iPad as eReader experiment not starting well

Apple finally disclosed some official iPad sales figures and here are the three figures that stood out -

  1. 1 million iPads had been sold by Friday. That’s almost as many as the number of articles written about the iPad (think about it before you dismiss the idea ;) ).  
  2. 12 million apps were downloaded. 
  3. 1.5 million eBooks were downloaded from the iBooks store.

It’d be nice to know some more details – especially the ratio between paid and free downloads.

Here are some interesting ways of looking at that data -

  • In the first month, when users are most likely to make purchases, 1.5 books were downloaded per user per month. Not very promising – We don’t even know how many of the 1.5 million ebooks downloaded were paid books.
  • Ratio of apps to books downloaded was 8:1. The notion that people are going to be doing lots of reading can be put to bed.  
  • The most hyped product in history sold 1 million units after 3+ months of publicity and 1.5 months of preorders and availability. Imagine how well it would have done if people could actually figure out what it’s for.

It just isn’t that impressive to sell 1 million iPads and get 1.5 million ebook downloads after the biggest launch of the year and 4 months of non-stop coverage. 1.5 million books downloaded in a month is hardly a threat to eReaders.     

Perhaps the high prices (of the device and the books) are getting in the way of the iPad’s plans of eReader domination.

Speaking of price, Buy.com has the Sony Reader Pocket Edition for $140 with free shipping. That’s a pretty good deal (courtesy CNet).

Playing Devil’s Advocate

Let’s take the same numbers and paint the iPad as the future of the eReader -

  1. All 1.5 million of those ebook downloads were paid books. That’s 1.5 books a month and 18 books a year. 
  2. Kindle for iPad and Kobo and other eReader Apps will add another 1.5 books a month – That’s another 18 books a year.
  3. This is just the beginning. By end of the year there will be 10 million iPads – each accounting for 36 book sales a year.

Perhaps we could go as far as claiming that people will actually read more books in later months than in their first month. Perhaps we start saying that not only will people buy books through eReader apps they will also buy individual book apps.  

It’s pretty easy to twist the numbers.

People’s Reactions

Not many people are talking about books. Nearly everyone thinks we should consider the iPad a success now.

Let’s wait till end of the year – Especially when it comes to assessing impact (or lack thereof) on the sale of eReaders.

For Apple lovers Teleread has a pretty sobering comparison -

Engadget has reported that 1.5 million ebooks were downloaded to the iPad in the first 28 days after its introduction. Wow! the press says. “It shows that the iBookstore will rule the world”.


Feedbooks distributed 2.6 million books during the same period!!

The 8:1 apps to books ratio is equally interesting. People are greatly underestimating just how difficult it is to focus on reading when you have thousands of distractions.

Is any company as full of itself as Apple?

Here’s a paragraph from Apple’s Press Release (split and highlighted by yours truly) which highlights why it’s hard for me to like the company despite them having made the iPhone -

Apple ignited the personal computer revolution with the Apple II, then reinvented the personal computer with the Macintosh. Apple continues to lead the industry with its award-winning computers, OS X operating system, and iLife, iWork and professional applications.

Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store, has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and has recently introduced its magical iPad which is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices.

This is the type of write-up professional resume writers probably dream of.

It reminds me of this billionaire in India who’s building an entire skyscraper (literally) as a house – Even after earning billions he still needs to have (and people to know he has) 3 floors of gardens and 2 swimming pools to feel good about himself.

Perhaps that’s what it is – perhaps Apple has a little bit of the nouveau riche thing going on. After all those years of losing to Microsoft they are delirious to be doing so well and can’t help releasing gaudy press releases and thrashing the very life out of words like magical and revolutionary.

Without Kindle, Kobo Apps the iPad wouldn’t be good for reading

Am in the middle of reading books on the iPad and the Kindle DX to write a review/comparison and it struck me that the iBooks app is completely unsuited to reading.

In fact iBooks almost seems to be built to discourage reading. Luckily there’s a happy ending.

Let’s start with the bad part.

Why iBooks is rather unsuitable for people who actually read

Looks Good Versus Actually Useful for Reading

Let’s categorize every eReader quality we can into one of two categories – Actually essential for reading, Looks good.

