Following the live online coverage yesterday of the iPad’s launch, it was easy to get the sense of anticlimax. This product had been rumoured long enough to acquire mythical status, but what Steve Jobs proudly unveiled looked, in the words of many, “like a big iPhone”.
By calling the product “magical and revolutionary”, Jobs looked to be applying the polish a little too vigorously and at risk of resembling P.T. Barnum. Certainly, according to the Telegraph, analysts CCS Insight see nothing revolutionary in it, and Gizmodo can’t see it as a must-have for millions of homes.
But I’m not so sure. I think that, even though this might not push the envelope technologically or create a totally new product category, Apple have indeed packaged up the capabilities that millions of homes want. Take my wife (go on, please! Ta da!). She would love something tactile and gorgeous from Apple, but has never been a heavy enough phone user for an iPhone. Meanwhile, the iPod Touch has seemed too small, fiddly and basically expensive for what it offers her. What she’d love is a 27” iMac flat panel, which Santa didn’t quite stretch to last year.
But hang on a minute – let’s think about her main needs and interests: email (a Gmail account), banking, search, iTunes, online shopping, a few apps (which she’s only just discovered and LOVES) and that’s about it for now. Throw in the ability to watch some films on a decent screen size, and maybe read some e-Books, and you’ve probably got everything that could be needed day-to-day. (For grown up stuff, like spreadsheets and letter writing, we’ve got a perfectly good Dell hidden away in the study upstairs, but it hardly ever gets used.)
So, why would she want to sit at a desk doing those things, which feels so ‘business’, when she could do it all in the comfort of an armchair with a cup of coffee? I think Jobs is bang on when he says the iPad will make the Internet a far more intimate experience. When you also consider how tidy an iPad will look in a family room or kitchen, as opposed to the wires, space and clutter of a Mac or PC, it looks even sexier as a proposition.
I think that’s a reasonable profile of a non-geek, average household user, precisely the sort of mainstream market that Apple has exploited so brilliantly since Jobs’ return. I haven’t even got into the other, huge markets of gamers, music fans, social media mavens and others who will apparently also be well-served by the iPad.
So, overall, I’d say Apple has done it again, even though the initial buzz might not say so. I, for one, can see little alternative to shelling out for an iPad when it comes to these shores (especially as the likely price looks pretty damn good).