Update: Found someone who says the same thing in a much, much better way – iPhone != Debian App.
Of course your definition of good intent might not match Apple’s definition.
Think of it from the perspective of a company/person producing goods and providing them for sale – The Internet is full of various types of people. There are good customers who love to consume products and goods and services and don’t care much about vague (to them) notions like rights and openness. There are also halfway decent customers who will buy something if they can’t find it for free or if it’s too inconvenient or dangerous to ‘steal’ it.
The really interesting groups are the bad customers and the really bad customers. The bad customers are the ones who always try to get products for free. They also (to an extent) promote piracy and have an inflated sense of entitlement. The really bad customers are the ringleaders – they rationalize and create justifications for what benefits them and actually blame the producers for trying to make money from their product. These are usually the most intelligent (to be able to construct such an elaborate defence of their stealing) and capable of furthering their agenda (to an extent).
Basically, the very bad customers make it very easy for themselves, for the bad customers, and for the halfway decent customers to get things for free.
Companies care most about Customers of Good Intent
Bad customers are not going to be worth much. The halfway decent customers are valuable if they don’t have the option to steal. Very bad customers are to be avoided and locked out whenever possible.
That leaves only the good customers. These fall into various categories – As you start adding more and more restrictions you start weeding out more and more of them. This might seem like a bad thing. However, if you figure out a way to reach the top 25% of customers of good intent you hit a very interesting group of people.
These are people who either don’t know how to pirate or their time is too valuable. These people either don’t care about things like openness or they actively dislike such philosophies. They have been ignored by most of the tech intelligentsia and either aren’t very happy about it or, more commonly, they just don’t care.
Basically, these are the people who are most willing to pay to get what they want immediately and easily and the ones least susceptible to the ideas that the Free Internet movement has been trying to inculcate in users. They don’t care two hoots about technical freedom or the rights of hackers or keeping the Internet open. They just want to get what they want and consume the products that make them feel happy and/or satisfied.
Finding the ideal customer
Please don’t take it personally. If you care a lot about the Internet ethos or want a device that is open and can be hacked and let’s you use your intelligence then you’re just not the ideal customer.
A consumer is infinitely more valuable.
You make the device expensive and you market it in a way that it appeals to the people most caught up in consumer culture. You limit the rights so that people who would want to tear up your eco-system or introduce dangerous ideas stay out on their own. You limit the amount of interaction with outside of the ecosystem and test whether these are customers willing to give up other options for you.
At this point you have considerably upped the amount of good intent – You have customers who are primarily focused on doing ‘good’ things. Buying things, buying more things, being easily influenced, not complaining about non-profit related things, and in general being very little bother.
The iPod and iPhone were just the precursor to the iPad
With the iPod and iPhone you weren’t giving up very much. The iPod didn’t let you buy music from other stores (to an extent) and the music had DRM (until a few years back). However, it was a pretty reasonable mp3 player that played any mp3s you could find. The iPhone was a phone and you aren’t really giving up anything by taking a phone that’s closed. Most phones were closed anyways and a phone was primarily used to make phone calls.
The iPad puts up a very high bar. You suddenly take the PC/Laptop/Netbook and you introduce the notion that a closed version would work.
These are customers who are giving up a lot of things compared to what they would get from a netbook – Only software from the app store, really tough to do things like printing and downloading files, ridiculous restrictions on playing around with your device and customizing its hardware and software, and a closed box ecosystem you can’t legally or easily swap for a free one.
There are two ways to look at this – Either this is a testament to how good Apple makes its features (that users are willingly giving up all their options) or its a testament to how good the customers’ intent is (how loyal they are to the idea of an Apple economy). In a way it’s the same thing – If a user feels the iPad has such great features that for the rest of their lives they will only buy software from the App Store it means both that the customer has very good intent with respect to Apple products and that the user absolutely loves the features Apple provides.
The iPad is a test of how willing to embrace Apple a customer is
The Internet is what Apple brings to you. The software choices are what Apple brings to you. The books are what Apple brings to you.
Apple makes money off of everything the customer buys. A straight 30% cut and when it comes to the device – more.
If Steve Jobs can stick around for the next 10 years he might be able to mop up 50% or more of the customers of good intent (we’re talking hundreds of millions of people) for his closed eco-system built on the iPad and other PCs that cordon off all non-Apple companies and all non-Apple philosophies (we are excluding the iPhone).
The iPad is basically a test – How many people like this are there? How far can we push the device’s restrictions? How much would people be willing to give up?
2 or 3 million customers of great intent towards Apple
There are 2 million (perhaps 3 million now) people who are willing to give the iPad a shot and you have to wonder whether at some point soon we start running out of people with such great intent towards Apple.
It’s amusing to see how the Press always bring up ethereal concepts like ‘the iPad has soul’ and ‘the iPad interacts with people like a living being’ or ‘iPad evokes emotions’ when a much more appropriate concept would be – the iPad as a test of good intent towards Apple.
Fundamentally, Apple are just trying to find the customers with the best intent and those with minimal concern about (and knowledge of) options and rights and get them all as customers before someone else does. It works exceptionally well because the more users give up to go with an Apple product the more they feel obliged to defend their decision. Giving up a lot to buy an iPad almost marries the user to Apple. Who’s going to turn around and say – Can’t believe I went with something that doesn’t even let me print. They’re much likelier to say –
Printing isn’t a big deal. Apple will eventually do it, and they’ll do it the way it should be done.
Waiting a few years to be able to print isn’t a big deal. When I finally get to print it the Apple way it’ll be well worth it.
It would also explain why any affront to Apple is taken so personally by Apple users. Think about it – If someone said your chair wasn’t very good you might be a little upset. However, you wouldn’t treat it like a matter of life and death and as if your own personal identity were wrapped up in your chair. Yet, Apple people tend to behave exactly like that. Amusingly, that’s one of the biggest Apple turn-offs – they are so good at upping customers’ good intent towards Apple they turn some of them into Apple fanatics who scare off potential users.
Perhaps the appropriate advertisement would be where the ‘I’m a Mac’ man angrily accuses the ‘I’m a PC’ man of a lack of taste and starts to beat him with an iPad while shouting deliriously – Can you feel the beauty? Can you feel the aesthetic brilliance? Can you feel the magic?