The iPad Competes Against ... Nothing. And I Think It Will Do Well.

BlogHer Original Post

Once I got over the ridiculous name —- and thank you, HuffPo, for sharing the Mad TV sketch that long predates the iPad announcement —- I started to see how the new Apple iPad fits in the current market.

It doesn't. That's right, it doesn't. And I predict it's going to be a pretty big success, too.

Apple iPad faux pas

The iPad competes against non-consumption. There is no existing electronic device that it effectively replaces. Too big for the handbag, too small for most productive tasks, and with its touchscreen keyboard, it really isn't a netbook. This is a new thing. A fun thing.

Let me explain.

Clayton Christensen has written and talked much about disruptive technologies and how they can cause dramatic shifts in existing markets as well as open new markets altogether. One case he talks about is the advent of the transistor radio. Transistors had been around for years. The problem was that companies could not figure out how to use them in their products. You see, transistors could not take a lot of power, so they would blow out when you put them in a system requiring a lot of power to run.

Then in 1965 the portable transistor radio came out. How did they fix the problem of the transistor's low power capacity? They didn't. Instead they came up with a low-power product that actually could use transistors. Here's the thing: the product did not replace anything. It was completely new, for a new market of radio buyer. The transistor radio had no competition (except with itself). It was a hit because suddenly kids could listen to their own music. The radio itself sounded like crap, but that didn't matter because the alternative of going home and convincing mom and dad to put on rock and roll just wasn't in the cards. The transistor radio was competing against non-consumption. Before the transistor radio, people did not have an option except for home or maybe the car.

Now we have the iPad coming on the market, with its low-power, ho-hum performance processor. People are excited but don't seem to have a strong sense of what they would actually do with an iPad. But I figure —- and my hunch is that this is what Steve Jobs and company are figuring —- is that the iPad will find its own place in our technology lives. It won't replace the smartphone, because it's not portable. It won't replace the laptop, because it's not really designed for much productivity.

No, it's for something new: The casual online consumption of media, away from the computer, free of the television, and with no dead trees to think about.

I see the iPad as becoming the morning newspaper, the weekly and monthly magazine, the video screener —- and yes, the means to stay connected via social networks, e-mail, etc. while you're doing all these other things.

When you go to work, the iPad will stay at home. When you go to a conference, the iPad will stay at home. In fact, for many people, I imagine the iPad will never leave the kitchen table.

That's why the mobile connectivity is only a pre-pay option and not at all emphasized. Because this is a device that will live off your home wifi.

And though I certainly have other things I probably should do with my money, I want one!

There has been much concern about digital rights management (DRM) in the iPad. Apple is maintaining very strict control over the device and what you can do with the content on it. It's looking like publishers are counting on it and are pinning at least part of their hopes of salvation in this new media economy on paid subscriptions on this device that is so much more than a Kindle.

Then there are Kindle users who are concerned that Apple seems to be defining a new version of eBooks.

The way I figure it, however, is that the market will sort that out. DRM does not fly with consumers when it makes the purchase a hassle or the experience a pain in the ass. DRM sure didn't work in the iTunes store when consumers discovered they couldn't play the music they bought on another device. We'll see how that sorts out. (Honestly, there is a lot to say about DRM, but I'll save that for another blog post sometime. Maybe a series.)

Related iPad blogging:

Rosa Golijan points us to Kim Zetter's Wired blog noting that Wired will be coming to the iPad by subscription this summer. It's not surprising to see Wired among the first to jump on board, given their audience.

Katie Marsal reports that, just as the Android app market was starting to pick up steam against the iTunes store, iPad developer interest tripled after the hype.

Apple revealed at its iPad event that there are more than 140,000 applications available on its mobile App Store. That software will be compatible with the iPad when it debuts at the end of March.

But developers will also be able to create new, iPad-specific applications that take advantage of the multi-touch device and its 9.7-inch screen.

While the App Store saw a huge increase, new Android applications grew about 25 percent in January, continuing a steady ramp for Google's mobile platform. However, Apple's App Store spike helped to push it even further ahead of Android.

It makes me wonder how long it will be before a company releases an Android competitor to the iPad.

Or has it already happened? Amanda on NetBookBoards gives us the specs on HP's new "smartbook" which ...

combines the portability and design of a netbook with the hardware and software often seen in smartphones. The Airlife has a battery life of up to 12 hours, longer than what most netbooks can offer. While the Airlife and iPad are very different in terms of design, they share many similar features, such as simplified software interfaces, touch-screens, and ARM processors (most netbooks use Intel processors).

But is the Airlife really an iPad competitor? It doesn't seem to fit the use case I described above.

Staci D. Kramer reports on Disney's enthusiasm about the iPad:

Bob Iger wasn’t on stage for the iPad launch last month, but the Disney CEO just gave a demo spiel Steve Jobs, the company’s largest shareholder, would applaud about a “really compelling” device that could be a game-changer. Volunteering and replying to analyst questions about how Disney plans to use the new Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) tablet, Iger reeled off a series of iPad uses that are either likely or already in progress: a companion to ABC’s Lost, an ABC News app, a digital books app for Disney, an enhanced version of the popular ESPN Sports Center app, and apps for Marvel (NYSE: DIS).

Amy-May Elliott shares with us Bill Gates' shrug over the iPad.

"You know, I’m a big believer in touch and digital reading, but I still think that some mixture of voice, the pen and a real keyboard -- in other words a netbook -- will be the mainstream on that," Gates said.

"So, it’s not like I sit there and feel the same way I did with iPhone where I say, ‘Oh my God, Microsoft didn’t aim high enough.’ It’s a nice reader, but there’s nothing on the iPad I look at and say, ‘Oh, I wish Microsoft had done it'."

Notwithstanding various cynical reactions out there to the iPad, self-confessed Apple fangirl, Lorraine Marie shares some iPad accessories she's wanting (as the iPad itself is a given).

Because it’s a known fact that I’m an Apple fangirl, many people feel it’s their duty to let me know that they won’t be buying the iPad. That’s fine with me -- people can certainly choose not to buy Apple’s latest product. But I’m not one of those people.

So what do you think? Do you want an iPad? Why? (Why not?)

Laura Scott, BlogHer Contributing Editor, Tech/Web, blogs at rare pattern and tweets as @lauras.

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