Thursday, April 7, 2011

Why Were the Experts so Wrong about the iPad 2?

Right before the iPad 2 hit the stores March 11th most pundits said it was no big deal - a minor upgrade - and thought the demand would not rival the first version that came out eleven months earlier. They could not have been more wrong. Not only did the first shipments sell out within hours but there have been lines of people every morning at every Apple store waiting with baited breath for the next truck. How could the experts have been so wrong?

They tend to overestimate the interest and knowledge of the general public. They believe everyone has the time and inclination to hang on every tweet from every tech vendor and writer. Surprise, surprise most people have real jobs and a variety of interests besides computers. In spite of all the hype about the first iPad a year ago, few people really knew much about it on day one - from the basics of how would it actually work to the more important "is it really suitable for business?" Questions like these prevented the vast majority of people from purchasing the first iPad early in the cycle.

Along the way, three things happened. First, the positive reviews came in and the early adopters showed theirs off to anyone they could corner - friends and coworkers alike. This created the buzz and the associated "cool factor." Next, businesses began to experiment and found that it really was appropriate for many tasks involving their mobile workforce - storage of sales and technical documents for example. Finally, at the end of 2010 many people who decided to buy were advised to wait because the next version would have a camera - or maybe two cameras.

Consequently, when the iPad 2 became available there was a huge demand in spite of the experts suggestion that it was not a major improvement over the original. When you think about it, what would the "experts" have required for a major improvement? It is unlikely in my opinion that any new tablet from any vendor will be considered a major advance over the preceding tablet. Just like the succession of PCs over the last thirty years, each one will be a little faster or have a slightly better screen or camera. The fact that tablets are primarily touch screens with a processor and solid state storage makes improvements primarily a matter of new and upgraded apps. There's not much you can do with the basic tablet slab except speed it up and add a new I/O port or button. I certainly am not saying there will not be better tablets in the future; I'm just suggesting that few new versions will be considered major leaps forward.