SAN FRANCISCONow that Apple's long-rumored tablet computer has finally been unveiled, there seems to be some question about whether it will be a hit.
The answer: it already is.
Putting asidefor nowdiscussion of the iPad's capabilities and functionality, the product clearly has legs. This isn't to say that it will necessarily become as ubiquitous as the iPod or the iPhone. But, though it won't ship for another two months, the iPad is virtually guaranteed to be a winner by almost any other standard.
Why? There were about four gigillion items about iPad on Google News within an hour of its announcement (it's been steadily multiplying ever since). The looming introduction of the iPad was the worst kept secret in technology, yet the launch was featured Thursday (Jan. 28) on the front pages of the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle,
and dozens of other major newspapers.
At least in the U.S., the launch was covered by every major television network, not to mention countless network affiliates. It was all over the radio, too.
On Twitter, there were reportedly 177,000 tweets about iPad within the first hour of its launch.
Buzz? More like a media mega-frenzy. And regardless of how you feel about that type of overhype, the fact is that exposure sells products. According to Ben Reitzes, an analyst with Barclays Capital, Apple could ship 4.9 million units in 2010 and another 8.7 million units in 2011.
It should come as no surprise that the iPad launch generated this much attention. Apple has a rabid following and a record of execution. The cult with a ticker symbol already redefined the music-player and smartphone markets. Say what you will about Apple (we at EE Times said plenty when the company denied us access to the iPad launch), it makes great products. And people tend to notice that.
No matter what Apple CEO Steve Jobs had in his hand when he strode onto that stage at Yerba Buena Center, clad in his trademark black turtleneck and jeans, there are people who would have bought it. A lot of people. Jobs could have done the late-night infomercial demo of the kitchen gadget Slap Chop, and it would have moved millions of units.
I haven't got my hands on an iPad yet. If the design is flawed, it may not reach its potential. But it's hard to imagine that. From all appearances, what Jobs brought on stage the other day is a sleek, elegant (and reportedly well-functioning) tablet that sets a new standard for an emerging protect category. This is a mobile computer that functions as an e-book reader, lower-end computer and media player. It will leave in the dust single-application products like Amazon.com's Kindle. And it will siphon away a significant amount of potential netbook buyers.
A final thought: The ecosystems that Apple put in place around its iPod and iPhone products (iTunes, App Store) have been just as important to their success as product design. The iBookstore may well be just as impactful.
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