iPad

The iPad's success is still more about the 'i' than the 'Pad'

With all the talk about extra pixels and megabits, it's easy to lose sight of why the iPad is really winning.

I've gotten my hands the on so-called "new iPad" -- as Apple has prosaically named its third-generation tablet -- and it's fine. Yes, it's even a little finer than the second-generation iPad.

LTE is a long-overdue upgrade. The hotspot feature will make a lot of business travelers happy. And, of course, I will make the obligatory ring-kiss to the new "Retina Display." Yes, the screen is nicer to look at than ever, but you're already sick of hearing that, right?

Still, while the new iPad's visuals are pleasant enough, and dealing with photos is now snappy and smooth, and the LTE chip downloads files like a Usain Bolt 100-yard dash, none of that really has much to do with why the third-gen iPad is going to continue to control the tablet market.

As I said during the CES 2012 tablet parade in January... it ain't about the hardware.

Quick quiz: Do you remember when Apple first started adding the "i" to its products? If you guessed the iMac in 1998, then you nailed it.

When Apple launched the original iMac, CEO Steve Jobs said, "We are targeting this for the number one use that consumers tell us they want a computer for, which is to get on the Internet -- simply and fast. [And] 'i' also means some other things to us. We are a personal computer company and although this product was born to network, it is also a beautiful stand-alone product."

In other words, the iMac was about connecting to the Internet but it was also about being your personal device rather than just a generic piece of equipment. It went on to become the best-selling single computer model ever (at the time).

It's easy to overlook that Apple is using the exact same strategy with the iPad. The difference is that it's a much different Internet today than it was 14 years ago. It's a bigger, more crowded Internet. It's a more dangerous Internet, at times. But, it's also an Internet that does a lot more than pull up web pages. It delivers music. It streams movies. It does video calls. It collaborates on business files in real time. And, it slices and dices into digestible chunks called apps.

This is the Internet that Apple is handling better than anyone else, and that's the big reason why the iPad is doing so well. Apple has lowered the friction for downloading music and movies and TV shows. It makes video calls easy enough for anyone to figure out. And, it has tens of thousands of tablet apps that allow people to directly access a lot of their favorite stuff on the Internet, and do it "simply and fast" as Jobs first promised with the iMac.

The big thing is that the iPad lowers friction. It is simple. It's too simple for a lot of power users. But, for a lot of other people, it's a liberating experience compared to the battles they used to have to fight to do simple things on their Windows PCs. And, some technophiles are finding that the iPad makes a nice little secondary device when they are in business meetings or on airplanes, or sitting on the couch on the weekends or in bed in the evenings.

In trying to compete with the iPad, Google made two bets with Android tablets: It bet that it could win with better hardware and the open web. Both bets have come up empty.

The Motorola Xoom was arguably a much better piece of hardware than the original iPad. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 was arguably a better piece of hardware than the iPad 2. Both of those devices had Verizon's 4G LTE long before it arrived on the third-gen iPad, for example.

It didn't matter, because Google also opted to champion the open web on Android tablets. It worked with Adobe to get Flash running on Android tablets (the iPad famously spurned Flash, saying it had too many performance and stability problems). Google also focused on building a great tablet browser, and it did. I would have much rather browsed the web on a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 than an iPad 2. Android's browser thumb controls were especially innovative and useful.

The problem was that if I really wanted to browse the full web then I still would have much rather done it from a laptop than an Android tablet. But, if I wanted quick, easy access to some of my favorite Internet resources without firing up the laptop, then I would have much rather done it from an iPad than an Android tablet, because the iPad apps are simpler to use and are optimized for a touchscreen.

There are those who will argue that these apps are balkanizing the Internet, and I tend to agree with a lot of their arguments. But, in an age where time is more precious than ever and we're all tired of spending too much time fiddling with our gadgets to make them work, Apple and the army of developers writing apps for the iPad are seducing us with a simpler, faster experience for a lot of the best stuff on the Internet. And that, more than any retinas or megabits, is why the iPad is still winning.

