The iPad is about upping the amount of good intent

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?

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.

iPad – Future of Computing vs Best Coffee Table Book Ever

The iPad sits in front of me looking back at me in its inimitable style.

The LCD touchscreen, all-in-one computer behind it stoically wonders about my committment. The IPS LCD monitor to the left is also lost in thought – comfortable in its status as best looking display it never thought it would run into a screen that had both IPS and touch.

To the left are a Kindle DX, a Sony Reader, and a Nook. All three of them look up expectantly – the same worried look a young child has on the first day of school – Will my parents forget me and never come back?

The iPad as the Future of Computing

John Doerr was a VC investor in Amazon, Google, Compaq, Netscape, Symantec, Sun, Intuit, and Friendster. He has a $100 million iFund which invests in companies making iPhone Apps and he considers the iPhone to be ‘the next PC’.

He’s written about the iPad at Techcrunch in a post titled The Next Big Thing. He feels the iPad is the 90s all over again (Netscape, Amazon, eBay, Google, etc.). He believes so strongly in it he actually made a power point presentation. Here’s a transcribed slide -

Old World                       New World

Windows GUI                Touch

Point and click              Swoosh of Fluidity

Artificial, Indirect            Direct, Natural

WYSIWYG                      WYTIWis

Mouse                             Magic

That slide does not stand alone. We are also gifted with an explanation -

  • From the Old World of the traditional, tired window interfaces… to the wonderful new world of TOUCH.
  • From the Old World of Point and Click to the new SWOOSH of Fluidity.
  • Instead of old, artificial, indirect interfaces, the iPad is direct and NATURAL.
  • Instead of WYSIWyg – what you see is what you get – it is WYTIWis. What You Touch… IS what IS.
  • Instead of holding a MOUSE, you’re holding MAGIC.
  • If the iPad really is the Future of Computing, for the love of God, PLEASE stop talking it up to unrealistic levels

    Here’s the truth – The iPad is a good device. It really is a larger iPod Touch and it does some things amazingly well. It’s also not the ‘ready to transform everything’ device that John Doerr and Steve Jobs are claiming it is.

    Every time they oversell it they raise expectations and we might soon have people going in expecting the iPad to be Che Guevara and Simon Bolivar rolled into one.  

    Things that give the iPad a chance to be something special down the line

    In 2 to 3 generations (of the iPad) the iPad could definitely be something special. It still won’t be the messiah for computers it’s being painted as but it’ll be very important. Here’s why -

    1. It makes things painfully easy.  
    2. It really is beautiful and fun to use.
    3. It does some things very well – surfing, email, watching movies, playing casual games.
    4. The Apple people are going to buy it in droves and help bring economies of scale into play.
    5. Sooner or later the Tablet paradigm will have a decent shot at going mainstream – Chances are Apple will be best placed because of their marketing and psychological advantages combined with the quality of their products. 

    Why is everyone overestimating what the iPad has done so far?

    Perhaps because we haven’t had anything huge happen for a long time.

    Apple brings out the iPad and an industry starved for a product that fits their model of ‘innovation’ jumps at it. To the point that they forget that lots of companies have tried tablets in the past. History is written by the victors so you can be sure if the iPad is a success Steve Jobs will be credited with dreaming up the Tablet concept.

    There’s another possibility we’ll discuss in the third section.

    What if the iPad really is the future of computing?

    Good for Apple. Good for all the Apple supporters.

    They seem to really believe the iPad is a revolution while most other people don’t really care – Perhaps if the iPad really does revolutionize computing and find its way into each home the Press will stop writing about it and spare us.

    The iPad as Best Coffee Table Book ever

    The strongest use case for the iPad is as a device that’s lying around the house and which people can just pick up to amuse themselves -

    1. Watch YouTube videos in the living room.
    2. Check recipes in the Kitchen.
    3. Take to bed and read a book.
    4. Put up as a photo frame in the living room.
    5. Check email quickly before dinner.

    Not sure if that’s revolutionary - However, it’s certainly helpful.

    There’s value in being the Entertainment device – But is there a revolution?

    A revolution is something that changes things for the better. Hopefully that’s what we mean by revolution.

    1. How is it a revolution if people start doing more of consuming and less of creating?
    2. How is it a revolution if everything flows through Apple’s closed eco-system where book descriptions are censored because Apple didn’t like certain words?
    3. How is it a revolution if the only way to connect the device to other things is via Apple accessories?
    4. How is it a revolution if iPad Apps cost $5 or more than the corresponding iPhone Apps?

