The Good, The Bad and the iPad

by Sid

The iPad was meant to fail. Reasons for its impending non-success were many – it doesn’t fit in the pocket, there is no real need for an iPad for most people, it’s too expensive, it can’t replace the notebook (or for that matter the netbook), there are too few I/O features, it’s not scalable (aka it can’t accommodate changing needs)and of course it can’t be used as a phone or a camera. And the fact that it doesn’t support flash, and thus hampers the internet experience , because without flash videos, advertisements and applications that run on websites would become redundant.

Yet, it did not fail. And,some have argued that it is not due to the product or the concept, but due to the person and the brand. And there is truth to it. It reminds one of whats said in that Simpson episode – Steve Mobs is god and he knows what we want. Good satire, and maybe true. But that is not all. If we look deeper, Apple relies on some fundamental marketing instincts and that is what helps them to churn out products, which yield such unconventional successes.

  • generate an artificial need for a product
  • rely on the appeal of aesthetics
  • advertise not just the product but the hype surrounding it
  • secrecy nurtures expectations
  • look beyond traditional consumer segments

There was no need of a new product category between a phone and a laptop. The netbook does just fine. But, the iPad has shown that by simply tweaking a few things such as an increased screen size as compared to a phone, and increased portability and better aesthetics as compared to a netbook, you could in fact create an additional product category. You end up generating a new type of need, which seemed non-existent before the product came out.The iPad in its current first edition is in reality closer to a phone than a netbook and has little content creation ability, but it does provide for a better experience, specifically with respect to content consumption and data communication, when compared to both the phone as well as the netbook. More importantly, what the ipad and the rather long line of Apple products have shown is that you don’t need to reinvent a completely new product to maintain success; just take a successful and popular product, offer incremental changes and keep on churning out newer versions, aligning it smartly with the product life cycle. For example, I was one of the early users of the iPhone, and fast forward two years and as my contract with the service provider is about to expire (having successfully resisted the temptation of the 3GS upgrade), I was thinking of getting another smartphone. That is up untill iPhone 4 knocked on my door. And, for those who got the iPhone 3GS in the first place I am sure there is an iPhone 4S version around the corner. Thus alignment of a product’s life-cycle with incremental updates has served Apple well.

A good-looking and well designed product sells. Period. This applies specifically if you want to expand your consumer base, and make your product palatable to men,women,young,old and the rest. Some products become niche very early, and then struggle to widen their appeal. But not so with Apple. They make products for the mass market, where aesthetics and design are important considerations. In their products there is always something for everyone – new technology for the techohobs, ease of use for the technophobes, good looks for everyone and competitive pricing for just about everybody.

Steve Job’s innate ability to drum up a product was in full display while unveiling the iPad, calling it a “magical and legendary device”. But what others see as RDF(Reality Distortion Field), I see it as an absolutely integral part of a marketing campaign where the aim is not to just capture or enhance market share, but augment and fuel people’s imaginations and expectations. If you have been given a stage with representatives from every conceivable media outlet dying to hear you out, it would be foolish to not indulge in some self-aggrandizing. But Apple takes it a step further and makes good use of the hype as well. Quoting the wall street journal regarding their own product – “The last time there was this much excitement about a tablet, it had some commandments written on it “, is a clear example of legitimizing the hype surrounding a product. I guess it took a little less time for people to find out about the iPhone than it took about the commandments, with prototypes being left at pubs and such. But almost to a fault Apple is secretive about its products, and usually that builds up expectations. In some ways it is interesting; intuitively if you drum up expectations then your chances of dissappointing are higher. But ,with Apple products the effect seems to be opposite. It’s almost as if the sages and scientists had to congregate at some secluded cave in order to come up with something very special. Secrecy, effectively helps market hype.

Finally, when you come to think of it, what is the single biggest contribution of Apple to the Electronics world? Yes, it redefined ‘gadget’ and made it synonymous with style and oomph. Though not the first one to do so, it indeed successfully contributed to the concept of the e-marketplace. It also contributed immensely to the philosophy of shared application development. Large and small businesses are into sharing the efforts (and the spoils) of providing a more varied and better customer experience. Yes, Apple is a successful example of these and more. Above everything though,Apple has shown that a product, with the right tweaking, right packaging and right branding, can indeed be for everyone.

Image Source: Mashable