The iPad success story -- giving us what we want, again

The iPad success story -- giving us what we want, again

Summary: The new iPad is off to a great start, because it gives mainstream consumers exactly what they want. Competitors have a tough time ahead, as they just don't get it.

TOPICS: iPad, Mobility

The new iPad is not even shipping yet but seems to already be a successful launch. While Apple haters shout from the rafters that it is just a minor update to the last iPad, folks are ordering them I suspect by the millions. Apple's competitors have gotten nowhere with competing tablets, and they probably won't when it's all said and done. Apple has given the masses what they want, as they've done before.

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All we have to do to understand why the iPad has dominated the market is look back at Apple's recent history. The iPod was introduced to an unsuspecting world years ago, offering a radical departure in how users listened to music. This was a common pastime for millions, and the iPod simply made it better and more enjoyable.

As brilliantly accounted by Farhad Manjoo of Slate, Apple improved the iPod every year, not radically but in simple ways, and made it cheaper. Competitors scrambled to best the iPod without success, because they took the path of adding whiz-bang features that didn't matter to most consumers. Remember Zune squirting? Neither do the millions of folks who bought an iPod, or two or three.

Apple duplicated the model proven so successful for the iPod when it introduced the iPhone. It tapped into the existing iPod music ecosystem, and added the ability to do things folks already did, but easier and more enjoyably. Buyers flocked to the iPhone, not because it could do lots of things they never thought of, but because it made the things they already did much better.

Then the iPad hit the scene, and Apple took the successes of the iPod and iPhone and rolled it into the new tablet. It let buyers do the things it could do on both the previous i-products, but better with the larger screen. It was still easy to use and carry, but could make the things prospective buyers already wanted to do, better and more enjoyable.

Now Apple is clearly following the successful business model with the iPad, refreshing it every year. Not making it radically different or better, but better in simple ways. The company has figured out what drives buyers in the mainstream, and that is the desire for controlled change.

Human nature delights at change, finding something new or new ways to do common tasks. This is true for the youngest toddler up through the oldest grandma. We simply love finding a new thing to make what we enjoy even better. This controlled change is the basis for the Apple model proven so successful with the iPod, iPhone, and now the iPad.

This is where competitors to the iPad are failing miserably, and will continue to do so. The iPad popularity is already proven in the market, so competing products are built with more sophisticated hardware under the hood. The philosophy is to be better it must have lots more to offer, but that doesn't work.

In almost every case, making a competing product with more sophistication intimidates the average consumer. I'm not referring to the small percentage of tech-savvy consumers who delight in learning radically new things. The regular consumer has a knee-jerk reaction to having to learn totally new things, and this is the major failing of competing tablets.

It gets back to the controlled change that Apple gives us with the iPad. Just new enough to be a delight to discover, but not radically different to require learning a lot of new things. You pick up the iPad, quickly discover how easy it is to do what you already like doing, and you never think more about it. Pick up a competing tablet and you have to figure out not only what you can do with it but how to make it happen.

The controlled change that is successful for Apple is going the be the biggest hurdle for Windows 8 tablets coming down the pike. Even if these are intuitive enough to use out of the box, the Windows moniker implies that a lot of learning will be required to use them. There will be a knee-jerk reaction to this for the average consumer, and they won't look at them seriously.

The Apple model has been proven once again to be wildly successful with the iPad. This will continue as the product evolves year after year while competitors scramble aimlessly to make a difference. Apple haters will get louder while railing against the methodology the company is using, but millions will continue to buy iPads. Apple is giving the mainstream consumer what it wants, yet again.

Topics: iPad, Mobility

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  • Umm

    No it does not! It gives some people some but not everyone.
    • Easy killer

      James did not define who "us" is... and it obviously does not include Android fanboys, advocates, or proponents.
      • Has nothing to do with that.

        I was perfectly content to buy one for myself if it had even half the features of the concept videos.
      • You would buy one for yourself?

        @Peter Perry

        But, but, but it has a 4:3 aspect ratio!
      • Yes I did

        " Apple is giving the mainstream consumer what it wants, yet again."
      • No it doesn't

        It is defining a set of improved/new functions and telling us this is what you need. This "minimization" is what moved me from the iPhone 4 to Android and is looking to drive me from the iPad to Android.

