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What every business can learn from the iPad launch

While other vendors run away from closed-system hardware products, Apple makes its iPad launch the IT event of the year -- is it the coolness factor, or something else?
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Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer on

Steve Jobs and company have done it again. They have the world drooling over a piece of hardware, the iPad. Even my colleague Anne Thomas Manes, who is world-renowned for stopping vendor and market hyperbole in its tracks, gushed: "The iPad will change the world."

Apple iPad

Pretty amazing for a proprietary piece of hardware. The conventional wisdom is that any vendor engaging in closed-system products -- and hardware at that -- is doomed to failure. If anything, vendors have been running away from hardware.

Computer hardware and software vendors launch new stuff everyday, yet leave observers yawning or not even paying attention. What's the deal with Apple?  Why are they captivate everyone so much? Is it the "coolness" factor -- which they seem to have all to themselves -- or something else?

Seth Godin, who pays a lot of attention to the way people in markets interact with each other, came up with a list of ways Apple builds and maintains excitement, something other companies can learn:

  • Earn a "permission asset": Apple has built up plenty of cache with its "tribe" over the past 25 years. "They didn't sell 300,000 iPads in one day, they sold them over a few decades," Godin points out.
  • Don't try to please everyone: "There are countless people who don't want one, haven't heard of one or actively hate it. So what?"
  • Make a product worth talking about: Obvious, but as Godin puts it, " If it's so obvious, then why don't the other big companies ship stuff like this?"
  • Build a platform for others to play in: "Not just your users, but for people who want to reach your users."
  • Create a culture of wonder: Plenty of companies have extremely good engineers and product developers. But Apple isn't just about meeting technical specifications and pushing stuff out the door.
  • Be willing to fail: Godin puts things in perspective: "Launching the iPad had to be even more frightening than launching a book..." Apple has had some duds in its time as well. "Apple clearly a faced a technical dip in creating this product... they worked on it for more than a dozen years. Most people would have given up long ago."
  • Give the tribe a badge: This is a classic Godinism, who observes that the iPad is "a visible symbol, a uniform."

Godin didn't mention this, but there's an overriding vision that permeates every Apple product that elevates its ventures to religious pilgrimages. Jobs and company have been on a mission, since day one, to change the world and bring seamless computing to everyone on the globe. Does iPad meet this standard?  By all accounts so far, it does. The passion to being computers into everyone's lives in a comfortable, human-scale way also energizes Jobs' speeches well beyond that of the typical tech industry speaker. It's a passion that literally infects Apple's followers and markets.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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