3 problems with the Apple iPad

Yesterday, Apple introduced its revolutionary new iPad tablet device. The iPad is neither an eReader nor a laptop. It’s somewhere in between. It’s kind of like an iPhone and Kindle had a baby, and pumped it full of steroids. While the new device is undeniably cool and so pretty, I worry that its uniqueness, toy-like nature, and price tag will hold it back from widespread success.

A Little Too Revolutionary?

I don’t think anyone doubts that the iPad is a brand-new kind of device. It’s different from anything else out there. But is it too different?

People who want laptops won’t really want one: it isn’t as functional as a full-fledged computer. People who want eReaders won’t really want one: it’s got way more features than a simple eReader, at a much higher price tag. So Apple has to conjure up consumer demand for a totally new kind of product. It isn’t easy to create interest in something new out of thin air.

But what’s worse: I don’t know what kind of consumer it will appeal to. Obviously, Apple fanatics who can afford one will definitely want it. But that’s a relatively small segment of the population. The other consumers to who it could theoretically appeal might be PC folk who are heavy media users and love their iPhones but also love books, Internet surfing, and magazines. I happen to be a life-long PC user obsessed with my iPhone (to the point that I think my fiancé gets jealous sometimes). I also work for a magazine, am a news junky, and spend countless hours online. I’m also a tech toy enthusiast. I perfectly describe that consumer. Yet, I have no intention of getting an iPad. Even if it were half the price, I wouldn’t consider it. If it doesn’t appeal to me, who will want one?

It’s A Toy

A fundamental problem that I see with the iPad is that it’s really just a toy. It’s a non-essential device that consumers don’t have a serious need for. That contrasts greatly with mobile phones and laptops. In this day and age, each is essential. In talking through this point with my colleague Derek Thompson, he noted that MP3 players were also non-essential before the iPod gained widespread popularity. That’s only sort of true. Before the MP3 player, everyone had Walkmen, portable radios, car stereos, etc. MP3 players just made listening to music more convenient.

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