Kindle is iPad for those who use their imaginations

This comment about the Kindle and the iPad from Danny is so hilarious (and perhaps true) it’s worth highlighting –

I call a Kindle an iPad for those who use their imaginations.

It seems that the only books worth reading on the iPad are the ones that are animated… and not too long.

Amazon should adopt it as their new marketing slogan.

Danny comments at NewsWeek’s rather bland ‘press release pretending to be an article’ article titled Why the iPad hasn’t killed the Kindle. The only thing exciting about the article is its title.  One thing it does reveal is that Amazon’s ‘Kindle sales growth rate has tripled’ press release did convince people the Kindle isn’t dying out.

Let’s get back to our comment.

Is the Kindle really iPad for people who use their imaginations?

Well, there are a few things that are pretty clear about the iPad –

  1. iPad is a device meant for consumption.  
  2. iPad is focused on games and video and TV and surfing and entertainment.
  3. One of the few things involving imagination on the iPad is reading and the iPad, contrary to claims, isn’t exactly tailored to encourage long-form reading. So, most people won’t be reading on the iPad, and the ones who do won’t be reading as much as they would on a dedicated ebook reader.
  4. Steve Jobs has put a lot of focus on Winnie the Pooh and reading in color. Perhaps he feels that’s what reading is about.
  5. iPad isn’t very good for creating things or doing things yourself. It’s tailored towards ‘consumption’ type activities and relatively mindless apps – You could argue that it almost encourages people to not think too much.

There just aren’t that many things involving imagination on the iPad. You could point to the 6,000 or 10,000 iPad specific apps or the 200,000 iPhone apps – However, there are very few that have to do with people using their imaginations. Most are relatively mindless. They are basically apps that let people pass the time without having to exercise their minds too much (or to be precise – at all). Someone else has already done the imagining and iPad owners just sit back and watch as spectators.

There’s obviously great demand for a device that lets people turn off their brains – There have been 3.3 million iPads sold.

However, it doesn’t really seem like those people are exercising their imaginations. They just seem to be giving their imaginations and their minds a break – No?

Playing Devil’s Advocate

Perhaps the iPad does exercise the imagination.

What are some things that are relatively positive (in terms of exercising users’ imaginations)?

Reading, word games (perhaps), a few interesting puzzle games. Perhaps Games do. You could make a case for comics. There’s always reading on Wikipedia – though that’s factual and not necessary what we’re looking for. Surfing might be good if you’re reading lots of intelligent posts and articles. News probably isn’t very imagination-positive.

You know what – it’s not that easy.

It takes too much imagination to imagine the iPad as being good for the imagination

My head’s beginning to hurt a little bit from trying to put a positive spin on all the apps on the iPad that have been wasting my time and all the things that are wasting people’s time.

It’s hard to argue that games are exercising the imagination – However, people who makes games and those in love with gaming will argue voraciously. All they do is try to get you addicted so you’ll buy the paid version or buy add-ons.

The gold standard of the App Store is currently Angry Birds and whatever part of the imagination it’s exercising is lost on me. You could really stretch it and claim that it’s teaching physics and angles – but it’s nothing 5 to 10 minutes of reading a geometry textbook won’t teach you. And that game has 137 levels – People are spending tens of hours on it.

There aren’t really that many education apps and the book apps are pretty humdrum – a lot of the Top 100 book apps are comics and who knows how comics compare with books when it comes to using our imaginations. Comics may or may not be good for the imagination.

What about productivity apps – Well, how much imagination could making a ToDo list take? Not sure many people use a To Do list on their iPad. You have to imagine it would be a rather unique ToDo list –

To Do:

Watch YouTube – Brain expanding video on cats jumping into walls.
Check Facebook – Exercise Imagination on how to make my boring day into an exciting status update.
Play Exciting New Game – Master geometry by throwing birds into pigs and blowing them up.
Watch Jersey Shore – Expand social skills and learn how to fist pump like a champ.
Farm on Farmville for iPad – OMG. Now I can farm from bed and harvest my crops every 4 hours without having to turn on the lights.

It’s hard to play devil’s advocate because everyone talks about using the iPad as a living room computer to read email and to check Facebook. They talk about watching YouTube videos and TV shows and reading the news. None of those things seem particularly imaginative.

Even if they read a book a month they’re spending 10 to 20 times that amount of time on non-imaginative things. With the Kindle most of their free time would go into books.