Here are some of the qualities that are essential for reading -

  1. Wide range of books.
  2. Clear, readable type.
  3. Night Mode (white text on black) for reading in the dark.
  4. Notetaking and highlights.
  5. Making the store easy to search and well-organized.

Here are some of the qualities that look very good -

  1. Color. 
  2. Fancy Page Turns.
  3. Fonts optimized to look good rather than read well.
  4. Putting Books on Virtual Wooden Book Shelves.

The iBooks app is a combination of nearly all the ‘Looks Good’ features and a handful of actually useful features.

Basically, Apple have built a reading app primarily concerned with creating the best-looking reading experience. It’s not really focused on creating the best overall reading experience.

There’s nothing wrong with it – it’s in Apple’s DNA to make design and appearance a competitive advantage and sell their products on that. However, in this case they’ve overdone it and forgotten that the core functionality is far more important than aesthetics.

Kindle for iPad and Kobo for iPad make the iPad usable as a reading device

Luckily for Apple the promise that the iPad will become an important channel means that actual readers get lots of options for reading via iPad reading apps.

While some of the problems with iBooks are unaddressable (eInk is better for reading than LCD, there are far more distractions on the iPad) other iBooks problems are addressed by the various reading apps -

  1. The 30,000 new books (30,000 out of 60,000 are public domain titles) in iBooks not getting you excited? Well, Kindle for iPad has over 450,000 new books.  
  2. The iBooks app not readable enough for you? With Kindle for iPad and Kobo you get much better formatted, much more readable font settings. You also get a Night Reading mode.
  3. Finding it hard to find books in iBooks due to the low range and awkward search? Well, go to Amazon.com and let user reviews and the recommendation engine guide you – then read on Kindle for iPad.
  4. Don’t want to get stuck with one company? There are apps from Amazon and Kobo and soon from Barnes & Noble and more.
  5. Appalled that iBooks doesn’t let you take notes? Other reading apps do.
  6. Want a format that can be read by dedicated eReaders (iPad books can’t)? Choose Kindle for iPad or go ‘half open’ and choose Kobo with Adobe DRMed ePub.
  7. Want to read PDF documents and books? Get a PDF reading app.

Apple created a really good-looking and really terrible to use app in iBooks and it’s the other reading apps that are saving the day.

This begs the instant question -

Did Amazon make a mistake by releasing Kindle for iPad?

Actually – No.

  1. An ebook sale is an ebook sale. 
  2. iPad could become an important ebook channel and it’s crucial to be a top reading app on it to cash in.
  3. If Amazon didn’t release a very good reading app (Kindle for iPad) then some other company eventually would.
  4. Kobo is pretty good and could potentially become great. B&N eReader for iPad might be very good.
  5. Every Kindle for iPad user is getting locked in to the Kindle eco-system (via book purchases).
  6. It increases the value proposition for Kindle owners.
  7. It adds to the amount of customer information Amazon have. They probably know the reading habits of iPad owners better than anyone except Apple.

Apple is in a good position – Amazon is forced to add Kindle for iPad because the channel and the user information and the sales are too important.

Why were so many reviewers praising iBooks so much?

No idea. Notice the newer reviews and reviews from actual readers – They all talk about Kindle for iPad.

If Kindle for iPad wasn’t available they would pick Kobo for iPad. You can’t really survive on iBooks – when you’re actually reading a book you don’t really care that the page turn is a fancy animation or that your library has imaginary wooden shelves.

Were the people who designed iBooks book readers?

It’s a genuine question. Not being snarky – just asking a simple question.

Take the team that designed the iBooks app. Take Steve Jobs. How much do they read?

Is iBooks what the perfect reading app looks like when it’s designed by people who don’t really read?

My guess is that Steve Jobs still feels the way he did – No one really reads any more. So he had an app created that would mollify Publishers and look very good and do a half-decent job of reading. That way Apple can target the eReader space and sell more iPads.

If iBooks doesn’t really meet the needs of actual readers it’s not an issue – other reading apps will fill in the gaps. Look at the quality of Kindle for iPad and Kobo for iPad and it’s hard to argue with Apple’s strategy.

iPad – More Reading Killer than Kindle Killer?

