Time after time, Apple utilizes the same technique for rolling out new products:
1. Maintain an absolute code of silence, which by now is an integral part of Apple’s corporate culture
2. Make sure to announce new product launches at specified times each year, thus creating an annual ritual akin to a religious ceremony
3. Leverage a rabid fan base and generally Apple-friendly tech journalism community to ensure maximum expectation and coverage
4. Voila, each product launch becomes a front-page event
Amazingly, the technique works each time.
Behold last week’s unveiling of the iPad. For months preceding the launch, the tech community buzzed with rumors about Apple unveiling a tablet computer. What would it look like? How powerful would it be? What features? How much would it cost?
And finally, last Wednesday, the Anointed One came down from Mt. Cupertino like a contemporary Moses in a black turtleneck bearing … a really large iPhone. Sorry, a really large iPhone that isn’t actually a phone.
I’ll give Jobs this much: He took everyone by surprise. Instead of creating a competitor in the tablet PC space, Apple has created a new product category – something between a smartphone and a netbook. Now the big question is whether this will be successful or not.
The case against the iPad runs something like this: It doesn’t have a camera, which means you can’t do Skype video calls or utilize augmented reality apps. It doesn’t support Flash, which will lead to a denigrated Web browsing experience. It doesn’t support HD video, which makes it an imperfect PC-TV. It utilizes a touchpad keyboard, making it an imperfect tool for working or sending long emails. It’s unclear how it will function as an eBook reader.
In short, what is this thing actually good for?
The case for the iPad goes: It benefits from Apple’s core strength of developing things that work well. It has an “instant on” feature, which makes it better than netbooks. It is more user-friendly and much less crash-prone than PCs, making it better for unsophisticated computer users. It looks cool, of course. It has a big screen, making it perfect for playing iPhone games. It may very well become the main competitor to the Kindle in the eBook reader market.
In short, it’s a cool new entertainment device rather than a serious work machine.The question is whether users will choose to spend significantly more on this entertainment device or continue to buy cheaper netbooks to achieve the same things.
If the latter, then the iPad will become Apple’s first major flop in the last 15 years; if the former, then Jobs is very much a genius.
Personally, the iPad strikes me as the ultimate example of a “wait for the next version” product, which presumably will come with a camera and, say, USB support. What do you guys think?