Posted in Concepts, Marketing
30/01 2010

Why the iPad will be a success – a Product Management view

First the expectation, and then the deception. Followers of technology both in the blogosphere and the traditional press were expecting more from the iPad.

It’s normal, technologists were expecting the iPad to be a computer – it’s not. IPad really is a third type of device.

To better understand this, it’s worth considering Apple’s new tablet from a product management point of view.

Apple have in mind a typical set of uses for the tablet that include:
– reading books
– surfing the web
– viewing your photos
– watching videos
– playing light games
– writing light documents

What Apple do not envisage you would do with a tablet is even more important:
– writing War and Peace
– editing and organizing media (photos, videos etc)
– coding
– graphics work
– hard core gaming

For these activities a laptop or desktop will always be more practical and productive.

Who will use the tablet?

There are many people who solely use a computer for surfing the net and sending e-mail. These people would be fine with just a tablet, they will find it lighter and more practical than either a netbook or a laptop. Let’s give a name to this kind of a person, let’s call them Matt.

Other people are mainly laptop power users who know how to change photos on Photoshop, write their blog and typically carry their computer with them. Let’s call the typical user Frank.

From Matt’s perspective, he has an easy on, easily accessible and cheap portable solution in the iPad that just works. He doesn’t need the features of a laptop, nor the complexity or weight, so why pay for them? The iPad is ideal for Matt. There are an awful lot of Matts in the world – how many do you know?

Then there is Frank. Frank is pretty happy with his MacBook actually and it covers 90% of his needs. So the iPad is not for him… Or is it? Is there value for Frank? Yes there is: ebooks, portability, light gaming and gadget value. For Frank iPad is a complementary device.

What does iPad need to be successful?

For any product there are a minimum set of features that are required for it to gain acceptance in the market. What would a Tablet require?
– portability
– wireless
– simplicity of accessing information
– simple to use
– ecosystem of quality and sustainable content

The iPad has all of those. In addition it has a beautiful design, quality hardware and a fantastic UI.

What doesn’t iPad need?

– multitasking (your laptop does that Frank)
– an array of USB connectors – leave those for your laptop
– 3g
– phone (it complements your iPhone, not replaces it)

Hence, as Apple’s iPad ticks all of the boxes and provides good levels of differentiation we can safely say it will be a success. How much of a success will depend upon the quality of third party or Apple software that is released for it. My expectation is that over the next six months we will see a list of must have applications released that will make iPad itself a must have device.

Even Frank will want one.

  • Steve Johnson

    Nicely said. It’s not a replacement to your phone or computer; it’s something new, more like a Kindle but with more functionality. Better for a programmer’s mom than for a programmer.