Paul Carr has written a beautiful post that captures exactly what Publishers and ‘iPad is a better eReader than Kindle’ ideologists are refusing to see.

Paul Carr points out that the iPad is a Reading Killer

Here is the logical progression of the article -

  1. iPad is a Kindle Killer – in the title. 

    I Admit It, The iPad Is A Kindle Killer. I Just Wish It Weren’t Going To Kill Reading Too

  2. iPad is not a good way to read books. At this point we probably lose some of the fanatical iPad supporters. This Paul Carr paragraph is very politically incorrect and also a perfect description of non-readers under the delusion that they are the target market for eReaders -

    The iPad is emphatically not a serious readers’ device: the only people who would genuinely consider it a Kindle killer are those for whom the idea of reading for pleasure died years ago; if it was ever alive.

    The people who will spout bullshit like “I read on screen all day” when what they really mean is “I read the first three paragraphs of the New York Times article I saw linked on Twitter before retweeting it; and then I repeat that process for the next eight hours while pretending to work.”

    That’s reading in the way that rubbing against women on the subway is sex

  3. iPad is a beautiful device for almost everything else. It’s perfect for newspapers and email and browsing and movies and games.
  4. iPad will become the one device people carry with them. Casual readers will be buying iPads and Tablets instead of Kindles and eReaders -

    Sales of ebooks soared as first early adopters, then everyone else, left their paper books at home and started carrying around something smaller and lighter that still gave them access to their reading material.

    Those same people are now the ones who will buy iPads, or presumably any one of the myriad alternatives that will soon be flooding the market

  5. On the iPad books compete with all other forms of entertainment. On the iPad there are constant distractions. 

    Even for those who love books enough to persevere with reading without e-ink will soon face another problem with the awesomeness of the iPad. The device does so many different things so well that there’s a constant urge when you’re using one to do something else.

  6. iPad will end up killing the concept of reading for pleasure for a lot of casual readers.

It really is an excellent article and the comments illustrate both pro-Kindle and anti-Kindle beliefs beautifully. Here’s my favorite -

Maybe we will evolve to read well under iPad conditions?

iPad is a Reading Killer and not a Kindle Killer

First, iPad is not going to kill the Kindle because if you love to read you’re going to prefer the Kindle. Even if you choose to go for reading on the iPhone or on the iPad it won’t take long before you realize that it’s not that easy to focus on reading - Then you come back to the Kindle or Nook or Sony Reader.

For me, despite preferring reading over wasting time, it’s been 150+ hours of games on the iPhone in 6 months versus 25 hours of reading on the iPhone. In my first week with the iPad am only 80% through one book (with the Nook it was 2 books in the first week).

There will obviously be a lot of casual readers who are lost forever – However, they are the 80% that only account for 20% of sales. Our concern should be much more about the 20% of dedicated readers that are getting abused by the Agency Model and other artificial restrictions.

Second, iPad is going to kill the concept of reading for pleasure for a lot of casual readers. Here’s why -

  1. By promoting the iPad and pushing wrong notions (that the iPad is an eReader, that LCD is as good as eInk) the Press are taking even people who wanted to buy an eReader and feeding them a device that is better suited for every other form of entertainment.
  2. Everyone is confusing ‘you can read on this device’ with ‘you will actually read on this device’.
  3. With its rich color screen, 9.7″ screen, and good video support the iPad is much better suited to TV and Movies and YouTube than books.
  4. It’s amazingly well suited to casual games and casual game makers are amazingly adept at tapping human psychology and relentlessly improving value for money. Publishers are very good at messing up exactly those two things. 
  5. It’s just not the sort of device suited for 3 to 4 hours of reading at a stretch and for shorter time periods you have very competitive offerings – casual games, serious games, apps of all sorts, movies, surfing, and more.

Note that we’re saying ‘a lot’ and not all. There will be people who will read ‘more’ on their iPad then they did before – Our argument is that for most readers owning an eReader leads to much more reading than owning an iPhone or an iPad.