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About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

36 comments
TBoneTerwilliger
TBoneTerwilliger

I know it's on it's way out, but there is still the limitation with some Youtube videos and other sites I use daily that I simply can't use on the iPad. There must be some feud between Apple and Adobe, because Apple really isn't sticking to their morals about the user experience being easier and better on IOS. They would have included Flash if that was the case. This could still be Apple's mentality of "Dictate how a user experience should be". But it's not very easy for me to access the internet from an i-device if I can't access that page at all. After having my iPhone for 5 months, I have put off buying an iPad for this reason alone.

ag691234
ag691234

Jason, you wrote "Apple and the army of developers writing apps for the iPad are seducing us with a simpler, faster experience for a lot of the best stuff on the Internet." I disagree because the simplification removes the richness of the full set of functionality which are only available on an actual operating system. The apps for many of the popular websites (ex: Facebook, OpenTable, Groupon) maybe simple, but unless one only wants a quick look at the info, these apps are fairly useless. These simple apps do not have the functionality set of the corresponding websites. One day, most people will wake up and realize that today's tablets are just overpriced toys. The reason: you said it, "simpler" experience.

Cindilu
Cindilu

Really? I have both and love each for different reasons. At work: PC. It's the industry standard and what I'm required to use in order to do my job. SharePoint 2010, Office 2010 and Windows 7 are all wonderful to work with and have made significant improvements over their predecessors. At home: Mac. It does everything for me beautifully and is pretty, light weight, and never lets me down. Both home and work: iPhone. I can access my Outlook Web App to get both personal and work email, phone features work perfectly, audiobooks, radio and everything else is easily accessible and the sound quality is unbelievably good. Both Mac and PC have drawbacks, too, but I like to focus on the positive!

PeteG_5
PeteG_5

I agree it's more about the "i" than the "Pad." However, while Apple doesn't claim the "i" stands for integrated (unlike IBM and its System i), I would argue that that particular "i" word is one of the primary reasons for it's success. Tech purists may not like Apple's closed ecosystem, but most people don't care as long as it's well-executed, and if they don't have to interpret hardware specs and other technical details to ensure they have a good experience, even better. And once critical mass is achieved (which Apple has), then simple familiarity with the platform creates a snowball effect, just like Microsoft Windows/Office did in the PC space.

LedLincoln
LedLincoln

You are right about Apple being better in tune with what the average consumer is looking for, which is to get what they want without having to play the geek role. You are also right about the importance of offering a device that the consumer will be fond of. You have kind of neglected one thing that is also necessary for this to happen - the back-end, cloud infrastructure. In Apple's case, it's iTunes, and it's pretty good. The real powerhouse in the cloud, though, is Amazon, and they are REALLY good at selling stuff. We're not talking just books, tunes, and videos, but practically anything. With a few taps, I can buy a coat rack, a television, a few pairs of socks, or fine wines. With the Kindle Fire and the Amazon cloud, they have a huge advantage that leaves Apple and Google scrambling to catch up.

Hazydave
Hazydave

... I don't believe the iMac outsold the Commodore 64's 17 million (based on Commodore's 1993 Annual Report). The iPad certainly did... in fact, in the fourth quarter of 2011 alone, Apple sold 15.4 million iPads. In that same quarter, Apple sold 37 million iPhones, for a total of over 52 million iOS devices: more units than all Macs sold in history. Taken as a country, Apple rated the 90th most wealthy based on GDP/profits... and that was last summer. Good news if you're an iOS fan, but it does illustrate, now about 19% of profits, just how expendable the MacOS is.

Craig_B
Craig_B

I guess it comes done to the question; What do you need a computer for? For many people it's web, email and simple documents. You can expand upon those and add photos, videos, simple games. All of these can be done by any number of OS's and hardware from old computers to the latest system. Business and Power Users need much more however the majority of people seem to just need the basics. Choose what fits you best.

adornoe
adornoe

and you're able to make your "informed" opinion after, hopefully, reading the few thousand words in the whole thread? You did read through the whole thread, didn't you? Otherwise, your conclusion is quite useless and "misinformed".

Slayer_
Slayer_

There wasn't even any useful information in it.

toddmaster69
toddmaster69

To me Apple is making everyone dumb. They make devices that work great but the os is so simple a child can use it. That also limits what can and cannot be done with it . So many people buy Apple products because they are to lazy to learn a OS that can actually do a lot more than IOS .

