So, it’s called the iPad. After what was essentially months of mindless, pointless speculation, Steve Jobs this week unveiled Apple’s latest product: an iPhone OS-based tablet device.
We all knew it was going to be a tablet and we all knew it was intended to prove that netbooks, essentially, are crap. And that’s pretty much how Jobs started his presentation, proclaiming that the mini laptops which have taken the mobile computing market by storm are slow, uninventive and run useless operating systems (‘Windows’ to you and me). As dismissive and arrogant as always. Don’t you just love him.
During the run up to this week’s event, I commented on Apple’s mastery of marketing and their unique ability to leave the job of whipping up a storm of interest to their loyal – and not so loyal – following. Once again, with the announcement of the iPad, it worked brilliantly. We were all waiting with baited breath as Steve Jobs trudged onto the stage in his trademark black turtle neck and Primark stone-washed jeans.
I think they may have screwed up with this one, I’m afraid. Apple’s product line, almost without exception, is successful because of one common element – desire. We want everything they make. I have an iPhone. I don’t need it. Any phone will allow me to send texts and ring people. I use a Mac in my music studio. I don’t need it; a decently specced PC running Cubase would do the job just as well and at half the cost. However, I parted with hard earned for both of these things simply because they were desirable.
Look at the entire Apple range – iPods, laptops, all-in-one computers… even their keyboards are sights to behold and use. Expensive they may be, but for a company that can claim a worth of around $50bn, it doesn’t seem to matter.
The problem with the iPad is that I just don’t think the desire will be there. It is a very odd product which simply doesn’t seem to fit any gap anywhere. ‘Pick up the iPad laying in the kitchen’ said Jobs as he idly flicked through the NY Times website during the demonstration. Indeed, at times, he seemed to be nodding off; hardly a ringing endorsement for a product he has labelled ‘one of the most important things we’ve done’.
It remains to be seen how it will fare once it’s thrown out into the wild. One thing it has on its side is price. It is, like few Apple products, genuinely affordable. That might just be enough to carry it through, but one question remains: are we going to want this enough for it to be a success? I’m not convinced.