It came to my attention last week that Apple had reached the distinguished honor of selling its one millionth iPad in just 28 days of the product’s market emergence. Not just an amazing figure for anyone, this feat is even outstanding for Apple—the teacher’s pet of technology. This actually trumps initial sales of the iPhone, which took 74 days to reach the same milestone upon its introduction.
So why is everybody (and their mother, it seems) desperate for the iPad? Well… uh… I don’t know. Frankly, upon receipt of this information, I still wasn’t quite sure what this thing actually did. To me, it seemed like a combination of other existing Apple products, and upon investigating the details, I really wasn’t too far off.
My brother had one express shipped from China immediately after its launch. The gentleman sitting in the adjacent seat on my flight yesterday had this slim device in his grip when some aggressive turbulence nearly catapulted our water glasses into its fragile circuitry. What do these guys know that I don’t?
Or maybe a better question would be: What does Apple know that I don’t? The answer? Lots.
Let’s be honest: Some folks out there will likely buy every glossy gadget with a sound dock that Apple produces. My brother—a web designer with a young single guy’s wallet and a penchant for the latest and greatest—is this exact type. Others are buying the iPad because it provides a unique crossover solution between the connectivity they might already have. It’s more of a computer than your iPhone, and a better TV or digital reader than the iPod. But because it doesn’t overwhelm the user with bulk and memory, it becomes a usable—and increasingly desirable—hybrid technology item. What’s most interesting to me is that it’s built to be a product that fills a gap that we almost didn’t realize was there. Why would someone like my brother need the iPad when he already has a Macbook, an iPhone, and an iPod?
Because in a way, Apple sells convenience, and convenience doesn’t exist in a vacuum—it’s a constant comparison of more or less. This is why competition is good, because it gives a marketplace of consumers a gauge to determine why your product and/or level of service is valuable to them, over that of another.
This is not to say it wouldn’t be great to have full reign over your market niche, but reality—even for Apple—is reality. In this case, it was about comparing apples to apples… until an orange rolled in: This time it’s in the shape of the Android Tablet, Google’s answer to the iPad which will support Adobe Flash.
Analysts expect the iPad and the Android to command 75 percent of the tablet market. Funny that the “tablet market” was not even on my radar until a month or two ago. In fact, I’d wager to guess that—outside of the highly tech savvy, early adopters or, perhaps, professional salespeople—the tablet market didn’t really exist with the kind of mass consumer appeal we’re now seeing. Even on the airplane yesterday, as the aggressive turbulence rattled our tray tables and ice, my fear was interrupted by a glimpse at the neighboring screen covered in thumbprints and all I could think was: I totally want one.
I wish I had the technology (and the nerve, honestly) to make my own niche—carving out a market where one didn’t exist before. Of course it takes the massive investments and brainpower of good R&D, but it also takes market intelligence and, perhaps most of all, guts. Unfortunately we’d be drowning in guts if we all tried this approach, but for Apple, and for the rest of us with the ability to take a chance, it might just work out.
And in all honesty, if Apple continues to reinvent a newer, shinier approximation of the wheel and we keep buying it, who can blame them?
Are you one of the million happy iPad owners, or is this invention simply technological decadence? Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.