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

... they have made the internet work the way it should have worked all along, no matter the form factor. It's not how complex you can make it, but how usable even in the hands of a non-techie. I know a lot of former technophobes now online because Apple has made it easy to use.

adornoe
adornoe

After all, Apple didn't invent "simple" and they didn't even invent the tablet form-factor. They did come up with a compelling "re-definition" of tablets, but, the competition is still trying to come up with their own similar or better products. In fact, there may be better products out there already, with plenty more to come, but, they'll take time to displace the iPad as number one. Perhaps a year from now, when Windows 8 on tablets have been on sale for a while, the competition will start to take some huge bites out of the iPad sales. So, Apple needs to get at least another "incremental upgrade" into the iPad before the competition starts making it an "also ran". BTW, Windows 8 is supposed to be about "making it simple too", but, across all platforms. Simple is good, but, having a huge head-start can be a bigger boost. Let's see where the tablet wars are in 2 years time. As of now, the "simple is the reason" is not the big one for why iPads are in the lead. And, hey, I'm a big advocate of "keeping it simple", so, don't get me wrong there.

SHCA
SHCA

Once again, Justin, you are absolutely correct. It is not about the hardware, it is about meeting the unstated desire of users. It's exactly the same way that Microsoft has driven Windows to 95% of PCs, and Office to the automatic default productivity app, despite all the warts, and the same way that Apple drove the Mac to the automatic choice of students, graphic arts, and music production. Any IT Pro will tell you the hot challenge of 2012 is combining their enterprise Windows servers and clients with Apple tablets and phones without sacrificing security and the control built into Active Directory. Android is a far lesser priority and may not get solved this year. Microsoft Windows 8 phones and tablets will be undoubtedly easier to integrate, but the Apple problem will be solved within a couple of monbths, long before Win8 phones and tablets appear. In the long run Microsoft may be able to crack the window that's been slammed shut by Apple, but cudos to Steve Jobs for controlling the agenda, seemingly from the next life..

wlportwashington
wlportwashington

Still the biggest problem remains that Apple did not put in a provision to use USB devices like flash drives on the iPad. A true short coming. Also even with the new IOS you still cannot access the system like you can with a Windows machine which is great for having various folders to save data. I use the original iPad and love using it even with the short comings. I don't care about the broadband access because the carriers rip you off after 5 GB of data transfer. So I'd rather find a wi-fi hotspot and go from there. So for what I do in the I.T. field the original iPad is perfect. What I think we would all like to see is the ability to use a flash drive or external hard drive via USB on the iPad.

rhonin
rhonin

No, not the iPad. Rather the app environment and the iOS limitations. All to frequently I have to use a combination of app and Safari to get the needed information and all to frequently, it still provides a filtered/incomplete result. Little wonder I do the majority of my browsing on Android or ie/Chrome...

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

Yes, Apple and Adobe have been at odds about Flash for years--more than 5 years to be exact. However, just this past year Adobe has acknowledged that Apple was right and they simply cannot make a version of the Flash viewer that works reliably on mobile devices. People's arguments that Flash is essential are therefore null and void. Yes, there will be holdouts. Those holdouts will eventually have to accede to the newer technologies.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

Neither you nor I are among those people, but the majority of my clients are. I recommend to them the product that best meets their needs based on what they already own and what is available at the time. One of these clients would do just fine with an iPad today where he has used both Macs and Windows boxes in the past--but is comfortable with the large screen of his iMac (running Win7). Others enjoy the ability to browse and control their TV from their reclining chair with a single device. As Pete_G5 said above: It's all about the integration. It's not about dumbing down, but rather giving the customer what is needed, not just what others think is needed.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

Apple is still all about making Information Technology easy for the average user; Amazon is all about retail sales--however they can manage it. As such, the Kindle Fire and the Amazon cloud are even more tightly bound into that market sector than Apple is with its "walled garden". You're simply not going to see an Amazon device built to do everything the iPad does--much less even a netbook or laptop.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

First off, I believe you meant Macintosh as a whole platform, not the iMac alone. I also note that you focus on the Commodore 64 and totally ignore the millions of Apple II series PCs that stayed on the market until roughly 1992 which was its primary competitor. I'll admit I don't know the total number myself, but I'm quite aware that the Apple II spent quite a few years in the educational market before the iMac came along to supplant it. Now, I'll accept and acknowledge that iOS devices are selling more quickly than their OS X devices, but that doesn't make the Mac expendable since Apple has seen steady high growth of Mac sales as well--to the detriment of PC sales over the last 5 years.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

Aside from offering "Windows vs Apple" arguments such as "It can't run Android apps", how about demonstrating exactly what iOS cannot do. I won't deny that it's somewhat limited in power vs a full desktop OS, but Android and W8oA are no better--or worse. Just because you don't know how to do something in a given OS doesn't mean that OS cannot do it. Most people have far more important things on their agenda than learning how to 'tweak' their OS.