It almost seems like a dichotomy – What people say the iPad’s good uses are; What people actually use it for. The argument will be – Just because people aren’t using it for things that exercise their imagination doesn’t mean it’s not good for the imagination. However, the question is not what’s possible with the iPad. The real question is –

What things does the iPad encourage users to do? Is the iPad causing people to use their imagination more or less?

The answer to that is pretty clear. iPad specializes in video, TV, games, entertainment, and none of those is exercising anyone’s imagination. Which brings us back to Danny’s comment –

I call a Kindle an iPad for those who use their imaginations.

It’s pretty true and you could probably add ‘those who want to read more books’, ‘those who want to become smarter’, and a few other things to that list.

Do new Tablets threaten eReaders?

Monday saw a barrage of Tablets masquerading as eReaders and Tablets being portrayed as eReader killers –

  1. There were rumors of iPad Minis with 5.6″ and 7″ screens that will focus on reading and set up a Kindle 3 vs iPad Mini Christmas showdown.
  2. Velocity Micro said it will be releasing the Cruz Tablet and Cruz eReader which both have a 7″ color touchscreen, run on Andorid, and come with an App for reading ebooks.
  3. The Pandigital Novel eReader got hacked to work as a Tablet.  

It brings up some good questions – Which of these shiny new Tablets are threats to eReaders? Are dedicated eReaders like the Kindle now an endangered species?

Which Tablets are a threat to eReaders?

Apple’s iPad Mini may or may not be a threat 

From one perspective it doesn’t seem a threat – it’ll still be on the expensive side, it isn’t exactly tailored to reading, it seems more of a gaming device, it has an OLED screen which means readability won’t be as good as eInk and battery life will probably be pretty bad.

From another perspective it is a bit of a threat – Apple’s marketing machine is scary good, people who don’t read much will be tempted by the perception that a device that does more than just read is better for reading, it’ll appeal more to casual readers.

In the end the best thing it might do is keep Kindle and Nook honest and force them to evolve faster. The iPhone with 50 million units sold didn’t kill the Kindle and it’s unlikely iPad or iPad Mini will.

Velocity Micro’s Cruz Reader at $199 is a bit of a wild card

The Cruz Reader is part of ‘the world’s first family of affordable touchscreen color ereaders and tablets’ – Apparently color and a touchscreen are now supposed to be critical eReader features.

It’s an interesting package at $199 – It has a 7″ screen with 800 by 600 resolution in a 4:3 layout, a premium resistive touchscreen, 802.11 b/g wireless (WiFi), an SD card slot, apps for eBooks (and for magazines, video, music, and games), 6+ hours of battery life, and a browser.

It runs on Android and has an open content portal. It weighs just under 1 pound and its dimensions are 7.55″ by 5.6″ by 0.57″. It supports audio (MP3, wav, aac), video (mpeg4, H263, H264), and text (ePub, PDF, txt, html).

It also lists as features – email, multitasking, accelerometer, user replaceable battery, docking station, non-skid rubberized back, and 100+ pre-installed ebooks. 

Don’t really know what to think of the Cruz eReader. $199 is certainly an impressive price and yet its features suggest that it’s yet another Tablet pretending to be an eReader.

Pandigital Novel is doing the reverse jump

We usually see Tablets eager to pass themselves off as eReaders and steal a share of the exploding eReader market. With the Pandigital Novel we have a rather strange situation – People have hacked the Pandigital Novel ereader and are claiming it makes a great Tablet.

The Pandigital Novel has a 7″ screen, runs on Android, has an Arm 11 processor, supports WiFi and AT&T’s EDGE network, and has a $199 price tag – In fact, it sounds exactly like the Cruz eReader.

There’s a lot of sudden interest because it turns out its possible to hack the Pandigital Novel to run Kindle for Android. Kindle for Android also happens to run much faster than Pandigital’s in-built eReader software.

How does the hacked Novel do while running Aldiko or Kindle for Android?

Apparently these apps do a great job taking advantage of the Novel’s good hardware specifications: turning pages is faster, as is general responsiveness.

Beyond fast page turning, this hack gives Android fans an inexpensive introductory tablet on which to play with the Android OS.

Looking at the Pandigital makes you realize that it’s yet another Tablet masquerading as an eReader. You also realize something else.

Tablets aren’t a threat – they’re just trying to survive

You could make a case that the iPad might have validated the Tablet space – However, it may just have validated Apple’s ability to sell products to its loyal Apple people.

