kiosks, cars, etc. For $499 any entrepreneur has world-class hardware and an operating system for which they can write powerful applications.

The iPad is a vessel.

2. The iTunes Ecosystem

iTunes has become the operating system of content distribution. Some have argued that this has lead to a bloated application, and indeed in certain areas it has. What began as something to play music has become the place to buy music, TV shows, movies and now applications. It is also the place you can rent content, listen to podcasts and more. The iPad, because it ties into the iTunes system brings that all-powerful iTunes username and password to the table. The iPad has had its wheels greased by the iPod and iPhone, whose users made iTunes the dominant application it is. People are used to it and like it. And by people I don't just mean end consumers I mean content creators. Whether it is a movie studio, publishing house, or everyday blogger like myself, iTunes is the way to distribute content.

3. It Meets a Large Majority of Computing Needs

In many ways the iPhone has become my computer of choice. I read my email on it, surf the web, read (Kindle) books, send text messages, consume FaceBook and Twitter and watch rental movies on flights. I do all this without a keyboard (as an aside I can now type faster on my iPhone than I can on a BlackBerry). Of course the only limitation the iPhone really has is its screen size. This doesn't just impact how much I can read at one time but also the kind of applications that can be written for it.

Out of the box the iPad meets a large majority of computing needs and is a perfect travel companion. It meets the use case of the NetBook (a cheap, 2nd or 3rd computer) head-on and takes it to the next level. Instead of cheap hardware you get Apple hardware. Instead of an overly complex operating system and UI for the screen-size you get one that is optimized. This combination or simple hardware, and a simple yet powerful operating system gives a device that will meet the majority of our computing needs when we are away from our primary machine. Indeed, I imagine that for many people it will become the device they use more than their computer.

4. It is No Longer a One-Device World

Because I'm a bit of a technology wonk I am probably the exception to the rule, regarding the number of computers or devices in my home, don't ask my wife about my Mac collection...But even those, not as interested in technology as I, have a much greater amount of computer screens than they used to. We all have our work machines, and our home machines. Maybe a laptop thrown in there and an iPhone or iPod Touch (or BlackBerry or Droid). And we may also have a GPS unit in our car, a Kindle, and a PS3. You get the point. We live in a multiple-device world and for now it appears like things are only to expand before they contract as more and more devices become computers and are internet enabled. The iPad isn't necassirly replacing anything, it is additive. We may now listen to music on it but we will still have iPods and use those too. This shift in consumer behavior means that Apple doesn't have to crush another category (although I think the Kindle is done as are NetBooks) to win, it just has to satisfy its primary use case.

And now, without further ado, the one reason why the iPad may not succeed:

1. Competition, also Known As Copycats

One of the pitfalls of comparing the iPad to the Mac, the iPod, or the iPhone is that the device categories were and are so different. The Mac created the category of personal computer (which Microsoft cleverly ran with). The iPod came to being when there were already other mp3 devices available, they just all sucked, and didn't have a good software/hardware tie-in. And the iPhone came to life in a very mature mobile marketplace and still, marketshare-wise, has catching up to do.

The iPad is a combination of the Mac and iPod; some tablet devices do exist (the Kindle and the Windows Tablet) but they have never really taken off in a substantial way. The difference for the iPad is that the market, both supply-side and consumer-side is much more mature. This means that catching up to the iPad will be measured in months or a couple-of-years vs. a decade. Let us look at some of the threats:

I like to call Google Nexus One, which sold a whopping 80,000 units in month one, Google's iPhone, because it is. It is powered by Google's Android operating system  but ostensibly it is an iPhone. It is to the iPhone what Windows 3.1 was to the Mac. (To be fair it is more like Windows 95...a little more polished). BlackBerry now has the Storm, aka BlackBerry's iPhone, and any number of competitors have followed along. 

I suspect that the same thing will happen in the iPad, or Tablet space. Google will have a gPad powered by their Chrome operating system. Microsoft will surely do something in this space too, although I suspect it won't be anything other than Windows 7 running on a Slate. The problem for Apple is that Windows 7 is the first iteration of Windows that can stand up to the Macintosh operating system; it isn't that bad. Indeed Windows 7 is pretty good and because Microsoft is the dominant operating system Microsoft has a huge advantage over Apple in creating a device that can interface with the machine most people use.

And Amazon will not sit still, probably creating some kind of App store, a color Kindle, as well as a music player.

Amazon, Google and Microsoft are all strong threats to the iPad.

So there you have it, four reasons why the iPad will be a huge success and one reason why it may not. What do you think? Are their other reasons for or against the iPad? Have at it below.



  • Well said, Hadley. You nailed all the key reasons for and against.

    In comparing the iPad and the Mac, it is easy to see the same risk. And, I agree, Google is the main potential threat.

    The iPad’s big advantage over the original Mac though, is it already has an established OS and application base, used by 75 million people.

    I know of three people already who have never owned Macs, and never really wanted and iPhone, but all three want iPads. (Interestingly they are all over 55 as well.)

    I think, initially, the iPad will be hugely successful. Apple has a massive headstart. But then it had a massive headstart with the Mac too - in fact, it was ELEVEN years before Microsoft released it’s first GUI OS (Win 2 and 3 were essentially a GUI shell on DOS - though some would argue the same of W95). And yet MS still won that battle.

    In consumer computing there are three OSes - Windows, OS X, and Linuxes. I expect the same to happen in the tablet market.

    That being Google, Apple and Microsoft. In which order? That will depend a lot on who comes up with the model that appeals most to consumers.