adornoe
adornoe

So, it weren't for Apple, the internet would still be in the learning stages or middle age of the technology? Are you the one that would buy the iBridge in Brooklyn if Apple put its logo on it. You're unbelievably in love with Apple, and if they were to take a tumble in sales, you'd be so heartbroken that, you'd look for that iBridge to jump off from. So, which part of the internet did Apple reinvent? Fact is that, even without the Apple gadgets, the advancements in browsers would have been the same, and the only real contribution being made by Apple are the iCloud and Safari, both of which the vast majority of people don't use or don't even care about. A lot of those "technophobes" you mention are online because, they need to justify their purchases, and being online is the only way to use those iGadgets. Why purchase anything if it wouldn't work offline, other than for playing games? A lot of those technophobes bought into the Apple hype, and, Duh!, nobody is going to pay $500 or more, just to let it sit as a decorative center table piece.

LedLincoln
LedLincoln

The article was saying "It ain't about the hardware," and I agree. You're saying iPad hardware does more than Amazon hardware. I agree. I'm saying Amazon may be on stronger footing because it can provide more of what the average consumer wants, and that ain't the hardware.

Hazydave
Hazydave

... a friend of mine failed at it. Download an ".exe" file for a PC on your iOS device. Hook up to a PC via USB, transfer that file to the PC. This is trivial on any Android device, but apparently, not a thing a user of many years on the iPhone knows how to do, if such a simple thing is even possible. And yeah, it was fairly critical, the PC in question has a network problem, the file being sought was the cure to that problem.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

It seems your memory is pretty poor since without the Apple gadgets and software the modern internet would NOT be the same. Maybe you don't remember that Chrome and other browsers are based on an Apple SDK. Maybe you don't remember that smartphones would still only be in the hands of enterprise users struggling with too-complex processes simply to access the web or email. I'm sorry, but your Applephobia is far more evident than any of the excuses you've generated to dispute my opinions.

adornoe
adornoe

and especially not when the content is more than just selecting objects on the screen and more than just a very short entry of a few words. Real content creation requires much more than a simulated keyboard on a screen.

Komplex
Komplex

pretty much the only thing that can't be done on an ipad are things you would rather use a desktop computer and a huge monitor for: Programming, Video Editing, audio editing, Photoshop, PowerPoint etc... The other 90% of "Content Creation" i.e. writing stuff is easily handled by the iPad or any tablet on the market today.

LedLincoln
LedLincoln

...except that the "average consumer" is probably not a content creator. The Kindle Fire is more analogous to the television than to the computer. It is a video on demand and shopping device, and as such, could be as revolutionary as the iPad was, in that it changes the dynamic from a big box in the living room to a ubiquitous personal device.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

[i]"I'm saying Amazon may be on stronger footing because it can provide more of what the average consumer wants, and that ain't the hardware."[/i] I will both agree, and disagree. Amazon's primary focus is on sales, sales, sales. Sell books. Sell movies. Sell 'things.' But what Amazon can't do with it's device is offer any form whatsoever of content creation with that device. Does it have the ability to download and edit photographs straight from the camera, then email them to your friends? Does it have the ability to create and/or view presentations? Does it have the ability to even connect a keyboard, much less write a novel, short story, report or any other kind of text-only or text-with-graphics document? How about creating original works of art that look like they were painted with oils or sketched with real charcoal pencils or watercolors? It's not only not about the hardware, but it's also about the ecosystem--the environment the device is intended to fulfill. Sure, a child can read a book or watch the teletubbies on their Kindle Fire, but can they color in a coloring book? Can they work their arithmetic flash cards? The point is that the iPad in particular and tablets in general have the potential and the ability to be far more than "just a content absorption device." The tablet can be almost as much a creativity device [i]AND[/i] a productivity device than something like the Kindle Fire--which is why the Fire has had no effect on iPad sales while effectively killing other Android sales.

