Pretending to be an eReader is better for the iPad

It’s pretty annoying to always have the iPad compared with Kindle and Nook and to hear all sorts of strange things -

iPad is the best-selling tablet – selling more than the Kindle tablet.

iPad is going to become the #1 eReader.

Kindle was the best tablet before the iPad came out.

There are two main ideas that are being propagated -

  1. The iPad is an eReader and it takes on eReaders like the Kindle and Nook and Sony Reader. 
  2. The iPad is a Tablet and eReaders are tablets too.

It all makes sense when you dig deeper.

The real competitors the iPad is scared to be compared against

There are actually two categories that the iPad is much closer to than eReaders -

  1. Netbooks. 
  2. Mobile Phones.

Why Apple doesn’t want the iPad compared with Netbooks

The rhetoric of revolutionary and magical aside the iPad is extremely similar to netbooks. Yet if it were to take on the netbook there are only 2 possibilities -

  1. Apple sells 2 to 3 million iPads in 2010 and that pales when compared with the 20 to 30 million netbooks sold. It’d come in at #4 or #5 and that doesn’t sound very good.
  2. Apple sells 5 million iPads or a bit more in 2010 and still can’t impress when you consider the total number of netbooks sold. It’d still be #3 or #4.

So Apple does the smart (or perhaps cowardly) thing and shies away from netbook comparisons.

Why Apple doesn’t want the iPad compared with SmartPhones

Notice how the iPad is identical to the iPhone in almost everything except size and name and inability to be used as a phone. They have the same operating system, they look the same, and they have the same closed eco-system fed by app developers.

Yet if Apple let the iPad be compared with the iPhone they can’t win. There are 85 million iPhones and iPod touches. A few million iPads sold in 2010 wouldn’t even register in people’s minds.

Apple goes for easy markets – even if they aren’t accurate

Apple is scared to take on netbooks and it definitely does not want comparisons with the iPhone. It therefore picks two other niches to be in -

  1. Tablet PCs. This is somewhat fair since it is a tablet.  
  2. eReaders. This is totally inaccurate since it’s not a dedicated reading device.

Why being considered a ‘Tablet’ is good for the iPad

There is no Tablet that’s sold a significant number of units. In fact every Tablet has been an abysmal failure. That means Apple sells 1 million iPads after 3 months of hysteria and claims it’s the #1 Tablet.

There is such lack of competition in Tablet PCs that writers are forced to pretend that the Kindle is a Tablet.

iPad is a better tablet than the Kindle tablet sounds much better than – iPad is the best tablet because there aren’t really any other Tablets.

Putting the iPad into a non-existing category creates the illusion that the iPad was so good that in a month it became the #1 Tablet. It plays into the illusion of it being something magical.

Why pretending to be an eReader is good for the iPad

There are dual benefits -

  1. Apple can trick people interested in buying a dedicated eReader into buying an iPad. Since eReaders are an exploding and emerging market it’s especially easy to pass off any device as an eReader and well worth it.
  2. Amazon and B&N and Sony are all silent on numbers. This lets Apple claim it’s the #1 eReader in sales.

eReader companies are doing a particularly bad job of fighting this misconception.

The Paradox of Being Revolutionary and not competing with established markets

Let’s contrast the rhetoric -

iPad is revolutionary and magical.

iPad is going to transform personal computing.

iPad is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices.

With the reality -

  1. iPad isn’t comparing itself with the computers and PCs and laptops it’s claiming it’s going to replace.
  2. iPad isn’t even comparing itself with netbooks – which are a newer, rapidly growing market.
  3. iPad isn’t comparing itself with mobile phones.

It’s revolutionizing personal computing because it sold 1 million iPads – Yet Windows 7 has sold 100 million copies. Doesn’t sound like a revolution to me.

The iPad is so revolutionary that it’s comparing itself with Tablets – A category so devoid of competition that we couldn’t even name one. It’s so magical that it’s pretending to be an eReader and steal off some of that market.

It’s very smart reality distortion – However, it isn’t reality

We know why Steve Jobs is doing this. It’s better to start off in smaller, weaker markets and try to dominate them and then move on to bigger markets.

It might work. Perhaps enough people will buy the #1 Tablet Rhetoric and some people will even fall for the Most colorful eReader nonsense. And then Apple can get to 10 million iPads sold and keep growing and eventually get enough sales to pretend it’s revolutionized computing.

All that Apple has revolutionized is marketing and locking out competitors. It’s admirable that Apple and Steve Jobs can so thoroughly convince some people that the iPad is revolutionary. However, it doesn’t become revolutionary just because you talk a portion of people into believing its revolutionary.

4 Responses

  1. This was a joke, right? Apple introduced the iPad on stage, positioning it squarely in-between a phone and a laptop. It’s not meant to compete with phones or laptops, it’s meant to be a third product you buy (hopefully from Apple).

    Why you think it’s close to a netbook (second rate hardware, cheap price, runs a primary computing OS) or a phone is beyond me. Regarding a phone: it has no “phone” and is 10 inches in size. You compare that to a phone?

    Windows 7 sales figures are meaningless. Snow Leopard also has sold more, that’s not the point. This is the first tablet that’s a great success in the marketplace. “Tablet PCs” have been a perennial flop. That’s why HP cancelled Slate and bought Palm, that’s why Google is making a non-Windows tablet, that’s why Microsoft killed Courier (scared), that’s why Lenovo has delayed their latest tablet after seeing an iPad up close, and that’s why it’s selling at a faster rate than the initial run rate of the first $600 iPhone… it’s a new market segment.

