Apple iPad: will it be a success or a flop?

Apple-iPad-MosesThe new iPad. Will it be a success? Will it be a flop? Why people complain about it? Is it worth to get my apps optimized for the iPad? What if it will be a huge flop?

Continue reading to find out.

Great expectations and a bit too much excitement.

The first iPod Touch was an iPod with a larger screen, a cool interface and less then half the space for music and videos that you could get for the same price by purchasing another iPod model. The device missed some key features, like a speaker and a microphone, and could not run any other app then the ones that came pre-installed. Still, it sold enough thanks to the traction and the hype around the iPhone.

The iPhone became a revolutionary smartphone, and more importantly a status symbol. This drove the sales in US and internationally. The iPod Touch has been selling thanks to the “classic” iPod success and to the iPhone success. It’s a hybrid that gets you the coolest things of both worlds: it’s a portable music player that is also a console that also runs apps and it’s part of that status symbol ecosystem.

The iPhone and iPod Touch came to the market as unexpected magic devices. They marked the long awaited return of Apple to handheld devices. They represented a milestone in the company history and a revolution of the smartphones market. I still remember the parody of Steve Jobs iPhone presentation keynote with people being thrilled by its “scrolling” capabilities. It says a lot about the perception people had of the devices at that time.

Now we got used to that magic, and while Steve Jobs tried it again, that alone was not enough to get the audience screaming in admiration. And a part of the reason was the expectations were too high. Jobs cited the Wall Street Journal during the presentation: “Last time there was this much excitement about a tablet, it had some commandments written on it”.

People expected the Apple Tablet to have and to be something more and they expected to see all this on Wednesday. Instead, they only saw a larger, more powerful iPod Touch with a gorgeous look and feel that won’t fit your pocket. People complained of a number of things like the lack of a camera, a USB port, a full multi-tasking OS that runs more then one app at a time, and people complained about the cost. Apple’s CEO also mentioned you really get what this is all about when you try the iPad hands-on. Trying this out at the event must have been painful. Not much of the “intimate” experience Jobs pictured with his coach and a small table on the stage scene could be recreated at the crowded tables during the hands-on session.

I won’t dig into answering to the expectations, I’m just going to point out that the camera probably didn’t fit in the cost and manufacturing process much like it happened in the latest iPod Touch revision. As for the price… we always complain about Apple’s hardware cost, but in the end we always purchase it anyway.

Great potential still to be unleashed.

The second generation iPod Touch had a lot more sense. It really was the complete platform without the phone features, and at the time the new revision came out, a real platform actually existed. The iPod Touch was not intended to become a gaming device, instead, it successfully got into the portable console market and started eroding Nintendo and Sony user base while building a generation of Apple-aware teens that will eventually purchase an iPhone in a few years.

What about the iPad? As I look at this new Tablet device and project myself in a futuristic environment, I see tons of cool usage scenarios for it. Some of these scenarios are a bit unrealistic. Someone will surely use the iPad for things like restaurant reservations management or to replace a PDA for physical personal assistants or to do on-field data entry in medical, industrial and sports fields… however, I doubt this will create enough market to keep the product alive and evolving. This is why Apple is once again betting on individuals (and families). Jobs referred to the iPad being “sitting in the kitchen”, which makes a picture of a family device — that goes along with devices like the TV Home Theatre set and the gaming console (usually one per family) — that, as a plus, you can carry around in your home and with you on long travels.

I have my doubts, but I see the potential of this device in revolutionizing some aspects of our everyday work and life. In my opinion the great potential of the device will really be unleashed by third parties: software developers and accessory developers. I can see the iPad to be used in all those scenarios in which an iPod Touch would have been too small and too weak. For this reason, I think the device success will be tied to how much third parties will be available to risk and bet on the iPad.

Will it succeed? Will it be a flop?

Wall Street sales predictions range from 1 million to 4 million in the first year, with potential for growth even further as the market expands and further iterations of the product improve. In other words: will it sell more then all other eBook readers? Yes it will. And that will be what we’ll be seeing in charts next time Steve will show us a pie chart of the market share. Will it sell as much as the iPod Touch? Very unlikely.

Why should I get my apps optimized for the iPad?
The easy answer is: because it’s worth it and it brings the mobile experience to a whole new level. The real answer is: it is very likely that the iPad will remain a niche product and that quality software prices will be higher then what we have come to expect from the App Store. Apple has set an example by pricing their iWork suite at about US$ 30.00 when you sum up the three apps, with the desktop version being priced US$ 79.00.

I expect the average price for an iPad app to be significantly higher then their iPhone and iPod Touch counterparts, and I would not be surprised if existing apps won’t get just “an update”, but will be re-created and published as new products exclusively for the iPad. In other words, less volume in sales with a higher revenue per sale.

Let’s be pessimistic for a while: what if it will be a huge flop?
The Apple TV is still there. How many have been sold? So little that Apple’s CEO mentions it only when they change something, still enough to keep the product around. As long as Steve Jobs is at the helm, the iPad will likely be a part of the iPhone OS product line, even if it sells very little. If a place in the market for a tablet device exists, Apple will find its way to get that place. The less iPad will be sold, the higher the software prices will raise, protecting your investment.

The niche market of the iPad will only get bigger in time but people will not be buying like they do on the iPhone. There will be less space for US$ 0.99 silly apps and a lot more space for quality US$ 9.99 software.

Bottom line, if you ask me, getting your quality app on the iPad it’s a risk worth to take if you can afford it.
But hurry up: we have just 60 days to get your app ready and featured on day 1.