It’s been about 24 hours since the long anticipated keynote address and unveiling of the Apple iPad. I’ve had some time to reflect on what this announcement will mean for Apple, for consumers and for my own personal use.
On Wednesday morning, it seemed like even the least tech savvy folks knew that ‘Apple was announcing a tablet!’. (Major props to those sites that were gracious enough to cover this event via liveblog – it made the situation easier to follow.) Getting bits and pieces of information and trying to digest them while on the telephone and working with customers, I found it difficult to process the facts. A lot of what Steve Jobs says gets lost in translation in the liveblog. I was in a room filled with tech savvy co-workers and just about everyone was underwhelmed. While the announcement was, in fact, a “tablet-shaped device,” the details were significantly less impressive than the grandiose expectations that analysts and random tech followers (like myself) had ascribed to it. Nobody I spoke to seemed genuinely excited and as I collected feedback (most of it unsolicited), it largely consisted of exclamations about the poor marketing behind the name and what the iPad couldn’t do. Overall, people seemed generally confused about what makes this product offering so special.
It’s important to point out that after years of speculation about what an “Apple Tablet” would look and behave like, the expectations were almost impossible to meet. (It was actually a bit anti-climactic to actually see and hear this announcement since it was so much fun to pontificate over the years about what such a device might be.)
The Keynote is the Key
The key to understanding this product lies not in reviewing the specifications and comparing it to other offerings in the market. For those who are considering the iPad, my best suggestion is to actually invest an hour and half of your time before you spend $499 – $830. Watch the keynote and observe how Apple is marketing it to consumers.
Unlike many other product unveilings, Apple devoted almost the entire hour and a half to explaining just one product. (The keynote is long – if you can’t watch the entire thing, check out just the first 15 – 30 minutes of it. (It’s available now on the homepage at Apple.com or via iTunes via podcast.) But for the benefit of those that will only read this, I’ll do my best to share Steve Jobs’ sentiment.)
The most critical piece of information during the keynote was explained in the first 15 minutes. Steve showed a slide with an iPhone on the left, a MacBook on the right and and empty space in the center. He talked about the thought that went into deciding whether there was room for a product between those two devices. The philosophy he outlined was, ‘If we’re going to announce a product in between these two offerings, it has to be better than the phone and better than the MacBook at some things.’ He then hypothesized about whether the netbook fits in this category. (He actually put the word “Netbook” in the empty space between the MacBook and the phone. He explained that the company’s conclusion on netbooks is that they aren’t better than laptops or phones at anything. He dismissed them as “slow, cheap laptops”. It was only after going through this explanation that he unveiled the iPad that almost everyone has seen by now.