If the ‘iPad is a better eReader than Kindle’ ideologists think about it even they will admit that no matter how much better they think the iPad is for reading they read less than someone who owns a Kindle – they read less because they are busy doing magical things like watching movies and playing games on their iPad while we Kindle owners are doing our non-magical reading.

Why Non-Readers and the Press are pushing iPad as an eReader

We’re taking a lot of different people with a lot of different motivations and assuming they are all ‘people who actually read books’. Let’s consider 5 categories of people -

  1. People who love to read and read a lot.
  2. People who have reading as a top 3 interest and read often enough to want a device they can read very well on.
  3. People who read once in a while and want a device they can read on in addition to doing things that they do more often. 
  4. People who like to think they read and want to have a device they can read their Flavor of the Year book on every year.
  5. People who don’t really read and want people who read to stop reading – because they don’t understand why anyone would read.

The last 3 categories of people are not readers. For them an iPad really is the perfect reading device because its unsuitability for reading and lack of focus on reading matches the low importance reading has in their lives. Yet we are assuming that their advice applies to actual readers.

There’s also a strange discrimination – For some unfathomable reason the 5th category of people aren’t just satisfied to get a device that suits their needs. For them, it’s imperative that they be able to claim some sort of superiority – that they possess a device that validates their existence while all readers have is a device to read books on.

Non-readers are pushing iPad as an eReader so much because it matches their cognitive model of reading as something that’s done once every 3 months (or perhaps for 5 minutes a day in between checking other stuff).

Why the Press are embracing the concept of iPad as eReaders

There have been three distinct waves of iPad reviews -

  1. Wave 1 were the privileged few who praised it to the skies – not mentioning portability, range of books (no one mentioned that only 30,000 non-public domain books were available), and lack of readability in sunlight. 
  2. Wave 2 were the main-stream press that fell all over themselves talking about the revolution and the magic. 
  3. Wave 3 are a mixed group – We’re finally getting negative reviews and reports of people returning their iPads and Paul Carr pointing out that it’s pretty much an anti-eReader. 

It’s only in the third wave that we’re getting some semblance of honesty. For people in the first 2 waves their jobs, their world-view, and their careers depend on the iPad saving newspapers.

That’s why Andy Ihnatko managed to see his iPad screen perfectly in sunlight and why most of the people in the first two waves proclaimed the iPad as better for reading than the Kindle without ever having read a book on the Kindle.

The Reality Distortion Field can’t last forever – Reality Always Wins

The funny thing about reality is that no matter how much you try to distort it it doesn’t change -

  1. There can be 100 people commenting about how reading on LCDs causes no eye-strain. If you’re not a LCD-resistant human then your eyes still hurt. 
  2. A thousand people who don’t read can shout and scream that eReaders aren’t worth more than $50. For people who read they’re still priceless.
  3. Every biased reviewer can claim that the iPad is readable in sunlight and the weight doesn’t make a difference. The screen is still unreadable in sunlight and your hands still hurt.
  4. You can pretend there are no distractions on the iPad. The new, hot game and email and that new release on NetFlix are still going to be calling your name. 
  5. Steve Jobs can talk about 600,000 book downloads on the first day – That doesn’t change that not much reading is going to be done on the iPad.
  6. Publishers can hate Amazon as much as they want. Kindle for iPad is still going to sell more ebooks than any other app.

And, of course, if you don’t read a lot and aren’t looking for a device that is specialized for reading then the last thing you should do is listen to, or care for the opinion of, a blog focused on dedicated eReaders and dedicated readers.

iPad Mini vs Kindle? 5″ to 7″ $350 iPad Mini in Q1, 2011

We might see a new battle, iPad Mini vs Kindle, early next year. Digitimes senior analyst Mingchi Kuo says Apple is working on a 5″ to 7″ iPad, the iPad Mini, that will launch as early as Q1, 2011 -

Apple is reportedly scheduling a smaller 5- to 7-inch version of the iPad that is expected to launch as soon as the first quarter of 2011, according to Digitimes Research senior analyst Mingchi Kuo.

