The iPad must evolve into new, future markets.
Image credit: Paramount
Why do people stand in line every year for a new iPhone? Why is iPhone technology changing so fast? Conversely, why are iPad sales more or less ho-hum? Why isn't iPad technology exploding? I want to reflect on that situation.
When I think about the success of the iPad, I think about how the iPad vision provided what average people really needed to do on a computing device. In other words, the standard PC had become too complex and too capable. The hardware along with Microsoft Windows evolved so that businesses could run databases, Computer Aided Design (CAD) apps, the full Photoshop, architectural design apps and IDEs/compilers/cevelopment tools to name a few.
The ability run all these kinds of apps forced a certain kind of design that the average user didn't need. The consumer found that what they wanted to be able to shop, browse, read books, watch Netflix, play games, check their email, manage their Facebook page, and often, little more. And they wanted to do it all with great security and minimum fuss with backups. The iPad distilled the essence of what we need to do on a casual basis, and that drove its initial popularity through the roof.
However, if the popularity of the iPad was derived from its limitations, then how can it grow beyond that?
The Secret to Growth
The iPhone is a little different. It's size means that it's always attached to us. We have it with us when we go out for gas, we have it on our night stand (perhaps) when we goto bed. Because it is always with us, it needs to and can do many more things. That means that the opportunities for technical growth are there thanks to personal needs, like health monitoring. It's also our immediate connection to voice, messages and our social sphere. Plus, because it's always with us, it's a status symbol. People see us using it all the time in public. Not so much with iPads. That's why an iPhone with sapphire display is so attractive. The iPhone is virtually jewelry. And a symbol of who we are. And so we ask a lot of it.
If the iPad is going to flourish, it has to expand in its capability and that means being adopted in broader markets. Instead of simply being a consumer window into the Internet, it has to eventually be the heavy lifter of our lives. In turn, that means the software has to evolve and the displays have to get bigger, just as the smartphone evolved into larger displays to meet our needs.
When I can do everything I need to do on a 12-inch iPad with multiple windows that is, in turn, connected a Bluetooth keyboard and a 27-inch LED display with yet more windows, and I can get all my work done, then the days of the Mac may be numbered.
I think Apple is approaching this very slowly and very carefully, and introducing new capabilities on an incremental basis. That way, the company can see where the market is headed.
A Vision Gone Wrong
Microsoft has a glimmer of this. Their ads say that their Surface Pro is "the tablet that can replace your laptop." But I think they're going about in the wrong way, the effort is premature, and the company is trying to artificially force the issue. (That's another article entirely.)
To be brief, however, one thing Microsoft is doing is focusing on the "work" aspects of the power in the Surface and forgetting that, first and foremost, a tablet must be a personal tool that's fun and charming to use. That so-called work should, in fact, develop not as dreary "productivity" but as creativity.
It's like comparing the paintbrush used to paint a house and the paintbrush used to create art. One is just a dumb tool, and it's sweaty work; the other in the right hands creates masterpieces, often of great value. The Microsoft Surface is a paintbrush for houses, not a canvas.
I predict that as iOS becomes more capable and the iPad displays become larger, and as more markets are opened up, like the military (mapping), aviation, real estate, hotel management, education, design and engineering, research, point of sale, and so on, the spark of evolution will reignite. Then the floodgates of technical change will open as the iPad once and for all completely cannibalizes the PC. And maybe even the Mac.
This renewed evolution is going to require patience and close attention to the consumer and professional mentality and market acceptance. (Hence the partnership with IBM.) Microsoft is trying to force the issue derived from a bit of panic and market envy. Apple will take its time with iPad evolution and do it right, even if that means a temporary lull in sales growth.