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Apple’s iPad can simultaneously kill a category and create a new one

by Mark P. McDonald  |  January 27, 2010  |  5 Comments

This is a personal observation and in the spirit of full disclosure I have become an Apple admirer as I am writing this post on a Mac Book Pro while listening to songs on my iPhone 3 G.  So, it would be easy for me to gush on about Apple and its exploits, but let me be a little cynical here about the unveiling of the latest Apple technology – the iPad– before I provide an idea of what this might really mean.

At first blush, while the technology looks cool, the iPad really seems to be the Baby Huey version of the iPhone.  People will say that the iPad is the same but just bigger, nay a lot bigger and more capable.  Cynics will point out that there are no new real things that an iPad can do that an iPhone does not do now.  They are already talking about what is missing.

Apple fans resist the desire to hit the reply button just yet to say that I am being short sighted and hear me out.

You can read books on the iPhone via the Free Amazon Kindle reader, you can watch movies and TV shows, surf the web, buy apps.  These are all capabilities of the iPad.  Cynics will point out that all of this is being done with just a different form/factor and at a higher degree of resolution.

Technically they are right, but that is missing the point.

The iPad hints at a different experience is completely different and increasingly it’s the experience and design that counts.  Innovators and Apple can use that experience to:

Kill the netbook category – dead.  At a price point of $499 it is about as expensive as a higher end netbook and lower end PC.  If all you want/need to do is surf the web, then this looks like a far superior machine that has great Wi-Fi capability.  I know it’s more with the AT&T data plan, but if you are in the market for a netbook, forget about it and buy this.

I bought a netbook for my mom at Christmas time and if I had this as a choice, it would be a no brainer given Apple’s intuitive design, reliability and overall lack of viruses.  Not only would my mom have had a cool piece of technology, I would be out of the windows support business!!!

Yes this also can probably kill the Kindle and other eReaders as it has color, video and a LCD screen with a promised 10 hours of battery live – but that is too easy to predict.  I was thinking of a Kindle, now I am not so sure as the two are about the same price for the DX.

Create a new category of tablet-based devices and more fully featured entertainment devices.  This is a media tool that can and probably will attract applications that take full advantage of the unique interface and motion sensing capability.  Just transferring some of the games from the iPhone alone will make this a cool gaming device.  The ability for people to develop for this device on a semi-open basis and distribute through the App store forget about the xBox and PS2 – this is a PSP on steroids.

Create the consumer device that can drive the Cloud Computing and Software as a Service.  Think of it this way, the web capabilities of this device, the fact that it will be rugged to some extent – hopefully as much as the iPhone – means that it can take full advantage of alternative delivery models like Saas and cloud services.  Consider photo sharing, face book and other applications that will extend the capability of this device.  No more Powerpoint.  Instead we have video distributed over wi-max, served up in the cloud and displayed on the iPad.  The mass appeal potential of this device as a platform for SaaS backed by the cloud and wi-fi network is scary.

These are big potential changes and cynics will look to take such a vision down on technical merits.  People will talk about the lack of a mouse, keyboard, etc.  They will say for all its size it still is not a phone.  All true but all increasingly irrelevant, I would not carry this form factor for my cell phone – that is what the iPhone is for.  However I would carry this around the house and on the road to surf the web, read books, listen to music, watch movies etc.  Will I still have a Mac, yes as I need that for heavy duty work for business, but personally this would be a great substitute and device while waiting in airports, on the road of just relaxing.

There is a lot of debate about standard and the proprietary nature of the device.  I heard a great explaination for this from Jonathan Zitrain  Blog link who’s book The Future of the Internet and How to Stop it provides a legal, economic and technology based rational for such moves.

So great job Apple, not with the technology per se, yes it’s a big iPhone, but with the implications this technology has on the current computing models and as a place for future innovation.

Category: innovation  strategy  tools  web-20  

Tags: innovation  personal-musing  personal-observation  technology  technology-leadership  web-20  

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a Vice President and Fellow Emeritus in Gartner for General Managers Program.




Thoughts on Apple’s iPad can simultaneously kill a category and create a new one


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  2. […] colleagues, Ray, Allen, Mike, Mark, Andrew, Mark and Van,  are all over the iPad.  Ray’s posts are particularly thought provoking, […]

  3. […] colleagues, Ray, Allen, Mike, Mark, Andrew, Mark and Van, are all over the iPad.  Ray’s posts are particularly thought provoking, as he looks at […]

  4. […] anticipated Apple tablet, now officially named the iPad. My colleagues Allen Weiner, Ray Valdes, Mark McDonald, and others commented about the launch on their respective blogs. Among the many issues that are […]

  5. […] Apple’s iPad can simultaneously create and destroy a market […]



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