Kuo, citing talks with upstream component sources, said Apple’s smaller-size iPad will be priced below US$400 and will target the highly portable mobile device market and consumers that focus mainly on reading and do not have a high demand for text input.

The next time Steve Jobs says a market doesn’t exist or that Apple is not interested you can pretty much assume it’s code for ‘We have a 5 year plan to try to take it over’.

iPad Mini vs Kindle – What impact would it have?

Well, it seems like it’s an attempt to -

  1. Fill the gap in screen size between the iPhone and the iPad. Of course, we don’t know if it’s a gap that needs to be filled.
  2. Make something that is more portable than the iPad and still has decent screen size.
  3. Take on the 6″ dedicated eReaders.
  4. Take on the 5″ and 6″ tablets like the Dell Streak (it’s 5″).

Most of all, though, it seems to be an attempt to go after reading. If Mr. Mingchi Kuo is right, and he probably is, then Apple is making the iPad Mini more focused on reading and that would certainly indicate it’s going after the eReader market.

Do check out Mingchi Kuo’s estimates on eReader sales for 2010 and beyond.

In terms of the impact of the iPad Mini, there would be positives -

  1. The competition would push eReader companies and hopefully we would finally get color eInk devices. 
  2. The pace of innovation required to compete would go up – it would kill some companies and others would become much more nimble and innovative. 
  3. eReader Prices would come down.
  4. There is a slight chance that Kindle etc. become more open. At the minimum you could read books across one more device.
  5. There is a slight chance ebook prices would come down as companies might decide to go back to competing on ebook prices.

There would also be negatives -

  1. Actual reading will probably go down if the winner is a device you can do a billion things on. 
  2. There will be a lot of false press on benefits of the iPad Mini pretending that its features are ideal for reading even when they’re not (LCD > eInk, multitasking > unitasking) and that might confuse users. 
  3. There would be a proliferation of different formats.

Do think that the positives outweight the negatives.

iPad Mini vs Kindle – Would a sub $400 iPad Mini hurt Kindle Sales?

For all the talk of the iPad killing Kindle sales we have a huge price difference i.e. the iPad starts at $499 and the Kindle is just $259 including a free 3G connection to the Kindle Store and the Internet (very basic browser) and Wikipedia.

With a sub $400 iPad – perhaps one at $350 or even $300 – Apple would certainly have a very competitive offering.

Areas the $259 Kindle would be better

These are just some of the obvious advantages Kindle would have in iPad Mini vs Kindle –  

  1. Price – Kindle would still be cheaper.
  2. Free Internet.
  3. eInk screen is better for reading (to be more accurate – for people who don’t get tired reading on LCD screens).
  4. Readable in sunlight.
  5. It would probably be lighter.
  6. Kindle App Store and hopefully some killer apps.
  7. Better range of books. Better Prices. This is actually negated since the iPad Mini would have Kindle for iPad.

By Q1, 2011 we should definitely see the Kindle 3 so we might see more features like a touchscreen, perhaps a color eInk screen, and perhaps an unbreakable screen.

iPad Mini vs Kindle – Areas the $350 iPad Mini might win

Some of the iPad Mini’s advantages –  

  1. iPad Mini would have a color screen.
  2. You could do more than just read – if you are so inclined.
  3. There would be some killer apps based on all the work being done for the current iPad.
  4. Apple would have had a chance to work on feedback and the iPad Mini would be better than the iPad. 
  5. Users would be using WiFi or getting a 3G plan so there would not be bandwidth restrictions on Apps.
  6. There would be a full-blown browser.
  7. iPhone Apps might look quite alright on a 5″ to 7″ screen and might be quite usable.
  8. Apple is probably going to figure out some devilishly smart way to sell the iPad Mini – though hopefully it isn’t anything like the overplayed ‘I’m a Mac’ series of ads.

Kindle and the iPad Mini might end up being the top 2 reading devices

Not necessarily in that order. 

The iPad is still too heavy and awkward and expensive to compete to be the top eReader. A $350 or $300 iPad Mini would be portable enough and light enough and cheap enough to take on the $259 eReaders. It’ll definitely be a compelling proposition – a device on which you can do everything.

That also highlights the downside – How much would people actually read on it?

