Now that the initial iPad flurry has died down, it’s time to look at it from a market versus “gadget” perspective.
Most of the initial iPad analysis makes a fundamental mistake by assuming the iPad is a simpler computing device for access to content on the Web. This is why much heated discussion has revolved around technology. This analysis misses the bigger market implications.
Yes, the iPad does provide Internet access, multimedia content, gaming, email, IM, and e-books, while being a mobile compute platform. The iPad essentially changes the frustrating compute experience from one requiring expertise and patience to one as simple as operating a mobile phone. This is the genius of the iPad and where every other computer vendor (including Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)) has missed the boat.
But what sets the iPad apart from every other computing platform is who will use it.
The iPad targets two distinct markets: the millennial generation (a.k.a. the shadow boomers), and the older baby boomers and their parents (the greatest generation, which grew up in the depression, fought WW II, etc.).
The millennials grew up using technology while living their lives online on the grid for all to see on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. They were weaned on computer programs, gaming consoles, portable game consoles, browsers, and cellphones. They know how to set or change every feature on their cellphones and digital still-video cameras; how to work the most popular computer and online games, while confidently navigating the Web, Facebook, IM, or search engines. These things are their lives. But ask them to explain, maintain, or fix the underlying technology, and expect a blank stare.
Most millennials see technology as something that should just work, be idiot-proof, and make life better. They will typically reject any technology that’s not intuitive, requires a manual, or requires in-depth technical knowledge.
The iPad meets or exceeds millennial requirements. The WiFi and/or 3G means that the iPad is always connected to the grid and the millennials’ content. A lot less local storage is required when high-speed Web access is always there.
The iPad, like the iPod and iPhone before it, drives music, video, television episodes, movies, applications, and game downloads from iTunes. In addition, the iPad will drive cloud storage, media streaming, and Web/cloud apps. It even meets student requirements for documents, spreadsheets, and presentations with the built-in Apple iWork software.
The second market of aging baby boomers and the greatest generation may be even more significant in that it is mostly untapped. This market has been largely bypassed by the information age. The majority is off the grid and many are computer phobic. The PC or smart phone is not intuitive to them. The iPad doesn’t feel like a computer. It feels like a tool, such as a TV remote control. It turns on at the touch of a button. It doesn’t take forever to turn on, or require esoteric knowledge or a manual. It’s easy to operate. You don’t need a mouse. The screen is large enough for aging eyes (vs. small screens of smart phones). And users can get 3G continuous Internet access.
The iPad for this market introduces online banking, iTunes (music, TV episodes, movies, etc.), YouTube, Facebook, Google, Bing, Hulu, Flickr, and the Web in general easily. And grandparents will finally be able to see pictures and videos of their grandkids instantly while directly communicating with them via email or chat. Apple is tapping a huge greenfield market.
Does this make the iPad a groundbreaking device? Technogeeks will say no. But for a large swath of users in the millennial, early baby boomer, and greatest generations, the answer is a resounding yes.
— Marc Staimer is president and chief dragon slayer (CDS) of Dragon Slayer Consulting in Beaverton, Ore.
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