Lessons Learned (And Unlearned) From The iPad’s Success

[pullquote]The man with a new idea is a Crank until the idea succeeds ~ Mark Twain[/pullquote]

I tripped across a January 2010 article that absolutely skewered the introduction of the iPad, and it was just too, too, delicious for me not to stop and partake of its bittersweet irony. As my holiday gift, I wish to share my discovery with you. But rather than spend our time gleefully binging on the folly of others (and pretending that we, ourselves, knew all along of the iPad’s impending success), I think that we’d be better served by biting off small, discrete pieces of the article, and slowly chewing upon them, so that we might savor the lessons learned — and unlearned — and profit from the mistakes of others (since we, ourselves, so seldom profit from our own mistakes).

And so I present to you — in all its pristine glory — but smothered with a thick, syrupy coating of 20/20 hindsight: Apple iPad: bashed by bloggers around the web.

The iPad turned out to be, at bottom, an iPod Touch with a big screen.

Very true. Or maybe not true at all. Depends on how you look at it.

[pullquote]Products evolve based on assumptions that eventually become outdated. This is every incumbent’s weakness and every startup’s opportunity. ~ Aaron Levie (@levie)[/pullquote]

LESSON #1: Size Matters

No matter what the tech pundits (or the ladies) say, size really does matter. The iPad IS just a big, big iPod Touch — but it turns out that bigger is — perhaps unsurprisingly — a very big deal indeed. As anyone who has used a tablet will tell you, the user experience on the bigger screen of a tablet is totally different than the user experience on the smaller, phone-sized screen.

Who knew? No one, it seems, but Apple.

I think we can cut ourselves some slack here and forgive ourselves for missing this one. In hindsight, the importance of the larger screen size was a subtle lesson indeed. For example, there’s a big difference between a 13-inch notebook and a 27-inch desktop screen but, with few exceptions, developers don’t write software optimized for each screen size. However, that’s exactly what developers do for the phone and the tablet. The iPad has almost a half-a-million iPad-optimized apps and that optimization has made all the difference between the iPad being a wonderful addition to our stable of computing devices as opposed to having it relegated to the dreaded status of being “just” being an oversized iPod Touch.

(The iPad) failed to offer a magical new 3D interface, or an OLED screen, or a built-in projector, or any other revolutionary features.

[pullquote]If you’re willing to fail interestingly, you tend to succeed interestingly. ~ Edward Albee[/pullquote]

LESSON #2: Typing On Glass Is A Feature, Not A Drawback

This lesson certainly came as a surprise to me. Unlike many others, I immediately saw the advantage of eliminating the keyboard and adding in all that newly available screen real estate to the computing experience. However, I thought that the key to the iPad would be the addition of some sort revolutionary new way of inputing text. I was right in theory but completely wrong-headed in practice. I was thinking of a new type of virtual keypad or some kind of voice input. Apple was thinking of typing on a virtual keyboard. “Ugh,” I — and about a million others — thought, in unison.

One thing I didn’t know at the time was that even a slow typer can input text on a virtual keyboard much faster than they can write by hand either in cursive of in block. Why didn’t we know this? It seems so obvious in hindsight. Talk about thinking inside the box.

The other thing we didn’t know — and I guess we can be forgiven for missing this one too — was that the vast majority of users would come to gladly accept the disadvantages associated with not having a tactile keyboard in exchange for the far greater advantage of having a larger, more usable, screen layout.

Indeed, (the iPad) doesn’t even have basic features such as a webcam, microphone, USB port, SD card slot, HDMI port,…standard mobile phone SIM slot (no support for Flash, no multitasking, no networking [printing and file sharing], little storage space, no CD/DVD drive, no stylus, no keyboard.)

I think there’s (at least) two lessons to be learned here — let’s call them two sides of the same coin.

[pullquote] It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not. ~ Andre Gide[/pullquote]

LESSON #3: Distinguish Between The Essential And The Incidental

What’s truly amazing about the items on the list, above, are the many, many things that STILL haven’t been glommed onto the latest iteration of the iPad (USB, SD card, HDMI port, Flash, networking, CD/DVD, stylus, and, of course, tactile keyboards). Yet, somehow, someway, the iPad just keeps on rolling along. If all — or even any — of the things listed above are “basic”, then how can that possibly be?

Well, of course, it turns out that NONE those things, are “basics,” at all. Some of the things on the original list (like a camera) were nice, inessentials, that were added later, but none of them were essential to what made a tablet a tablet.

On Tuesday I wrote an Insider piece on Aristotle’s distinction between the essential and the accidental, and how that applied to Tablets. If you’re a subscriber, you can read it HERE.

The key takeaway is that some things make us what we are and other things simply adorn us. My car has a radio and an air conditioner and I surely wouldn’t buy a car that didn’t have either of those things. But the owner of a Model-T would have.

Radios and air conditioners are not the “essence” of a car. They’re adornments. Things like an engine and four wheels — now THEY’RE part of the essence of a car and the Model-T had all those things, and more.

Likewise, cameras, etc. may be extremely nice to have, but they’re adornments, not essentials. When we bought the Model-T of tablets, it had all the Tablet essentials, and more.

[pullquote]A keyboard case seems to enhance the typing use case of the iPad at the cost of basically ruining every other use case. ~ Fraser Speirs (@fraserspeirs)[/pullquote]

LESSON #4: Compare A Tool To The Job It Is Being Asked To Do

The all-too-common mistake we make is to compare one thing to another; to look at what it has not; to deem it inferior, without having first bothered to ascertain what job it is being asked to do.