However, no one factors that in during the purchase. When the purchase decision is being made users think about value for money and appeal and fit with what they intend to use the device for. The Kindle and dedicated eReaders might be the best fit for reading but they would lose badly on value for money (or perceived value for money) and on sex appeal (we can be sure Apple will figure out a way to paint the iPad Mini as the new future of computing).

Evolution at its best – The Kindle and dedicated eReaders have a year to get color and cut prices and amp up their sex appeal. If not, the iPad Mini vs Kindle battle will be a massacre.

Thoughts on Killer Apps, Kindle for iPad, and the iPad

Spent the better part of three hours browsing through every single section of the iPad App Store and trying out Apps and realized what people mean when they say the success of the iPad will depend on the creation of Killer Apps.

Update: Jon Gruber has his iPad review out and he says the Killer App for the iPad is the App Store. Well, that’s a rather unsatisfying answer.

There aren’t yet that many Killer Apps for the iPad

Went through the top 100 paid and free iPad apps in each category and for some categories (productivity, books) went through all apps. There just aren’t enough killer apps at the moment.

Take games – perhaps the future of games is casual games and anti-social games like Farmville. However, there’s nothing like Bioshock or Fallout 3 or Halo for the iPad. There’s not even a Zelda or Mario Brothers equivalent (i.e. no 2D masterpiece).

There is no iPad game that would make me buy the iPad just to be able to play that game.

How do we define a Killer App?

Wikipedia defines it thus -

A killer application (commonly shortened to killer app), in the jargon of computer programmers and video gamers, has been used to refer to any computer program that is so necessary or desirable that it proves the core value of some larger technology, such as computer hardware like a gaming console, operating system or other software.

A killer app can substantially increase sales of the platform on which it runs.

We’ll just take it to be an App that possesses most of the following qualities -

  1. It’s so useful or desirable that it justifies the purchase of the platform.
  2. It’s so useful or desirable that it makes the device indispensable.
  3. It’s ideally suited to the platform. 
  4. It’s not available on another equally good device or platform. 

With these dual definitions in hand let’s look at the iPad.

What Apps might become the iPad’s Killer Apps?

Here are some apps you could argue have the potential to be killer apps -

  1. Kindle for iPad. Arguably the best reading app.
  2. Netflix for movie rentals.  
  3. Apple’s Videos App that plays Movies.
  4. ABC Videos for TV Shows.
  5. YouTube.
  6. Photo Apps and Slideshow Apps like Beautiful Planet. This might sound strange – However, viewing photos, navigating maps, and watching video are currently the frontrunners for Killer functionality on the iPad.
  7. Maps.
  8. Marvel Comics App and other comic reader apps. Comics are very well suited to the iPad.
  9. PDF Reader Apps like GoodReader and iPDF. Haven’t tested these enough yet.
  10. Journal and Diary Apps like iJournal and Notably.
  11. News Apps like WSJ, BBC News, and Reuters.
  12. File Sharing Apps like Box.net.
  13. Phone Apps like Skype and Second Line.

The only things that scream out as me as ‘killer apps – nothing’s better than the iPad for this’ are viewing photos and navigating maps. The things that come close are reading comics and watching videos. Surfing and News are pretty good too.

For casual readers Kindle for iPad might be a killer app – it’s pretty well done. The LCD doesn’t work for me (was reading MetaGame on iPad and 15 minutes in could tell it’s hurting my eyes). More on Kindle for iPad after reading some books on it.

At the moment there isn’t anything that makes the iPad a must-have (for me). It is easy to see it as the Kitchen Tablet or Living Room Tablet once it drops to $300 or so in price.

There’s a chance you have specific interests and the apps in your areas of interest are good enough to make the iPad indispensable. However, we might not be at that stage yet – It’s still an emerging platform. 

There just aren’t enough users or enough competition to generate Killer Apps 

If we don’t have Killer Apps then we need the conditions that would create Killer Apps -

  1. Lots of very good apps.
  2. Promise of large rewards for which we need lots of users. 
  3. Brutal competition.
  4. Developers concentrating on development for the iPad. 

That’s just missing.