    I think the iPad will be massive. On the day it was announced I, like many others was underwhelmed as I didn’t see a use for me.

    But every day I’ve thought of ways I would use one.

    And, at times, it’s really highlighted to me that on many applications, I’ve only been happy with the iPhone because there was no alternative. But now there is, I get frustrated on the iPhone sometimes and can’t wait for an iPad.

    In fact, I want two. One for work (design folio, email, sketching, planning, concepts, web etc) and one to leave lying around the house for reading newspapers, books, magazines, TV guide, and for playing games.

    Speaking of playing, I’m really hoping someone like Smule (i.e. developer of Ocarina) will make an app that lets you play the iPad like a guitar - that is, with a fretboard you finger, and a strings you strum.

    Whether the iPad is successful, or whether, like the Mac, it only ends up a bit player, the important thing is (like the Mac did too), it has defined the future. This decade will be the decade of touch, and Apple has brought it to the consumer market.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Feb 08, 2010 Posts: 1209
  • Good post but you missed the most important reason why the iPad will be a “Huge Success”.  The fact that Apple fanboys (and girls), or “Lemmings” as I call them will buy anything with the bitten apple on it (okay almost anything as the MacAir was such an over the top P.O.S.) and Apple banks on this with every new device. 

    They also realize that those same early adapting lemmings will buy each iteration that adds missing features normally standard on every other device in the category (MMS on original iPhone comes to mind).  Sure every company does something similar but I think that the fact that a) Apple charges a lot more and b) they are supposed to be so innovative it’s an annoying trait of their company.

    tluv00 had this to say on Feb 08, 2010 Posts: 1
  • @tluvoo, you’re certainly right about Apple fanbois buying anything with an Apple logo on it.

    However, this doesn’t guarantee success. Example? Apple TV. I think fanbois are the only ones who’ve bought it. smile

    The fanbois do guarantee enough sales though that a product - if reasonably priced (which, for Apple, the iPad is) - won’t be a failure.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Feb 08, 2010 Posts: 1209
  • There is another interesting thing to consider about the iPad: It is in no way user upgradeable or repairable.

    VCRs, DVDs, HiFis, TVs etc etc are sealed devices. Apple is trying to move computer users to the same acceptance.

    How will that sit with people used to adding memory and storage space to their computers?

    When 16/32/64GB is not enough and they have to buy a whole new unit to go up to the next size, will they? Or will they look at the Google alternative which is bound to offer some upgradeability, even if only via SD card. Or will they already be committed to the AppStore ecosytem?

    Chris Howard had this to say on Feb 08, 2010 Posts: 1209
  • tluvoo, Apple does bank on an existing wave of users to take to a new device - to give it enough momentum to take off. Remember these people got to be fans of Apple because Apple gave them what they wanted in the past, and that’s not a bad thing.

    Of course, when Apple vs Google vs Microsoft becomes like supporting your local football team that hasn’t won in 20 years…. that is when it becomes a religion thing! wink

    btw: Apple misses some good features of existing products because they tend to totally ignore existing products. The positive result is they come up with new innovative ideas… the negative result is they miss some obvious stuff. Glad to have competition to keep it moving.

    Greg Alexander had this to say on Feb 08, 2010 Posts: 228
  • Nice post, Hadley. Has to be one of AppleMatter’s best wink

    On a side note: Hey, Chris H! We miss your witty articles, mate. When are you writing Mac-vs-Windows articles again? Yah, the good ol’ days. You can be the iPad-vs-Everyonelse wanker here! Heh. Excuse my crude Oz expressions, mate.

    As for the iPad’s future, there really is no reason that it won’t take off. The iPad is not your father’s Newton Messagepad - remember those? As Hadley mentioned, there are potentially 75 million “fanbois” out there drooling as we speak. iTunes and the AppStore will only grease an already humming platform - thanks be the iPhone’s success.

    I really do doubt that competition via imitation will work for Google, Amazon, or even Microsoft. Creating hardware that “looks like” the iPad will certainly not work - case in point the iPod and iPhone copycats. Android and RIM phones will have their niches but that is all - niches.

    The iPhone OS is now too dominant and too established to easily be dethroned by Google or Microsoft anytime soon. As was the case with Windows then against the Mac, the appeal of iPhone OS is its huge number of useful applications at very low cost. The only way to compete is to literally kill your chances in the first place by being a so-called a loss-leader.

    When altogether taken as a platform, Apple’s mobile OSX will own a vast swat of mobile computing, as we know it. We are talking smartphones ultimately smothering feature phones by volume but I doubt Apple will dare offer a bottomfeeders’ iPhone. Apple will not risk their upscale image by offering free iPhones just because. Leave those to the Android and Symbian OSes to fight over.

    The iPad will surely garner similar following but a little more to the tepid side of the scale since it is not something you gotta have - like a phone - but it will definitely be useful in other things and reading books, magazines, and newspapers will not be the killer app.

    I believe the killer app will be mobile gaming. Nintendo Gameboy and Sony PSP platforms beware, the iPad is coming to ruin your party!

    Robomac had this to say on Feb 09, 2010 Posts: 846
  • Thanks, Robo. I ran out of jokes. smile

    The new guys are doing good though.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Feb 09, 2010 Posts: 1209
  • I think the iPad will be huge. On the day it was announced I, like many others were underwhelmed as I did not see a use for me.
    Ashley and Martin

    Jackysoom had this to say on Nov 03, 2011 Posts: 76
  • Page 1 of 1 pages
You need log in, or register, in order to comment