The focus of every single tablet, including the iPad, to pass itself off as an eReader suggests that rather than Tablets being a threat to eReaders they are just trying to steal enough of the eReader market to prop themselves up and get a chance to carve out a market for themselves.

If the Tablet market emerges and survives it will be made of pieces of other markets cobbled together. At the moment eReaders are an exploding market and it’s easy to get a piece – especially as you can blitzkrieg readers into thinking Tablets are just as good for reading as eReaders. 

eReaders have a much higher chance of surviving than Tablets

Step away from the delusions and coolness of Tablets for a minute and think about it – eReaders are taking over the Book Market and will, eventually, take over the paper market. All Tablets are taking over is – well, nothing. Take Apple’s marketing genius and loyal customers out of the equation and there isn’t much left. Somewhere between 63% and 75% of iPad owners already own an Apple product – it’s all Apple loyalty and it’s not particularly strong since the iPhone 4 sold 1.7 million in a weekend (iPad took 2 months to log 2 million sales).

There’s so much talk of Apple selling much more than every other Tablet maker combined – Perhaps that means Apple made the best product imaginable, perhaps it just means there’s no market.

The market for ebooks is the need for books to evolve. The market for eReaders is replacing paper. The eReader market is going to be a ‘hundreds of millions of devices sold per year’ market.

There is no such guaranteed market for Tablets.

While there is a chance that Apple is ‘doing it right’ and suddenly a market of hundreds of millions of tablets per year will appear it’s rather unlikely. Tablets aren’t replacing something as basic as books or paper and they aren’t the only evolution in technology in centuries (which is what eReaders are). Tablets are trying to replace PCs and laptops when there is no demonstrated need or demand – plus they are just a tiny jump in technology.  

That’s the fundamental difference – eReaders are bringing books into the 21st century. Tablets are simply Apple’s finely honed marketing trying to conjure up a market that may or may not exist.

Breaking down the new FaceTime ads – marketing value Vs feature value

Apple Insider has a post showing 4 new FaceTime ads – Do take a look. They are directed by Sam Mendes who directed American Beauty.

TechCrunch has a post which talks about how it seems as if Apple has hired Don Draper – Do give it a read. Here’s a key snippet –

Draper fires back,

Technology is a glittering lure. But there’s the rare occasion when the public can be engaged on a level beyond flash. If they have a sentimental bond with the product.

In the iPhone 4 FaceTime commercial, that’s exactly what Apple is playing up. As we’re all well aware, video chat, even on phones, is nothing new.

The FaceTime feature and the way it’s being advertised gives us a great chance to analyze and break-down Apple. These 4 ads are a really great way to understand everything that’s great and everything that’s not so great about Apple.

Marketing-created Perceived Value vs Actual Feature Value – Apple has both

We could break down a product’s perceived value to users into two components –

  1. The actual value of the product to users.
  2. How the value of the product is portrayed to users. 

Apple is very good at both. It helps better understand this if you consider Aristotle’s Rhetoric and Ethos, Pathos, and Logos –

  1. Ethos is your character – what people think of you.  
  2. Pathos is the emotional state of your audience – what they’re feeling.  
  3. Logos is the actual message – how strong and impactful it is.

With the FaceTime ads Apple is conveying a pretty strong message i.e. you get to share and experience some pretty strong moments via FaceTime. They make it a point to create moments that will have a very strong emotional impact on you and they link those moments to an Apple product. The ads reveal just how well Apple understands human nature.

It’s all about emotion and linking good, strong emotions with Apple.

They’re taking the single most important experiences of our lives and linking buying an iPhone 4 with being able to experience them better. Watching the 4 ads back to back breaks the effect to an extent because you realize exactly what Apple is doing. It also makes you wonder why people would not share those experiences in person – especially the birth of their grandchild and news of a pregnancy. 

Apple’s marketing works both ways

I’m obviously biased against Apple. As would be almost anyone who doesn’t like marketers and manipulation.

Let’s consider a few broad groups of reactions –

  1. People who get turned off by all the over the top marketing and therefore discount Apple products – Consider them worse than they really are (this group includes me). 
  2. People who love Apple and love the advertising and assume Apple products are better than they are.  
  3. People who fall for the marketing and assume Apple products are better than they actually are. 
  4. People unaffected either way by the advertising.
  5. People who try out one or two Apple products and then realize that Apple isn’t as good as it pretends.

If you fall under the category of person who thinks Apple products are magical and they couldn’t be better unless Apple themselves created something new then perhaps the advertising is working a little too well.