Komplex
Komplex

is your friend should have bought a Mac?

wolflight
wolflight

Vulpine, It's true that Apple took the technologies developed at Xerox PARC and was the first to make them useable by common people - not just techies. Microsoft basically copied them in their design for Windows 95, it had a similar layout to the Mac OS of 1990. I know this as I used Apple's OS in my college computer lab in both 1990 and 1991 and found it very easy to use. The PC form factor has essentially not changed since Xerox PARC - it still has a PC tower, monitor, keyboard and mouse. Apple went with 1 button mice and Microsoft went with 2 button mice for the most part. You're also right that the innovation by Apple has driven the development of both PC hardware and operating systems more than any other company. Personally, I think it was a very smart move for Apple to go with a Unix kernel for their OS, as it makes it extremely stable. Microsoft should do the same, in my view. Finally, only time will tell if Apple can maintain their momentum in the post Steve Jobs era.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

I am not an "Applemaniac" as Adornoe likes to call me, though I admit to having used Apple products almost from the very beginning because they simply were the better product--if not the most popular. Better in that they were easier to use from the outset and didn't require the extensive OS knowledge that Dos and later Windows required. How did I know? I've used them both pretty much from the beginning and have deep hands-on experience with every version except WinME and Win2K. In fact, when Win95 came out, I already had nearly 5 years of experience with a GUI on an OS and had to teach many of my co-workers and even supervisors how it worked because it looked so different from Win 3.x. I'm not saying, nor have I ever said that Apple "invented" any of these technologies; but rather that Apple was the first to make them useable by common people--not just techies. As such, the history above is essentially correct, though without Apple pushing the limits, especially in the last 15 years, we'd still be stuck with either Dos or maybe an early version of Windows. No other manufacturer has driven the computing environment so hard despite its formerly tiny place in the market. What we don't know is if Apple can maintain its momentum without Jobs himself at the helm.

wolflight
wolflight

Adornoe, From a strictly technology standpoint, except for Linux, both Microsoft Windows and Apple OS derive from the prototype UI used on the Xerox Alto PC at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). Linux, as most of us know, is derived from Unix. Linus Torvalds took a good OS and made it better and much easier to use. You're totally right that without IBM and Microsoft, much of the technology used on computers would not exist. However, the PC, tablets, computer mice and most of the UI of both Apple OS and MS Windows would not have existed without Xerox PARC. So, yea, Apple didn't invent anything. They just took an existing product and built on it. So did Microsoft, which bought PC-DOS, changed the name to MS-DOS, and later put a desktop interface on top of it - creating MS Windows. The rest is mostly very good marketing and lots of good software programming. The fundamental Windows interface has not changed significantly since Windows 95, and MS-DOS still exists even in Windows 7. Windows 8, from what I've seen and read about it, is built on Windows 7 but has the Metro interface merged into it as well in an attempt to make it work on touchscreen tablets, laptops and desktop PC's. Sorry for being so long with this, but I mostly wanted to state why you're totally right and give everyone a little bit of history. You want to thank any company for what we have in technology, thank Xerox. Thank the US Department of Defense's DARPA for the Internet. What we can thank Microsoft and Apple for is building on what Xerox started and making it affordable for the masses.

CFWhitman
CFWhitman

Chrome and other browsers are based on Webkit, but Webkit itself is based on KHTML. It basically started as KHTML with the Qt dependencies removed. It's a nice renderer, but it's not exactly an original piece of software.

adornoe
adornoe

Look, Chrome and Safari are still fairly new in the "browserscape", and without them, the net was working quite nicely, and might be doing just as well or even better without them. And, how nice that, you believe that, without Apple, that smartphones would still be five years behind the times, and in the hands of business users only. My daughter, owned a smartphone 8 years ago, and it was her second version of a Windows phone, so, if you'd care to note, I said "second version", meaning that, they weren't just standing still, and making progress towards getting better with more features each time. What did occur with the iPhone is that, the evolution was kicked into higher gear, but, even if it had taken two or three more years, the smartphones would still have evolved into what they are today, without the involvement of Apple. Kicking a form-factor into a more quickly evolved system, is not really the same as creating the future. We were going there anyway, and it's the same with smartphones as it is with tablets and laptops and desktops and the internet. None of those systems were "invented" or "re-invented" by Apple; Apple helped those systems move a little bit faster into the future. Think of it this way: if Apple were not around with their iGadgets and with their iCloud, would people really miss them? Are they really that important to the world. Now, ask the same about Microsoft or about IBM, and you know that, the world would really be far less advanced. I dare say that, even Linux, with its server technology is far more important to the tech world, and the business world, and even to the everyday consumer, than Apple. If Linux had not existed in the enterprise and in all types of embedded systems, a lot of what we take for granted would not exist. On the other hand, if Apple had not existed, we wouldn't even miss them. We would miss them now, because, they've become so accepted, but, their hardware and software are just redundant versions of others.