        Win8 - tbd....
    • Not really. None of the ipad owners I know wanted a heavier thicker one

      Nor do they care about the higher resolution. They just browse and fb and the current resolution is perfectly fine for that. As for myself I'm still waiting for a W8 tablet because the new iPad didn't give me W8.
      Johnny Vegas
      • WHen is that wait going too end?

        Pagan jim
        James Quinn
      • Long Live Big Ballmer

        That's right, Johnny. The Ministry of Truth has determined that no hardware makers except Apple and Samsung will be able to deliver those really high-resolution displays in any serious quantity. Therefore the Ministry of Truth has announced that no one wants high-resolution displays.
        Robert Hahn
      • You, Rhonin, and Perry really need to grow up and move on.

        The Ipad could have the cure for Cancer and you guy's would rather see people die than purchase an Apple product. Your seething hatred of all things Apple is just petty, and utter foolishness. If you don't want an Ipad, don't buy one.

        It's called choice, but let people that want to purchase one do so in peace....
    • ummm

      He is reffering to the majority as the iPad is the biggest in sales for Tablets. No company pleases everyone. lol When a company has huge sales it means they are doing something right to appease the masses.
  • Still having battery issues

    with 3rd gen Touch and iOS 5.1. Still doesn't work as it was working before.
  • Apple gives people what they want---a little bit at a time.

    Apple ain't dumb. I'm sure they have a long-term plan for what features to add to a product and when they will add them. Some people complain that the i(fill-in-the-blank) doesn't have every feature they want. Well, if the first version of a product has it all, why would anyone want/buy the second version? And the third version, etc. Also, it doesn't make sense to include a particular feature if it isn't technically mature. The features they've added to the new iPad (retina display, faster processor, LTE) are power hogs, so the battery capacity (and unit thickness) had to be increased to keep battery life the same. Apple is sometimes criticized for not cramming all kinds of features in and letting the user make the trade-off between functionality and battery life. But their philosophy is to make a product that the vast majority of users will find easy and enjoyable to use. I'd say they're doing pretty well at that!
  • You must first define what it is the masses are looking for

    Time and time again you have said something along the lines of "since it is selling well, it indicates that Apple is giving the masses what it is they want" without explaining what reasons the masses are purchasing the iPad for.

    Until you have shown exactly why they are being purchased, your words are hollow, based on assumptions only.

    One could argue then that Rolex manufactures by far the most accurate and duable time pieces in existence, as they are coveted by so many.
    Tim Cook
    • With millions sold

      James' logic is valid. Obviously it is giving some people exactly what they want - several million people in fact. Your emotional hatred of Apple has simply blinded you to the pure logic of James' article.

      What the masses are looking for is something that is easy and intuitive to use, something that requires little maintenance, and something that allows them to do daily tasks easier. in the iPad several million people have found just that.
      • Yeah, the Oldest OS on Any Device on the Market

        It was time to retire fisherprice a long time ago. In 2012 your app drawer as your homescreen and no 3D. Either you would have to be so old and sight impaired that this look works or so young (toddler) the kiddie colors and buttons to push are fun. If you are in between and find this appealing you are a total fanboy. Look how old the author of this article is. Falls solidly in the first category.
      • I can agree with Spock on that

        bloggers tells us why people buy the iPad, but has anyone actually asked the purchasers why the bought the iPad?

        Their answers may not reflect the reasons given by the bloggers.
        John Zern
      • I see people don't want the truth

        [i]bloggers tells us why people buy the iPad, but has anyone actually asked the purchasers why the bought the iPad?[/i]

        Gee, now why would somebody want to hide your question, unless they don't want it asked?

        It's a reasonable request - take a poll on why people bought their product, instead of some random blogger telling us why these people bought their product.

        Maybe people are afraid of the answer?
        William Farrel
    • Reason

      James did a fine job of explaining why the iPad sells so well. As I suspect you are in that group of IT professionals he also mentions you may be finding it difficult to grasp the elegant simplicity of those reasons. We, and I include myself, with years of technical experience and expertise focus on the specs, features, etc. Apple sells that ephemeral concept of 'the experience'. However much we may dismiss this concept, quod erat demo stratum...Apple sells a buttload of iPads!
      • Times Are A Changing

        They didn't sell as many iPad as they sold Macs for the whole of last year and the Kindle Fire obliterated them in the 4th quarter. You are looking at 850,000 activations of Android per day. That old OS is killing them.