Apple’s frenzy-inducing launches and saturation marketing are usually backed with equally innovative and satisfying products. Like the married couple (or LeBron James, Tiger Woods) Apple somehow lives up to the hype when it’s show time. It may take awhile to work out the kinks (supply, pricing, etc.) but eventually the products become category kings, if not killers. While there have been notable commercial failures (Newton, Apple TV), Apple’s track record speaks for itself.
So assuming the product delivers on many of the expectations, what does Apple need to do on the marketing front to break through the noise and hype (along with a couple predictions):
1. Overcome tablet inertia immediately.
Apple needs to overcome a significant marketing challenge; what I call “tablet inertia”. Two decades of failed attempts to create a mainstream commercial category for tablets has cast a pall over the entire idea of tablet computing.
When I think tablet, two images come to mind: a) a guy in an dusty warehouse taking inventory and b) Bill Gates on stage in full geek mode trumpeting tablet PCs as the wave of the future (feel free to substitute any number of others gurus making the same claim).
Quickly and decisively, Apple must cut through the years of inertia, and they should start by avoiding even using the word “tablet” during the announcement. Just stay away.
They will succeed with the tablet now because the technology they have is proven and they (and they alone) have enough stored brand equity from iPod and iPhone that the masses will listen and will think differently about a tablet-like device. What is an iPhone if not a small tablet computer? People get it. Apple primed the market with iPhone, proving the mass appeal of the technology while overcoming the biggest problem plaguing tablet pc acceptance – the UI. They largely solved that with iPhone, and the iPad will expand on the interface in ways that we probably can’t imagine. And because it’s Apple, it will work and we will embrace it.
Legions of developers and fans will create a new Pad Economy which will bring about a renaissance in mobile computing. In fact, they will generate a new form of inertia because once a body at rest is launched forward – to paraphrase, “an iPad in motion will remain in motion until acted upon by an outside force”. And they will be operating in a vacuum for awhile.
2. Launch a Killer App (or two)
After positioning iPad as a new form of mobile computing device (not a tablet), they will need to demonstrate a killer app that will put it in context for people immediately. The device will do everything from phone to music to maps, however it needs to immediately solve some real problem, preferably a new problem, in a way that is uniquely Apple (read simple and sexy with mass appeal). Apple needs to focus on one or two really cool uses that people will be buzzing about.
I read two quotes attributed to Steve Jobs recently, that could provide clues as to the direction of those apps.
“This will be the most important think I’ve ever done.” (Referring to the iPad.)
“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore." (Exlaining why he thinks Kindle will not ultimately succeed).Clearly, Jobs is not backing away from the hype, so he must feel that the iPad will be massively impactful and have mass appeal (not niche). Apple likes to play in the largest playgrounds. So, when considering the media and technology landscape, what’s bigger than what Apple has already conquered (music, traditional computing, and telecommunications)? And put another way, if people don’t read, what do they do? They watch television. And movies. At home. And they surf the web and listen to music and (fill in the blank) while they watch them.
The web-TV integration revolution is in many ways the holy grail, and why wouldn’t the Jesus tablet deliver it? In one swoop, Apple can avenge two of its biggest failures – Apple TV (iTV) and Newton (MessagePad). With all the talk of saving print media (magazines and newspapers on iPad), I'm surprised people aren't really talking about game-changing television applications for the device. And there are a lot of product/service categories covering this type of integration filed in the trademark for the name iPad.
The iPad could be an ideal platform for a kind of universal remote for your personal media experience. Video chat on iPad with others watching the same show or game on TV, play music through your wireless speakers, while you surf the web in your living room. Download music and videos on demand and play them on the iPad or on your 55 inch flatscreen, up to you. See Snooki at the club on TV and be presented a link to buy the dress she's wearing on your iPad (ok, we’ll draw the line there). Integration with a next generation Apple TV device as well as cable and satellite set top boxes, would give you ultimate control of your household media experience. Movies, music, TV – all on demand, and the iPad is your mobile control panel.
Yes, there will be thousands of really cool apps that will do things we can only dream about now. But to have the impact Jobs is referring to, without cannibalizing their other product lines, they need to figure out a new way to allow people to interact with their media and the web - and it seems the only place left is the living room, which is dominated for better or worse by the TV. There have been lots of attempts to make the tv/web integration a reality, but my money is on Apple to perfect the experience the same way they perfected the mp3 player and the phone. It’s the final frontier and I feel it coming.
Here are a couple additional predictions:
iGuide: Software for the iPad that makes it a universal remote for all the world’s media (or at least yours). Works with set top boxes and ties into Apple TV for full internet/TV experience, iTunes, movie downloads, app store, uh, and everything else.
iFrame: A new drawing and painting software. Turns the touch screen into a canvas. Brush stylus creates lifelike strokes. iFrame also turns iPad into an e-frame for photos and artwork (famous and user-generated), while the iPad charges on an easel dock on your coffee table. This could be why the Apple invitation was designed the way it was with paint splotches. Side note: why would Eli Wilner, a renowned frame maker for the White House, file a trademark the name iFrame in December 2009 covering software for a mobile phone and handheld computer? Seems fishy.