For example, a horse makes for a lousy cow. But if you’re a Pony Express rider, rather than a dairy farmer, you’d much rather have the speedy horse than the milk-producing cow.

Further, the very same feature that makes a tool useful for one task can actually be quite detrimental when the tool is applied to another task. Udders and speed are quite useful, in their place, but neither large udders on a horse nor great speed on a cow are considered to be desirable traits.

Similarly, while multiple ports, Flash and multi-tasking may — like udders — be eminently practical and useful additions needed to milk the best computing experience from our notebook and desktop machines, they may also be udderly useless when one’s ‘express’ goal is to ‘horse’ around with their mobile computer with the expectation that they can ‘ride’ their battery on a single ‘charge’, all the live long day.

[pullquote] Analysts are the jesters of the corporate court. ~ Horace Dediu @asymco[/pullquote]

No Flash means no Farmville or similar Facebook games.


There’s probably a great lesson to be learned in there somewhere, but I’m laughing far too hard to discern it.

Gizmodo, the influential gadget blog, has a post – 8 Things That Suck About the iPad – that says No thanks! and gives the device the thumbs down.

Yeah, about that Gizmodo article. I tried to follow the link, but the article has been taken down. Now why do you suppose that is? Update:[Found the link to the Gizmodo article]

[pullquote]I am certain there is too much certainty in the world. ~ Michael Crichton[/pullquote]

LESSON #5: We Judge Too Quickly

This one simply isn’t going to change. To paraphrase Carrie Fisher, instant analysis takes too long ((Instant gratification takes too long. ~ Carrie Fisher)). We want our answers and we want them now, Now, NOW.

The problem, I think, is that one of the most intolerable things in life is uncertainly. We simply hate that feeling of not knowing. But if there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that nothing we know is for sure. If you want to be smug, make snap judgments. If you want to be wise, learn to tolerate uncertainty.

One aspect of the iPad was that some saw it as Apple’s answer to the netbook – a cheap form factor that millions want but Apple won’t supply. CNet argued that the iPad wasn’t the answer, in 10 Things Netbooks still do better than an iPad.

[pullquote]There are no right answers to wrong questions. ~ Ursula K. Le Guin [/pullquote]

LESSON #6: Ask Better Questions

I’m guessing that if the iPad wasn’t the right answer, then CNet wasn’t asking the right question. Again, the iPad was definitely NOT a good Netbook. Then again, the Netbook was definitely not a good anything. So why compare the two?

As Horace Dediu and countless others have constantly reminded us, we should be comparing the tool to the job it is being hired to do, not comparing the tool to other tools that do other jobs.

In “The Case against the iPad,” Timothy B Lee wrote: “I’m not impressed. I’m a lifelong Mac fanboy, so I’m not averse to buying Apple stuff. But I don’t understand who this product is marketed for…

[pullquote]In these days, a man who says a thing cannot be done is quite apt to be interrupted by some idiot doing it. ~ Elbert Hubbard[/pullquote]

LESSON #7: Just Because We Don’t Understand It, Doesn’t Mean It Can’t Be Understood

We should never assume that our lack of understanding constitutes ignorance on the part of others. If we don’t understand it, then we need to learn more, not assume that other’s know less.

The iPad name also attracted derision…

Yeah, funny how all those “pad” jokes quickly faded away, right? The lesson here is that:

[pullquote]Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you made puerile jokes about the iPad’s name; but I repeat myself. ((Inspired by Mark Twain))[/pullquote]

LESSON #8: Success Cures (Or Conceals) All Woes

The iPad was successful so the name is now acceptable. The Kin and Zune were flops so their names are derided and mocked. See how that works?

Silicon Alley Insider had so many negative posts that it headlined its link post Wow, Did Apple Just Blow It?

[pullquote] Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.[/pullquote]

LESSON #9: Betteridge’s Law Of Headlines Is A Really Useful Shortcut For Ending Nonsensical Discussions.

‘Nuff said.

Fake Steve Jobs (actually, Dan Lyons) summed it all up in his live-blog of the launch:

11:01– and i know what you’re thinking – we came up with a new device and all we could think to do with it is run the apps that run on your iphone, and have a clone of Kindle, and now run iWork apps? um, yes. that’s all we could come up with.

11:04– good lord, did i really say this is the most important thing i’ve ever done in my life?

Wow. Just wow.

[pullquote]Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocre minds. ~ Albert Einstein[/pullquote]

LESSON #10: Too Much Cynicism And Snark Can Ruin One’s Perspective

I readily acknowledge that Dan Lyons is a lot smarter than I am and a whole lot better writer than I will ever be. But man-oh-man. In his ever-more-desperate attempts to discredit and demean Apple and Steve Jobs, he’s lost his way and gone right off the rails.

Yes, Dan. The iPad may well have been the most important thing that Steve Jobs ever did. It was right there for you to grasp — and instead, you sneered.

“Finally, Apple went too far, and the emperor is totally naked for all of us to see. Ridiculous product. Absolutely completely ridiculous.” ~ Dave Winer

[pullquote]When expressing their opinions, people make two major blunders: never stopping to think and never thinking to stop. ~ Dr. Mardy’s Aphorisms[/pullquote]

LESSON #11: Putting Your Thoughts In Writing For All The World To See May Sometimes Be Both Inadvisable And Unwise

But not everyone took such a negative view. Some reckoned it really was a new type of device, and the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg argued that ultimately the iPad would be about the software and media, rather than the hardware.

Good for you, Mr. Mossberg! You stepped back from the trees and took a peek at the forrest instead. Well done.

[pullquote] There’s an explosion that’s starting to happen in what you call post-PC devices, right?…We’re getting to the point where everything’s a computer in a different form factor. ~ Steve Jobs[/pullquote]

After an attention-grabbing (but silly) headline — “The PC Officially Died Today” — Nicholas Carr claimed: “we’ve entered a new era of computing, in which media and software have merged in the Internet cloud”.

You know, in hindsight, that headline doesn’t look so silly after all. The PC didn’t die on that day in January 2010, but its reign as the primary computing device in our lives, did.

At The New York Times, David Pogue’s The Apple iPad: First Impressions said the iPad bashing “will last until the iPad actually goes on sale in April. Then, if history is any guide, Phase 3 will begin: positive reviews, people lining up to buy the thing, and the mysterious disappearance of the basher-bloggers.”

Wow. Kudos to Mr. Pogue. I think you got it about as right as right can be.

Maybe the iPad will find a market among marketing people, old people, parents…What (Apple’s fanboys are) really saying is that it’s the computer for idiots. I agree.

[pullquote]Without wisdom, knowledge is more stupid than ignorance.[/pullquote]

LESSON #12: Just Because Computing Is Getting Easier Does Not Mean That We Are Getting Dumber

You know, when I was a kid, my uncles were endlessly playing around with their cars. Today, almost nobody does that. The reliability of the modern car has improved dramatically. The average miles driven and time on the road for cars has doubled in the past 50 years. And guess what? Few people miss having to open the hood to check the spark plugs and tweak the engine every month. We don’t WANT to know anything about our cars. We just want to get in a vehicle that will take us to our destination in comfort and ease.

Same with computers. We’re not becoming stupider just because our cars and our computers are becoming smarter. We never wanted to work ON our cars or ON our computers in the fist place. The car and the computer are just tools to get us to where we want to go. They’re the means not the ends.

I’ll almost certainly buy (an iPad). But unless I’m missing something, I’ll still travel with the Asus that I’m typing this review on.

You’re missing something alright. A BIG something.

[pullquote]We’ve transitioned from using the computing device we hold dearest to us, to using the computing device we hold nearest to us.[/pullquote]
LESSON #13: We Live In A Multi-Device, Multi-Screen World

We used to argue over which ONE computer we would own. Now we, almost all of us, own a phone AND a tablet or notebook or desktop. Some of us own three or more different computing form factors.

Lessons Learned Or Unlearned?

Knowledge can be conveyed, but not wisdom. ~ Herman Hesse

So, has the unexpected success of the iPad truly taught us anything? Perhaps, perhaps not. It seems that some lessons have to be learned over and over again. But maybe I’m being overly pessimistic. Maybe this time, the lessons will take.

Published by

John Kirk

John R. Kirk is a recovering attorney. He has also worked as a financial advisor and a business coach. His love affair with computing started with his purchase of the original Mac in 1985. His primary interest is the field of personal computing (which includes phones, tablets, notebooks and desktops) and his primary focus is on long-term business strategies: What makes a company unique; How do those unique qualities aid or inhibit the success of the company; and why don’t (or can’t) other companies adopt the successful attributes of their competitors?

576 thoughts on “Lessons Learned (And Unlearned) From The iPad’s Success”

  1. I liked this article a lot. My only complaint is that I wanted a bit more “comeuppance” on the part of the naysayers. Pretty much everything said about Apple since 2000 was “My butt is on backwards” wrong and yet, in 2013, we don’t see “Perhaps I was mistaken.”. We instead see a doubling down of the doom speak. I mean, the same people who blasted the iPhone and the iPad, today use those to items to demonstrate how Apple no longer innovates, because of how much time, since those two “doomed to fail” devices were released, has passed.

    Why do we let these people get away with this?

    There was one article that I can’t find, but it spoke of one pundit who proclaimed himself a battery expert(because he’s covered laptops for years. Just as I must be a expert surgeon if I watch medical shows) and said, unequivocally, that Apple was lying about the iPad’s battery life. That there was no way that a device with a screen that large could have 10 hours of battery life. The man left himself no way out. Not that including the word “may” or saying “could be” SHOULD BE considered effective hedging.

    Daring Fireball, I believe, some time ago, did a claim chowder(if it was indeed DF) and this guy, as far as I can tell, never owned up to what he said. No surprise, they never do.

  2. Especially liked your thoughtful introduction. Rather than go point by point, I’ll summarize some thoughts, with the same benefit of hindsight.

    The iPad is indeed just a big iPod Touch, and the iPod Touch was the real breakthrough innovation. The iPad was incremental. Unless, of course, the iPad was developed first but launched after. In that case, my statement is reversed, but they can’t both be breakthrough.

    On feature minimalism… If you’re only getting “essential” features, shouldn’t you only be paying “essential” prices? “Sorry sir, our new BMW has all the essential driving features, but you will not get a radio and cup holders, and you can never get them. Price? $50K”. One of the most RDF filled statements Jobs ever made was the “PC’s are like trucks” analogy. The reason it breaks down is these “trucks” can outrun, outcorner, and out-everything a “car”. Where he was absolutely right is that less people would need them. Less people needed them all along, or not as many of them. The brief netbook phenomenon proved that. On SD cards, I’m still sticking to my position that some sort of removable storage is (should be) “essential” in a computer. The cloud makes it more of a mainframe, not PC environment. What was the problem with mainframes? Control!

    No Farmville, due to policy, as opposed to due to technological reason, absolutely means less freedom, hence less personal.

    1. Is essential or “should be” for you. I’ve been using the iPhone since 2009 and the iPad since 2010. I simply don’t missing having removable storage on this device. I use Dropbox or Evernote.

      If things on my PC, I use Airshare. And I have 128gb on my Air, so I feel pretty good about space. I think this simply isn’t much of an issue.

      1. Appreciate the thoughtful response. There are plusses and minuses with the cloud. The plusses are good the minuses are pretty bad.
        You also likely have multiple devices. When your 128GB iPad exceeds quite capable notebooks and ultrabooks, and approaches the MBA in price, I question the value proposition. Still, I’m happy for you.

        1. I understand. We all value things differently. To me, the value was clear and the only issue was “Can I afford it?” The answer is: “Yes. Not an issue.”

          Weeks later, no regrets. I don’t begrudge you having different priorities. I just think that we should agree that what is “essential” for some, is not “essential” for others. Similarly, what is not a good value for some, is a good value for others.

          Case in point. I don’t use Eclipse. I use Intellij Idea. For me, for a tool I use for hours and hours each day, paying for a good IDE, one that makes me more productive, is a good value and makes sense.

          I could change my oil, but I pay someone to do this for me. By the same token, I don’t bother with any “Geek Squads.” I troubleshoot my own PCs.

          1. Regarding “essential”, I think the situation is exacerbated by tablets and smartphones, beginning with the iPhone and iPad, are the only computers without removable storage. I understand that in Apple’s case that would mean exposing the filesystem, among other far more important reasons (for Apple). And why shouldn’t an experienced user have access to the filesystem? Like you, I troubleshoot my own stuff. This is an issue.
            A significant piece of my frustration is that I’ve owned these devices, and I would love to own more, but….
            I do agree however on the overarching statement on different things are essential to different users. That’s why ports are important! 🙂

          2. Sorry, you can’t sneak your preferences in with a smile(though I appreciate the gesture) and a port.

            No matter how you slice it, the market seems to have shown that millions don’t care about SD slots or numerous ports that few use and make the device heavier.

            I can’t think of any instance where I’ve looked at my iPad or iPhone and said “If only it had an expansion port.”

          3. Agreed on the “millions don’t care”. Having removable storage does not impact them at all, since they don’t care. Just don’t use it. For those that do want it, only a cynical explanation can suffice.

          4. It does impact them. It adds to the weight, thickness and cost. Why pay for it if you don’t need it? And if you need it, buy a different device.

    2. I am happy to not have all the attachments necessary to do something. I love cloud storage, wireless, touch screen typing devices. All the “PC” stuff always bothered me and seemed old. I never liked it and I kept complaining, “why do I need to manage all these silly items” for over 20 years. I hated everything about the Windows and Apple computer. It was clunky, the file system wassome old school idea, like a file cabinet in some dusty basement. It just plain sucked, everything about the desktop metaphor. Why do I want to compute like it’s the 80’s or 90’s?

    3. @klahanas:disqus: “The iPad is indeed just a big iPod Touch, and the iPod Touch was the real breakthrough innovation. The iPad was incremental. Unless, of course, the iPad was developed first but launched after. In that case, my statement is reversed, but they can’t both be breakthrough.”

      iPad development did in fact pre-date the iPhone/iPod Touch. But are you claiming that the *iPhone* and iPad can’t both be breakthroughs?

      Here is why the iPhone/iPod Touch and iPad are both breakthroughs: the iPhone was demonstrated in January of 2007 — there for all to see. Within a year it was clearly seen as a revolutionary device by all but the willfully blind. Yet, when the iPad was introduced three years later in 2010, all of Apple’s competitors were caught completely, utterly wrong footed, completely unable to release a single non-laughable competitor for the next 2 years.

      If the iPad was just a blown up iPod Touch, no breakthrough about it, how come *not a single Apple competitor, including Google and Microsoft* didn’t come up with its own blown up iPod Touch clone? They were utterly convinced that a successful tablet would need a desktop class OS. Microsoft, to this day, keeps believing that as the company goes down in flames. The breakthrough of the iPad was Apple realizing that tablets were portable devices like a phone, requiring a similar OS, not like a laptop without the keyboard, which is what MS had tried releasing over and over and over.

      1. No I was not referring to the iPhone. That was a breath of fresh air. Though I don’t like touch, I do like getting a bigger picture of a webpage more. The iPhone *almost* gave us the full internet experience on a phone. Didn’t have to use the mobile site. My family has had every iPhone through the 4s. Alas, technological politics, imposed tastes, censorship, etc. dulled it for me. The alternatives are quite viable.

        As far as tablets go, they are spewed all around the house. I admit the early Android tablets were utterly awful, though through SD cards they did house my entire music library. The newer ones are much better.

        I do have the Surface Pro 2 and a Vaio Duo 13. Love them both, especially the pen input. There are users like me that want the whole enchilada. Pity Apple doesn’t want us, we feel left out. 😉

  3. We offer a tablet with a real keyboard that lets you get REAL WORK done, like we do here at my company!! You need to come visit us and see us all running around in little circles!! Then you’ll UNDERSTAND why you need our tablet and not the one that fruit company makes for dummies!!!

  4. PCs were never personal computers. That was the great con: If you can’t use or grok this thing, it’s your fault cus’ this is as nice and simple as it get. PC really stood for Priesthood Controlled. Someday someone will figure out how much time and money was lost working on devices horrendously ill suited to our jobs and how we were slaves to IT idiots and in thrall to King Windows, who spent no time innovating beyond announcing vaporware, and worse, stomping on innovations wherever they surfaced. It was the worst of times, a lost generation of computing.

    1. Agreed. 100%. Worse, that Priesthood is willing to call someone who has a medical degree, “Joe Sixpack” because the Doctor would rather see patients than fuss around on his PC.

      The same people who don’t wire their homes, drop a transmission, build a deck, set a broken bone, write their own legal trusts, design a skyscraper, fly a plane, write a symphony or paint a portrait, will call the people who can do these things “stupid”, “lazy”, “the masses”, or “clueless Apple cultists” because those people won’t root a phone or screw around with a PC.

    2. I agree with you, but there’s no priesthood now? Apple’s priesthood is far more difficult to enter, and far more exclusive, more dogmatic, and the Bishop is always up your….

      1. What Apple Priesthood? My 10 and 5 year olds can use iPads with little to no input from me. That is as non-exclusive and less dogmatic as you can get.

        1. Most of the advantages that are touted about Apple are attributed to the fact that they define the hardware, OS, and Apps (approval process). Those are all IT functions. A technological priesthood if ever there was one.

          1. I don’t think your definition matches what stefnagel was talking about certain, not what I was responding to. By your definition, my table was a priesthood because the furniture maker defined the specs and it has no expanded storage.

            However, unlike a PC, my 5 year old can use my table and an iPad.

          2. klahanas, you’re conflating “design” with “dictatorship”. Design makes choices so that you don’t have to – they make the end user’s life easier. IT dictatorship made choices to make THEIR lives easier. Big difference.

          3. Respectfully, I think your taking the binary approach. Yes, making design choices make “most” end user’s life easier, unless it doesn’t. Perhaps the design choices are too rigid? Maybe?

            I also think you also are being a bit too magnanimous towards Apple. Apple doesn’t make choices to make THEIR lives easier? Having to buy a new device to increase storage for instance? Getting a cut from every App? Non interoperable DRM? Give me one good reason, from a users point of view, why an iTunes purchased movie can’t play on an Android device? It’s not a technical hurdle, it’s a political one.

          4. …must read every article that claims apple is not a failure and dispute…facts are irrelevant, I will invent my own…
            must make nerds seem important again…damn

      2. Apple cannot claim to be a monopoly today, not like Google and Amazon can. And the priestly mediators, the IT jerks, have been disintermediated by immediately useful and simple computers, aka iPhone, iPods, and iPads. No more pixie dust, holy water, smells, and bells.

        1. No sir, they are worse. As bad as MS was (I wanted them busted up) the total and overt control over everything on these devices is worse. Who owns the device anyway?
          It could be argued, due to technological reasons, that there’s an Android market, a WP market, and an iOS market. Apple and WP have total monopoly (one source of applications) over their environment. Somehow this is better than Microsoft did? I just think it’s more overt. At the user level no less. I long for the days when you could get your device’s software from any number of legitimate stores, like PPC4All, MobilePlanet, etc.

          1. Apple has not monopoly. You can choose from a wide array of Android devices and at its most basic level, Apple stuff doesn’t nothing these other devices don’t do.

            MS told PC makers, load Windows only(no linux or OS/2),
            MS integrated IE to kill Netscape.
            MS made vendors pay for windows for every PC whether the loaded it or not.
            MS tried to destroy Java by adding specific Windows extensions.
            MS routine announced products that didn’t exist to freeze the market.
            MS dumped software to kill competition products.
            MS was found guilty of anti-trust violations.

            Apple did none of this and has the far less marketshare than PCs. No one forces your to buy Apple and since everything is clearly marked, you know exactly what you are getting and you’re not paying for features you don’t use.

            Let’s say you can argue that there is an Android, iOS and WP market. There is also a blackberry and Windows market. Pick your tool and no one controls your destiny.
            There are also copious amounts of open source, so you can roll your own OS. If you’ve got the chops, you can write whatever software you wish, so I’m not sure why you are longing for what is readily available.

            By a tablet, load up the OS that you wrote and have at it. Ultimate freedom. What exactly is your issue?

          2. MS also used undocumented function calls in Windows to give them unfair advantage in Office. MS also willfully violated patents. Agree with everything else you said about them.
            One thing MS never did was forbid a program from running, or force you to buy software only from them. Until now on Metro.
            If iOS is a marketplace unto itself, then Apple most certainly has monopoly. So does Windows Metro.

          3. The difference is that MS controlled 90+% of the personal computing market, so there was not real alternative. Today, if you do not like the restriction Apple places on iOS, you can choose a different platform. I think you would have a tough time proving to a judge that there are no alternatives to iOS.

          4. You’re right. Like I said above, I suppose market share matters.

            What continues to get me is that where MS would be rightly crucified, and salted, before being burned and having the salty ashes dropped to the bottom of the sea, if they did these things so overtly, there is just as extreme a tolerance, even a defense, for Apple.

          5. Apple does get criticized heavily for this behaviour. Its one of the rallying cries of the pro-Android side and the Apples bears.

            On the other hand, to some, this Apple control is a positive feature.

          6. How can a monopoly be defined as a company holding on to any percent of a market sector? What’s WP? Oh. You mean that with 1 percent of the mobile phone market, WP is a monopoly? Or with about 40 percent of the phone market, Apple is a monopoly? Really? Or with 95 percent of the computer market, Microsoft was somehow less a monopoly? Really.

          7. If these platforms are markets unto themselves, then yes.
            Can you buy any software you like from other sources on iOS or Windows Marketplace without changing your device?

          8. “Monopoly” is a term with meaning in U.S. law, albeit defined by case law, not statute (the Sherman Antitrust Act uses the term without ever defining it.

            The finding of a monopoly invariably depends on the definition of the market. It is inconceivable that courts would accept “devices running iOS” as a market and find that Apple had a monopoly in it.

            Also, Microsoft’s monopoly was not illegal per se because it was legally achieved. Where they crossed the line was in abusing the monopoly once they had accomplished it, especially WRT Netscape.

          9. Thanks for a lucid reply to an unclear law. So who knew? Android is Apple’s saving grace! I guess it IS about market share.

            Didn’t IBM get busted over punch cards or something in the case law? This led to big effects in their case.

            In Apple’s case wouldn’t they have to demonstrate that the consumer isn’t being harmed by having a single source from which to purchase software?

            I’m not a lawyer, but if you seek, you shall find.

          10. IBM was found back in the 50s to violate antitrust laws by requiring customers to buy IBM punchcards. But this was only an issue because IBM at the time had a monopoly on computers. Similarly, Microsoft was found guilty of illegal tying because of its Windows monopoly.

            Apple has no monopoly, therefore the rules on tying do not apply. Furthermore, Apple is no requiring customers to buy only Apple products, even if it controls distribution. And it can make a legitimate customer protection case for its control (where it does not, in any event, set prices, an important distinction in law.)

  5. I didn’t follow tech until 2011, and I have to admit that when the first iPad came out I myself passed it up as merely a big iPhone. Boy was I wrong. But anyway my point is: it seems almost unreal now the amount/level of derision the iPad got when it was released, given how successful it turned out to be. The first thing this piece has taught me is that Apple products are almost always dismissed by the majority of tech journalists.

    An additional point though, one that Ben Thompson wrote on Stratechery is that there are a lot of tech-people (I don’t have a better term, sorry) is that people tend to look at a tech product by its individual parts; it’s ‘specs’. But what made the iPad succeed was not just any one thing, it was a lot of things put together. It was the App Store, the iPad specific API, the battery life, the simplicity of the software…etc2. That’s a lesson that many, MANY tech people still do not seem to get.

  6. The only issue I had with this article was the netbook reference. It’s a tad hypocritical to bash a form factor when calling out the errors of others bashing a form factor.

    The revisionist history around netbooks is a bit ridiculous. They were removed from the market for economic reasons, not for lack of demand. Small, inexpensive, highly mobile. Essentially a tablet with a keyboard attached. The main issue was the UX. Windows is bad enough on full size laptops but terrible on underpowered, smaller screened netbooks. There was a physical limit on how small you could make a laptop’s screen before Windows text became pretty much unreadable. And there was no suitable version of Linux at the time that could act as a substitute. No one would love the iPad if you had to run OS X on it. Even still, netbooks were selling like hotcakes. Anyone familiar with the history knows that Intel and Microsoft did a lot to stifle innovation in the space because netbooks were cannibalizing and eroding the profit margins on more expensive Intel CPUs and manufacturers were pressuring Microsoft to further drop Windows licensing fees so that they could improve the margins on them. Intel and Microsoft preferred just to kill the market. The iPad actually let both of them off the hook by shifting the focus to tablets. But neither Intel nor Microsoft anticipated that the dynamics of the tablet market would shut both of them out almost completely.

    As a physical form factor, netbooks are as viable as any other. There are plenty who enjoy them and still own them. Even a niche market in computing often numbers in the millions. There are even some operating systems now that are more suitable for them. I personally run Elementary OS now and it is lights years ahead in usability for a Linux distro. The Korora Project also makes very highly evolved versions of Linux, especially one strictly FOR netbooks. Moore’s Law has pretty much eliminated the performance issues. IMO, it’s still a viable form factor, just one of many different “screens” for computing.

    1. James. Apple watchers are very sensitive on the subject of Netbooks. We were subjected to years of journalists telling us that Apple were doomed unless they released a netbook, as that was the future of computing. The journalists were simply wrong. Trying to foist the Intel driven initiative on Apple by press release was no way to go.

      “The revisionist history around netbooks is a bit ridiculous.”
      Hmmm. This in and of itself is a tad ridiculous. Look at what you wrote. Firstly if there was such a great demand then when the iPad was released it basically was killed. Secondly you say it was for economic reasons and then launch into a tirade about how Windows was not the right thing for it.

      ” Even still, netbooks were selling like hotcakes.”
      Figures please, pretty certain that very few people who purchased a netbook, bought a second.

      “As a physical form factor, netbooks are as viable as any other.”
      Chromebooks are the new netbooks and just as useless.

      ” I personally run Elementary OS”

      Oh yes the OSX ripoff?

      Your whole post seems riddled with contradictions and personal opinions with no supporting evidence, just hearsay and personal opinion.

      1. “James. Apple watchers are very sensitive on the subject of Netbooks. We were subjected to years of journalists telling us that Apple were doomedunless they released a netbook, as that was the future of computing. The journalists were simply wrong. Trying to foist the Intel driven initiative on Apple by press release was no way to go.” – rattyuk

        If you get sensitive about business matters, especially ones that likely don’t apply directly to your livelihood, you need a thicker skin. Or a hobby.

        “”The revisionist history around netbooks is a bit ridiculous.”
        Hmmm. This in and of itself is a tad ridiculous.” – rattyuk

        From Wikipedia:

        “In an attempt to prevent cannibalizing the more lucrative laptops in their lineup, manufacturers imposed several constraints on netbooks; however this would soon push netbooks into a niche where they had few distinctive advantages over traditional laptops or tablet computers (see below).” – (Wikipedia, entry: “Netbooks”)

        “By late 2008, netbooks had begun to take market share away from notebooks. In contrast to earlier, largely failed attempts to establish mini computers as a new class of mainstream personal computing devices built around comparatively expensive platforms requiring proprietary software applications or imposing severe usability limitations, the recent success of netbooks can also be attributed to the fact that PC technology has now matured enough to allow truly cost optimized implementations with enough performance to suit the needs of a majority of PC users. This is illustrated by the fact that typical system
        performance of a netbook is on the level of a mainstream PC in 2001, at around one quarter of the cost. While this performance level suffices for most of the user needs, it caused an increased interest in resource-efficient applications such as Google’s Chrome, and forced Microsoft to extend availability of Windows XP to secure market share. It is
        estimated that almost thirty times more netbooks were sold in 2008 (11.4 million, 70% of which were in Europe)[22] than in 2007 (400,000). This trend is reinforced by the rise of web-based applications as well as mobile networking and, according to Wired Magazine, netbooks are evolving into “super-portable laptops for professionals”. The ongoing recession is also helping with the growing sales of netbooks.” – (Wikipedia, entry: “Netbooks”)

        “Having peaked at about 20% of the portable computer market, netbooks started to slightly lose market share (within the category) in early 2010, coinciding with the appearance and success of the iPad. Technology commentator Ross Rubin argued two and a half years later in Engadgetthat “Netbooks never got any respect. While Steve Jobs rebuked the netbook at the iPad’s introduction, the iPad owes a bit of debt to the little laptops. The netbook demonstrated the potential of an inexpensive, portable second computing device, with a screen size of about 10 inches, intended primarily for media consumption and light productivity.” Although some manufacturers directly blamed competition from the iPad, some analysts pointed out that larger, fully fledged laptops had entered the price range of netbooks at about the same time.” – (Wikipedia, entry: “Netbooks”)

        “As of January 2009, over 90% (96% claimed by Microsoft as of February 2009) of netbooks in the United States were estimated to ship with Windows XP, which Microsoft was later estimated to sell ranging from US$15 to US$35 per netbook. Microsoft has extended the availability of Windows XP for ultra-low cost personal computers from June 2008 until June 2010. However, the discounted license costs only applies to reduced size and functionality netbooks, which effectively enables the production of low-cost PCs while preserving the higher margins of mainstream desktops and “value” laptops.” – (Wikipedia, entry: “Netbooks”)

        NOTE: The high sales of netbooks were cannibalizing sales of Vista.

        On Atom cannibalization of more expenisve Intel parts:


        BTW, Apple DID produce a netbook, the MacBook Air:

        “The 11.6-inch MacBook Air, introduced in late 2010, compared favorably to many netbooks in terms of processing power but also ergonomics, at 2.3 pounds being lighter than some 10-inch netbooks, owing in part to the integration of the flash storage chips on the main logic board.[34] It was described as a superlative netbook (or at least as what a netbook should be) by several technology commentators, even though Apple has never referred to it as such, sometimes describing it—in the words of Steve Jobs—as “the third kind of notebook.”” – (Wikipedia, entry: “Netbook”)

        Before you complain about the source, the Wikipedia entry is extensively cited. More than enough information if you are actually interested and not just trolling.

        I could keep going but we both know you aren’t really interested in proof and likely wouldn’t accept any provided. But I’ve given you more than enough with which to start.

        “Figures please, pretty certain that very few people who purchased a netbook, bought a second.” – rattyuk

        Proof provided. Your point on the other hand is entirely speculative.

        “Chromebooks are the new netbooks and just as useless.” – rattyuk

        I’m not a fan of Chromebooks but, in any case, this is your opinion.

        “” I personally run Elementary OS”

        Oh yes the OSX ripoff?” – rattyuk

        All technology is derivative. That fancy new multitasking in iOS is a direct knock-off of webOS.

        “Your whole post seems riddled with contradictions and personal opinions with no supporting evidence, just hearsay and personal opinion.” – rattyuk

        The difference between what I wrote and what you wrote is that what I stated CAN be supported and has been. The “hearsay and personal opinion” is entirely on your part.

    2. “IMO, it’s still a viable form factor, just one of many different “screens” for computing.”

      I think you and John Kirk are using two different definitions of what a netbook is.

      John seems to be thinking of netbooks as netbooks, small cheap internet appliances sold to people who wanted to have something that they could slip into their handbag or backpack without thinking about its weight, and take it out to use to check their email and social networks whenever they were somewhere that had wifi.

      You seem to be thinking of them as netbooks, ultra portable notebook computers that can do everything a regular sized computer can do, albeit more slowly and on a teensy screen.

      The Ipad and its android brethren have definitely totally taken over the market for “cheap portable internet device” To the extent that buyers of netbooks were interested in getting portable internet that was also cheap, tablets destroyed the netbook market.

