It’s been a couple of days since Apple released their latest product, the iPad. Given the denouement, its not surprising that there is a fair amount of disappointment. I’m not talking about the name, but the feature set.
I see it this way – when the fastest-growing areas of your company are your media outlets (iTunes and the App Store), you build on that success. While laptops have been doing quite well, overall the growth of the traditional computer business for Apple hasn’t been as impressive. Apple Computer even became just Apple not so long ago.The iPad is a media consumption product first, powered of course, by a computer. There have been plenty of tablet computers that have failed, and I suspect that failure has much to do with the “open-ended”ness of the devices – they are basically laptops jammed into a different form factor. Apple aficionados seemed to be clamoring for a Mac Air without a keyboard – a computer in its unvarnished chameleon-like natural form. I’m actually with them, but I’m probably in a too-small (though vocal) market for them to target. Its my kids and my leisure time Apple is after.
Apple has learned that an excellent user experience more often comes from tightly coupled software and hardware. It has also learned from iPhones and iPods that it can go a step further and subsume the computer beneath the consumer experience. Witness the amount of effort they have put into the UI. This tells me they aren’t swinging for the fences on the first try, but attempting to build a platform they can splinter variants from in the future. The locked-down nature of many of Apple’s products is disturbing, but new avenues will emerge if it is successful for a wider community of contributors to innovate. The App Store is controlled by Apple, but of course bounded problem spaces often yield better outcomes, and to date nothing else has come close. A true tablet computer may emerge over time (sooner, when its jail broken), but right now Apple is building on success, not giving the world another version of a failed experiment.