Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Apple Tablet And Why It Will Succeed

One of my favorite stopping points on the Web is Philip Elmer-DeWitt's Apple 2.0 column. I appreciate Philip's prolific updates and the gamut of topics he covers. 

A few of his recent columns have covered the forthcoming Apple tablet device. Inevitably, due to the exposure his columns receive, many of the comments from readers tend to fall into one of two camps - comments from those who love Apple products and comments from those who hate Apple and Apple products. Discussions about the much-rumored Apple tablet is the latest frontline in the ongoing verbal skirmish between the partisans. 

In discussing this much-rumored device those who insist it will somehow fail even before it's released see only a hardware device. Most expect it to be an outsized iPod touch. These naysayers claim it will be too expensive and will fail because of the price. Those who are supportive of this yet to be announced product claim it will succeed citing the success of the iPhone and the iPod touch as evidence of Apple's uncanny success with hardware devices.

Although I believe this product will succeed, my view is based neither on its price (unknown) nor because of the iPhone's success. While the success of the iPhone and iPod touch suggest Apple can (and will) deliver successful products in the future, my view is based on the belief content drives hardware sales. I've mentioned this axiom before.

I believe the forthcoming Apple tablet (in addition to what's expected to be a superb product design) is coming to market to drive sales of apps and commercial content. The iPhone, iPod touch and the forthcoming tablet are essentially constant content sales devices. From music to movies, to games, to apps to newspapers to magazines, the tablet, similar to the iPhone and iPod touch will build the iTunes Store economy. 

What's unique about a tablet-sized device is that is it a better venue for the consumption  of visual content such as movies, TV shows, sporting events designed for a larger screen and magazines transitioning from a traditional print format. 

Recalling Marshall McLuhan's legendary statement "the medium is the message," an outsized iPod touch will profoundly change the manner in which the message is delivered and received. In other words,  the tablet is a movie screen to the iPhone's TV-sized screen. The tablet device will inebriate the senses. Viewing or interacting with commercial content and apps on an iPhone or iPod touch takes work. No matter the proportional ratios, the imagination plays a role in viewing content or even playing games on the devices. We tend to imagine a field beyond that which is offered on these handheld devices. The Apple tablet will provide for more content to be viewed or consumed on a much larger screen presence, changing the way we view and enjoy what's offered.

Those who suggest the product will fail may be looking at the Apple tablet as a hardware device, not as a visual portal designed to enrich the user experience. The experience will sell the device, not a review of the hardware specs.

Effectively positioned, the tablet will help further define the market for the iPhone and the iPod touch. Ironic as it sounds, the tablet will assist in expanding the market for both of those devices. For example, anyone who has ventured to a movie theatre to see a much-anticipated new movie on the big screen tends to enjoy it no less when viewed again on a TV or laptop. The initial experience at the theatre is rekindled when viewed again, even if the visual field of the device is smaller. As a companion product the tablet will expand the market for iPhone OS-equipped devices.

As this new product debuts we will see an expansion of apps and commercial content to support it. It will drive iTunes Store sales of commercial content and new games and apps specifically designed for its screen dimensions. It's an expansion of the product paradigm, not a product to be viewed outside its relationship in the product paradigm no matter the size of the screen.


  1. Nicely put. But I wouldn't take the "content drives hardware sales" quite as far in the case of the tablet. Most people who would buy the tablet have HDTVs to watch TV and movies and take print magazines by subscription or newsstand sales; the tablet would be an expensive addition to do things that can already be done. Moreover, most of the mockups show a not-very-portable tablet, so the iPhone/iPod Touch becomes a better choice for many of these uses. If Apple provides touch media creation tools (as an extension of iPhoto and iMovie) so that ordinary people can play with it gesturally like Microsoft Surface proposes on a larger scale, then the tablet has unique capabilities.

  2. Content will drive tablet sales as much as every other Apple mobile device. iTunes is the glue that holds the whole Apple mobile ecosystem together. It's the one thing that no other company has. None of us know for certain what features the tablet will have and only when we do can we get an idea of how successful it will be.

  3. Thanks for your kind words -- and for the work you've done to raise the IQ of the Apple 2.0 comment stream.

  4. really awesome gadget. Great innovation. I like it.