    That’s why nobody can agree what to compare it against. It’s not a laptop, netbook, phone, convertible tablet PC, eReader, or anything else. The closest thing to it are the failed JooJoo with it’s orders in the dozens and a million also-ran $200 MID imports running an older revision of Android that trickle in from China, plus things like Archos 7. In other words, there is no comparison.

    Is it outselling the Kindle? Of course it is. They sold one million in a month, and there are somewhere between 2 and 3 million Kindles out there a couple of years in. Will e-Ink style readers disappear? Not if the next-gen technology ships in time, but don’t think for a minute the B&W vizplex style 6″ Kindlesque readers have a chance, especially as future generations of iPad come out, which might lead to the current version staying on at a lower price. Remember, the manufacturing process will scale that price down too as they start making 30-40 million a year.

    You are right; the Kindle is not a tablet. But you are wrong when you dispute that it’s the #1 tablet. It outsells anything else in the form factor (such that it is – keyboardless tablets BARELY exist, and Microsoft holds on to the swivel design with a keyboard as a Tablet PC to this day). It’s already the #1 tablet, and it has more in common with the iPod than the iPhone.

    The iPod BECAME the MP3 player. They reinvented the segment, made it popular, and overnight took over the market in mindshare, and within a year in unit sales. Sound familiar?

    The iPhone came into existence VERY LATE in that there were TONS of mature smartphones, but it still dominates the mindshare. It’s also the most profitable smartphone, and while there are many more non-iPhone smartphones out there, the reality is the profits, the apps, the mind share – is with Apple.

    Which tablet is selling 1 million in one month besides iPad?

    • Let’s not start claiming that the iPod reinvented the segment. It was just a better mp3 player with iTunes attached. This is typical Apple and Apple lover attitude. We sold a bunch of pretty mp3 players using smart marketing so we revolutionized music. It’s utter nonsense. You didn’t send a man on the moon or build a rocket ship – you just built a prettier mp3 player. There’s absolutely nothing magical or revolutionary about it.

      Time wil tell whether the iPad is revolutionary – However, the iPod definitely isn’t.

      Are you really assuming this is going to happen – Remember, the manufacturing process will scale that price down too as they start making 30-40 million a year.

      30-40 million a year?

      There isn’t any other Tablet. Everyone would be super happy if iPad stuck to calling itself a tablet and stopped talking about revolutionizing computing. And if it stopped trying to pretend it was an ereader.
      iPad is welcome to keep running away from netbooks and other successful markets and invent weak or non-existent markets to try to generate social proof and mass delusion.

    • The iPad isn’t a netbook, clearly. But the need that netbooks address is a small form factor, light portable computer with significant battery life at an affordable price. What is the iPad? A small form factor, light portable computer with significant battery life at a price that isn’t really all that affordable for what it delivers but will quite possibly be revised downwards.

      It has some comparative drawbacks (the limited and closed system OS, the lack of a physical keyboard, for starters) and some comparative benefits (multitouch interface, Apple UI design, possibly more powerful hardware – not sure about that). But insofar as it relates to any existent market, it fits closest with that of the netbook. And, imho, it’s a pretty close fit. If I were to buy an iPad, that would be the role it would fill for me.

      What it -certainly- isn’t is an eReader – too big, too heavy, LCD screen that can’t hope to compete with e-ink for most reading purposes and not at all if a color e-ink-esque technology finally hits the market, battery life dramatically inferior.

  2. Yes, Apple reinvented the MP3 market. Their unique blend in those first couple of generation iPods basically created a consumer market. Sure, some geeks (myself included) had players before that… but now EVERYBODY uses one, or their iPhone, or any number of devices that now offer a similar form factor / buying experience. You think how Zune treats music was anything other than recognizing what Apple did? You think how smartphones handle music is anything other than a response to the extension of iTunes into iPhone?

    One can argue that they partially reinvented the MUSIC INDUSTRY. Sorry, but except for a small percentage of music listeners that were techies downloading torrents, or a slightly larger market of people that was mostly techies, plus some fairly saavy regular consumers stealing music through Napster and Limewire, music was bought in stores on disc until iTunes, the iTunes Music Store and the iPod. It’s not just that Apple LEADS music sales online (and is larger than the brick and mortar chains individually), it’s that they LEAD sales while inventing the concept.

    And yeah, MP3 players were a fringe non-starter before the iPod first shipped with Windows support. And that’s just a black and white screen with a small laptop hard drive. Forget about things like Nano and iPod Touch.

    Your moon comment is even apropos. When one day a commercial company starts offering commercial space flying AND makes it relatively affordable, guess what, that company will have reinvented space travel. Nobody claims Apple invented the MP3 player. But no one before or after them figured out how to sell them in quantity, become 100% identified with white headphones, and sell the music that goes on them. I wouldn’t buy a CD for $5 in Wal-Mart. I’d still have to take it home and rip it just to play it where I need… on a computer, iPad, iPod and a home stereo with an iPod dock. In the car I maintain Sirius radio, because CDs are a pain, and my car doesn’t have an AUX or iPod jack… no other reason.

    If you don’t think Apple is similarly changing the mobile landscape with iPod Touch, iPhone and now iPad … check back in a year. The market will still be dominated by things made by Apple or claiming to be Apple killers but selling in smaller quantities. HP didn’t buy Palm and kill slate for any reason other than they realized the mobile market is about to be an Apple market and not a Microsoft market, and they needed something comparable to compete with… so they picked an OS that was designed by… an ex-Apple exec.

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