John Battelle’s prediction about the iPad’s all-but-certain failure was itself a #Fail:
Apple’s “iTablet” will disappoint. Sorry Apple fanboys, but the use case is missing, even if the thing is gorgeous and kicks ass for so many other reasons. Until the computing UI includes culturally integrated voice recognition and a new approach to browsing (see #4), the “iTablet” is just Newton 2.0. Of course, the Newton was just the iPhone, ten years early and without the phone bit….and the Mac was just Windows, ten years before Windows really took hold, and Next was just ….oh never mind.
Later, after the announcement of 2 million in sales, he explains why he’ll be proven right eventually:
I think my prediction was right in the short term (when the iPad was announced, nearly everyone was disappointed at what it wasn’t, see the headlines from January, above), and I was totally wrong in the medium term (the thing has sold two million plus and probably has a shot at being Time magazine’s “man of the year” for 2010). However I still believe I’ll be entirely correct in the long term, in particular if Apple doesn’t change its tune on how the iPad interacts with the web.
But Battelle’s logic misses the larger point.
The iPad’s vulnerability is not to a more “open” tablet or system but to cheaper devices that ape its functionality. Neither Battelle nor the developers and blognescenti obsessing on the “open” vs. “closed” debate that surrounds Apple really understand the consumer mindset. They’re distracted by an “insider” argument that has little relevance to consumers.
Consumers don’t think like tech insiders, bloggers or developers, they think like buyers of products. They don’t care about “Flash” per se or whether HTML5 is “ready for prime time.” They don’t care whether Apple has to approve all the apps in the app store or whether Apple is “open” or “closed.” They want devices to work and be affordable.
Steve Jobs is absolutely correct when he says that consumers care about products. Jobs says Apple is trying to make “great products.” You can be cynical or not: whatever motivations Apple has or doesn’t have for rejecting Flash, if the company makes great consumer electronics people will buy them.
While some people are clearly annoyed that some Web video doesn’t work on the iPad and iPhone, people focus on “video” not Flash itself.
The iPad is a great product — if slightly imperfect. And it has done (with some help from Kindle) what Microsoft was unable to do with its hardware partners for years: establish the “Tablet PC” as a bona fide consumer category. Now 20 tablets or more are coming into the market on the heels of the iPad’s success. All but a very few of them will use Android because it’s really the only alternative they have. Windows 7 the PC version is unlikely to find success on a tablet — except in some narrow circumstances at the higher end (e.g., laptops or netbooks with removable tablet screens). Nokia-Intel’s MeeGo is a possibility as well.
There will be two factors — and mainly one — in terms of whether these Android-based iPad challengers will succeed or fail: do they “work” and are they affordable? Very few consumers will be making buying decisions based on Flash itself or the idea that Android lives at the center of a more “open” ecosystem.
Retrevo’s consumer survey data (which earlier incorrectly interpreted iPad demand) echo the pricing variable as probably the most important in the Android challenge to the iPad: