iPaddling PCs

I wrote my first iPad post on January 28, 2010, and my second one about three months later — both prior to the arrival of the iPad itself.

I think both those early posts nailed the iPad, Apple’s strategy, and the emerging market spaces pretty squarely on the head. The only clear miss was this:

The first versions of unique hardware designs tend to be imperfect and get old fast. Such was the case with the first iPods and iPhones, and will surely be the case with the first iPads as well. The ones being introduced next week will seem antique one year from now.

I ended up getting one of those original ones (with 64Gb of RAM and a 3G data connection), and it ain’t old yet. In fact it’s been a workhorse for our family, most recently serving (among other things) as an excellent offline GPS while we drove around Italy. While I won’t go so far as to say we’ve come to depend on it, our iPad has proven very handy, in many ways that smartphones and PCs are not. (One example.)

In fact its level of market success seems to be rising from remarkable to scary.

Today Bob Evans in Forbes detailed that scariness with Apple iPad Unleashing Creative Destruction On PC Industry. He unpacks five factors involved:

  1. Cannibalization’s Diminishing Returns: while the iPad snacks on Macs, it lives on a non-stop diet of PCs
  2. Pilot to Penetration: after a year of playing footsie with enterprise customers, Apple’s getting serious
  3. Unexpected Applications: corporate customers are deploying iPads in totally unprecedented ways
  4. The Apple-Store Phenomenon: over the past five years, can any retail chain on Earth match Apple’s astonishing financial success?
  5. Hooking the Kids: the iPad has been a blowout success in the K-12 market.

To those I’ll add one more: soaking up functions as well as apps from both the Web and PCs.

Case in point: weather. We have nine weather apps on our iPad, and we use them all. One that’s especially fun in the Summer is LightningFinder. Last Saturday morning the kid and I sat on our front porch, enjoying a brief morning thunderstorm, along with the iPad and LightningFinder, which told us exactly where the lightning we saw actually happened. It was cool. Today the iPad was elsewhere during a brief thunderstorm, so I went online to the LightningFinder site, thinking “Hey, they must show the same maps online.” But they don’t. They do have weather maps, and will give you a forecast; but if you want to see the lightnng stuff, you gotta get the app. Here’s the main graphic on their index page:

Two points here. One is that Apple has created a very lively marklet for apps in countless niches. The other is that the iPad has become the primary platform for many of those applications, while the PC has become the secondary one — or worse, a place for promotional messages about iPad apps.

I still see a bigger market in other tablets over the long run, for the simple reason that the horizontal marketplace for any kind of tablet (especially Androids) has no limits, while Apple’s silo’d vertical market can only be as large as Apple lets it be. And, as long as Apple controls that market, those limits are finite. Even if they are, for now, impressively high.

I also don’t think PCs will go away. They’ll just do less of what ‘pads and phones do better.

4 comments

  1. PXLated’s avatar

    But doesn’t the android limit totally depend on how the various lawsuits turn out?
    I’m not convinced yet that android/Google are going to escape at all unscathed.
    If they turn out badly, it could be very limiting. Not to say there won’t be others (different OSs) that step in at some point to expand horizontally.

  2. Mark’s avatar

    Good points Doc. “iPaddling pc’s” – classic!!!

    What I think is really scary (unprecedented) is that the iPad uptake rate extended out (even just at the current growth rate – let alone how it keeps ramping faster each month) reaches a worldwide saturation point faster than any other platform, technology, device in history. By the time the “competition” gets it together with a somewhat worthy competitor, the game will already be over.

    Rebutting other reports today – If it takes to 2015 for Android to make a serious dent – they will not ever do it. Android manufacturers have to hit huge homeruns -now- or it’s over.

    I don’t see how they can when they do not have the infrastructure in place.

    Similar to how the masses would not budge from Windows until the pain became too great, iPad will reach that same “the use pain has to be great in order to overcome the pain of change” point within a couple years.

    Few iPad owners will switch to something almost as good, even somewhat better, or even cheaper (which will really be tough for competitors to do!) once they have invested the time to find and use the apps they enjoy. This is about the sum of all the parts (os, device, connectivity, ease of use, app availability, app environment for devs, great stores, etc) being much better than a better processor or more ram. It’s certainly not perfect but it’s good!

    This is SJ’s serious payback of all those hard hard lessons. It’s well thought out with a decade of planning. It’s going much better than expected and it is a historic phenomenon that will only get faster and bigger.

  3. Doc Searls’s avatar

    You may be right. It’s certainly the way to bet right now.

    In some ways the situation today is worse with Apple in phones and pads than it was with Microsoft in desktops and laptops, because at least the Microsoft ecosystem enabled lots of different hardware and software players to compete. With Apple there’s lots of that in software, but all within a market that Apple owns and operates. And Apple makes and sells all the hardware.

    But trees do not grow to the sky, and no one company can control everything forever, even if that company is run by the amazing (and he is truly that) Steve Jobs. Google’s strategy with Android is horizontal, rather than vertical, and there is much more that can be done in an open horizontal market than in a closed vertical one. Apple will continue to dominate and win as long as there is stuff that can only be done on iPads and iPhones. I doubt that will be true forever.

    Meanwhile, developers are locked onto Apple and iOS the way they were locked onto Microsoft and Windows, starting in ’95.

    A difference now is that hardware turnover is much more rapid. If the next generation of iPhones or Androids contains a real (industrial-grade) barcode scanner, a lot of new business will be based on that. In fact, I’m betting that Google Wallet will have a lot to do with it. And Google wants to open source that too.

    In any case, I think the future is a lot more open than it appears. But I could be wrong too.

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