The problem is exacerbated by iPhone Apps. You don’t really get the 150,000 iPhone apps automatically for the iPad.

An iPhone App is not an iPad App

The first shock after using an iPhone App on the iPad is just how small it is and just how bad it looks when blown up to large size.

In plain English iPhone apps use 25% or so of the iPad’s screen in normal mode and are difficult to use.

From Pindelski’s post on iPad screen ratios we know that the iPad’s screen is 8.4 times the size of the iPhone’s screen. The iPad uses a slightly larger screen to emulate iPhone Apps (approximately 1.25 times larger). That means that the ratio of iPad screen area to emulated iPhone App area is approximately 6.7:1. These are just approximations so feel free to add any insights or information.

If you blow up the App it seems to use 85% of the iPad’s screen – However, it looks rather bad due to the pixels being scaled up.

That means iPhone apps are either difficult to use (in normal iPhone size) or not visually appealing (in doubled size).

We don’t know if enough Developers will commit to the iPad and the iPhone becomes a rival

Why will developers choose a platform with 300K sales so far and perhaps a few million sales in the first year over a platform that is in the tens of millions of units range already?

Why will developers choose to create Apps for the iPad when iPhone Apps are making good money?

There seem to be a few carrots dangled in front of them -

  1. iPad users might pay more for Apps. You see this from the prices which are almost always noticeably higher for the iPad versions of Apps – tag on HD and add $5 to the price. 
  2. Get an early foothold.
  3. Less competition.
  4. It’s an emerging platform and it’ll grow.

Well, there are also several negatives – People might not pay $7 to $10 for games, it’s pretty closed, iPad sales figures might not be enough to sustain quality app development, and the presence of free apps (to be fair this is very low - only 20% of iPad apps are free).

Perhaps the biggest problem is that the iPhone  is a much more compelling platform (and Android is threatening to become compelling). At least we know that lots of developers are seeing success in the iPhone App Store.

Apple needs to ignite the creation of Killer Apps

Steve Jobs’ Reality Distortion Field and the fawning press managed to get a ton of interest in iPad App creation. Apple also managed to get lots of content companies aboard by promising them a monetizable channel – ABC, Netflix, the newspapers, and the magazines.

Book Publishers probably jumped in due to the promise of the Agency Model.

However, now that we know that sales were 300,000 at launch (and not something amazing like a million) developers are hit with some realities -

  1. 300,000 users (or say 1 million after iPad 3G comes out) are nothing compared to the iPhone’s numbers.
  2. It might be a year or more until the iPad market size is big enough. 
  3. The reward might not be proportionate to the effort in creating iPad apps (not to mention taking on all the competition).

The other vital component, users, are also running into some doubts.

It’s not clear what the iPad’s raison d’être is

Why is it magical? What makes it revolutionary?

What is it meant for?

People just make the assumption that because 20 million netbooks were sold last year 10 million iPads will be sold this year. On what basis?

Netbooks had price, portability, and battery life in their camp. Compare them with laptops and there was a huge difference in value for money.

Perhaps the iPad does beat netbooks. However, the difference between iPad and netbooks is not as stark as the difference between netbooks and laptops. Plus we’re in tough economic times – a factor that favors netbooks over the iPad.

Even if we assume the iPad is better than netbooks it isn’t guaranteed to take off like netbooks did.

Apple need to help create apps that make the iPad ‘magical’ and ‘revolutionary’

Apple can’t just assume developers will fulfill Apple’s marketing promise of a ‘magical and revolutionary’ device.

Especially since app developers have alternative options that are much more compelling - for example, the iPhone.

Apple probably will have to start financial awards or an iPad App Funding program to help generate the killer apps the iPad needs to get to 5 to 10 million units sold. At that point there will be enough of a customer base (and a big enough potential reward) to ensure a steady stream of killer apps.

There have been no announcements of instant iPad millionaires and there may not be any for a while.

How then does the iPad compete with the iPhone’s promise of overnight millions?

The likely scenario is it doesn’t for a year or more. Perhaps never.

It’s amusing to think that the biggest roadblock in the iPad’s path to success is the extreme appeal of developing apps for the iPhone.


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