    The iPad isn’t making people more independent or better aware of their choices or even getting them to read more and become smarter. It’s turning them into consumers and buyers.

    The iPad as screening device for people willing to pay for content and become consumers

    Here’s the real revolution the iPad is creating -

    1. TV turned people into consumers.
    2. The Internet threatens to turn consumers back into people who think for themselves. 
    3. Rather conveniently we’ve had a recession so consumers are morphing into savers (in addition to learning to think for themselves).
    4. Apple’s products are crucial because they encourage the consumerism mentality and turn people back into consumers. 
    5. The iPad is a really good test – Not only is the device more expensive, the content is more expensive too.

    To top it all off the iPad makes creation and inventive thinking and freedom difficult – There’s nothing you can do on the device except what Apple and Content creators want you to do.

    • It’s not very convenient for writing a lot or for working. 
    • It’s not open or interoperable so you’re not going to be able to play around with things. 
    • There isn’t very much active thinking left.

    All that’s left is to consume – buy and play mindless games, buy and listen to music, watch TV, watch YouTube, and entertain yourself.

    iPad as a consumer creating machine

    Here are the pluses everyone fixates on -

    1. People want their machines to be simple and Apple makes simple machines.
    2. People want pretty things and Apple products are free.
    3. People want to have to not worry about understanding things. Exactly what Apple facilitates.

    However, we also get the creation of helpless consumers -

    1. Do people really want their computers to be completely controlled? No, but they go along with it.
    2. Do people want to do less creating and less active participation? No, but the devices are tailored for consumption and not creation.
    3. Do people want to get locked in? No, but they like the products enough to get locked in.
    4. Do people want to have no idea of how things work? Perhaps.
    5. Are people happy to be spoonfed? Perhaps.

    If you were to design a device that reduced how much content creation and free thinking people did and encouraged them to focus on consuming – the iPad and iPhone are pretty close to what you’d get.

    Perhaps some portion of people are meant to be consumers?

    There is no good and evil here. People are happily turning themselves back into consumers. Good for them.

    It’s hard to walk away -

    • TV is so much more exciting than writing something yourself.
    • Playing a virtual game is so much easier than exercising or actually going out and throwing a ball around.
    • Browsing Facebook and playing social games is so much easier than actually talking to real people and making friends.

    25 years of training and a culture of consumerism since the 1950s (introduced by TV advertising) isn’t going to go away just because of one recession. There is bound to be a segment of the population that prefers to live their lives as consumers and there’s nothing wrong with it.

    It’s just misdirection to call it a revolution. The iPad is not the invention of the personal computer or the invention of the wheel or the invention of penicillin. It’s just a really smart device to get people to focus on buying and consuming content.

    How about some real revolutionary technology?

    Here are a few things the press don’t write enough about -

    1. The independent space companies like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin. 
    2. The solar power companies and other new energy technologies like Bloom Energy’s Fuel Cell. 
    3. Advances in Clean Water.
    4. Things like nanotechnology and genetics. 

    It’s hard to look for real revolution when your thoughts are clouded by worries about your immediate survival. That’s why the Press find the iPad so revolutionary – for them it is. For all of us it’s just a really good technology to embrace consumerism again.

    Epilogue

    My main computer represents work and the eReaders represent positive entertainment – perhaps even entertainment that makes me smarter. 

    Their worries and concerns are misplaced. A device built to pass the time is not a threat to my love for them.

    People will be up in arms at my classifying the iPad as mindless, time-pass entertainment. For me it is. 

    It’s a great device - However, the iPad is focused on getting me to part with my money in return for things that mostly waste my time. Perhaps life is a spectator sport – perhaps playing ‘social’ games on the iPad and watching movies and browsing YouTube and Facebook is worth more than going into the real world and creating real things.

    The App Store is this direct channel where hundreds of thousands of people are dying to waste a few hours of my time - just so they can get a few dollars for their app. That’s what YouTube is too – A contest - How many people’s time can you waste?

    That’s why the iPad doesn’t have a camera – there’s no money in letting people take their own photos. They’re supposed to let some fashion and lifestyle magazine show them photos of a life or body they can aspire to instead of living their own.

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