No matter how you feel about Apple you have to admit they are marketing geniuses and masters at understanding and influencing people.

Take the FaceTime ads.

FaceTime Ads are masterpieces in marketing and influence

Here are some things are left out – it only works on WiFi, both people have to have iPhones, that there are lots of products that can already do this. Skype has hundreds of millions of users using Video Chat and Apple are still going to claim to revolutionize things with FaceTime. It’s absurd.

Here are the things being conveyed at the subconscious level – you need FaceTime to better experience the most important experiences of your life, you need Apple’s iPhone 4, iPhone 4 is linked to the best experiences in your life.

The fact that it’s better to experience these important experiences in person and not over the phone is entirely left out. The fact that most people don’t need voice calling most of the time is completely left out.

Is Apple justified in all the claims it makes?

No, obviously not. The iPad TV ad states that you can experience every website in the world even though Flash isn’t supported. It talks about 200,000 apps even though there are only 7,000 or so iPad apps and the rest are iPhone Apps that have to be blown up and don’t scale well.

So it’s obviously marketing half-truth. It creates a strange situation –

  1. If you love Apple you give them the benefit of the doubt.
  2. If you dislike Apple you point it out as obvious misdirection.
  3. If you are unaware you tend to believe it.  

With FaceTime Apple are going to pretend that this is the first time video calling has been done even though lots of phones and Skype have been around for ages. If people point this out Apple will claim it’s the first time it’s been done right.

You have to stand back and look at the elements –

  1. Doing an important feature. There’s no doubt the feature is important.
  2. Doing it well. Again, it seems the feature has been done well.
  3. Selling it extraordinarily well. This is where Apple really shines – No company could come even close with its advertising.

Apple is doing all three things. However, let’s be honest here – It’s the marketing that’s the magical part.

Apple is 40% quality product and 60% marketing genius

In my opinion Apple are better at marketing than they are at making great products.

Are their products great? Perhaps.  

Are Apple great at making people believe their products are great? Absolutely. 

Human nature has a fail-safe where we never want to admit that we’ve fallen for trickery. In fact, we do everything to convince ourselves that we made the right decision. This is probably why Apple creates such fanatical users.

There’s no doubt the iPhone is a very good phone. However, Apple’s marketing and people who’ve bought into the hype want us to believe it’s a revolution and it’s changing humanity. Well, it’s just a phone and it doesn’t have particularly good reception.

The marketing genius – Steve Job’s ability to see people’s nature and play on that – is the core of Apple.

Can we detach and look at things without emotion?

You either think Apple makes the best products in the world or you feel that Apple sells and markets products better than anyone else.

In either case the emotions get in the way of seeing things correctly – If you dislike Apple then how could you ever know if their products are magnificent. You couldn’t – unless you detached yourself from their use of over the top advertising that seems tailored to work on gullible people.

If you are madly in love with Apple it’s the same problem – You wouldn’t really know whether their products are magical or not unless you stepped back from your emotions.

Taking on Apple is only possible if you use the emotional level or use Reality

Most of Apple’s competitors are competing on the logical level. Whether its Droid Ads or Kindle Ads they are ads that either ignore emotions completely or barely scratch the surface.

Apple however digs in deep – iPod ads with cool dancing, the ‘I’m a PC’ ads that associate Apple Macs with being cool, the new FaceTime ads that tug at the heart-strings. Apple are playing at the real level at which we function – emotions and irrational subconscious desires.

They are also getting better and better at it – iPhone 4 ads are much more impactful than any previous Apple ads.  

It’s a rather unfair fight.

Apple’s competitors need to start operating on one of two levels –

  1. A super emotional level. The same level as Apple except with added punch. An Android ad that shows a person talking on his Android phone and getting home to have one of these ‘special moment’ conversations in real life instead of on the phone.
  2. Via Reality. An ad that shows the user can’t find WiFi or loses it at an important moment. Then switches to Skype on the PC or an Android phone that works over 3G (don’t know if the latter’s possible).

Amazon are being too passive in their advertising. It’s time to show a really despicable annoying person with an iPad on the beach sitting down to read and realizing it’s not readable and then having all the people he/she bothered laughing at him and pulling out Kindles. Enough of the singing, dancing Mary Poppins nonsense.

You can’t just let a company weave illusions around your potential customers and get away with it. Everyone who’s used both a Kindle and an iPad and isn’t LCD compatible knows which one is a much better reader – It makes no sense to let the iPad keep fooling readers into thinking it’s a better eReader.