      To the extent that netbooks were bought by people who wanted an “ultraportable computer,” netbooks died from multiple wounds: a) the number of people interested in an ultraportable computer was a lot smaller than the number interested in a portable internet device, so the market shrank a lot. b) Apple had much more powerful ultraportables for those who needed one and could afford it, c) netbooks with their Atom processors were painfully slow and their screens were painfully small, d) laptop makers started realizing they had to make their regular machines thinner and lighter in order to compete with Apple and with netbooks, and so the weight penalty of buying a regular sized laptop vs buying a netbook narrowed. e) the prices of regular laptops fell significantly..

      1. The problem with having this exchange is that I participated w/ the tech community extensively when netbooks were at their height. I predicted both their rise and fall and the causes for both. I blogged extensively on the subject as well. That isn’t to say that I was the only one who spotted this trend but I was one of only a handful who knew without direct contacts inside of Intel or Microsoft. Tech analysts with direct knowledge know that I am correct. But it would be a PR nightmare for a company to admit it was killing a popular class of product simply because there wasn’t enough money to be made with it. It was a lose-lose proposition, either watch your margins shrink to nothing or tick off your customers.

        When the iPad was introduced and knock-offs started to enter into the market, netbooks were pulled off of the shelves long before there were even a handful of viable tablet competitors. Intel and Microsoft were experiencing major profit erosion in the midst of a serious recession. People realized that PC technology had finally gotten to the “good enough” point when ASUS introduced the EeePC. With the iPad and subsequent tablets, OEMs had a much more palatable and potentially profitable option. Commodification had destroyed margins on PC/netbooks but had not yet affected the tablet market. It was simply more profitable for OEMs to move to tablets. As for Intel and Microsoft, neither expected the iPad to be so damn good. Microsoft had attempted to move tablets for years before the iPad and could not contemplate Apple setting the industry on its ear. Intel had already abandoned ARM and could not contemplate an architecture that could provide a computing platform capable of challenging the x86. Neither could conceptualize iOS, which was light years ahead in UI/UX. So both had no problem abandoning netbooks. Intel particularly crippled the platform and implemented licensing stipulations that made it unattractive for OEMs to manufacture netbooks. It was also confident that it could get Atom sized-down quickly enough to compete on smartphones and tablets (but, by the time it was done, ARM had already established itself as the standard). Microsoft pulled a RIM and just ignored the problem until it was just too large to ignore. In the end, Moore’s Law gave both Intel and Microsoft a strong incentive to kill the netbook market.

        For the most part, the difference between netbooks and tablets are use case and UX. Tablets are far more portable and convenient, netbooks are more suitable for input-intensive tasks, such as writing or spreadsheets. Both inhabit the realm of “good enough” computing from a power perspective. It can be argued (easily) that the tablet enables a far greater and more exciting range of use cases based on its enhanced mobility. But from absolute power terms, the two devices fall in the same range. The main advantage of tablets (mobility notwithstanding) are user interfaces that are far more intuitive, specifically tailored for them. Google is trying to address that issue for netbooks with Chrome OS but the need for a persistent broadband connection and (possibly) Google’s reputation for unfettered data collection makes them unattractive for the most part.

        To sum, it was SUPPLY that dried up, not demand. The rest is just industry PR.

  7. Ah, those were the days… I remember commenting up a storm, telling people, left and right, that they were fools, or worse, because I could see the mistakes in their assessment without benefit of hindsight.

    Well, that isn’t entirely true. I was really horribly wrong about he prospects of a few technologies when I was younger. With benefit of hindsight, I looked at my past mistakes, and why I made them, and figured out how to avoid them in the future. It is a worthwhile exercise.

    One of the classics of iPad foolishness, is only hinted at in some of those quotes, was the insistence that it should run Mac software. How absurd. Desktop software on a multitouch tablet? Not hard to see why that would suck from a UI perspective, even if Microsoft missed it. But just as important, it would have been impossible, at that point, to make a device that ran such software with similar weight, cost, and battery life. And yet, how many technology “experts” thought the impossible was essential?

    Another mistake, evidenced in the referenced article, is the assumption that for one device category to flourish, another must loose. That used to be true, to a degree, when computing was relatively expensive, but these days, it is relatively cheap, and many of us have many computing devices.

    1. “One of the classics of iPad foolishness, is only hinted at in some of those quotes, was the insistence that it should run Mac software…” – Erik S

      Yes, that was a huge bone of contention. Oddly, even though the iPad proved that a Touch OS was the key, Microsoft completely missed the lesson. They thought that touch was the key and that touch could be used on both a desktop and a tablet OS.

  8. I don’t think any lesson has been learn unfortunately; companies are just copying Apple for now. Microsoft is in retail for example. I personally called the death of PCs in December 2009, when rumours got serious. Not because Apple is special or that I wanted a tablet that bad, but because PC companies let their guard down. In December 2009, we were on a path of buying plastic laptops forever. Everything that could be outsourced was outsourced, everything dollar that could be squeezed was squeezed. The PC thought it was eternal. And here come the Californian designers with their new idea, oops! Tech is not about selling zillions of the same old, it’s about improving human condition. You do that, you will sell zillions, but it’s not the goal per se. The iPad has improved our life, ask my girlfriend. 🙂 Our job is to eliminate our job. While most were busy merging and rebranding, Steve Jobs was making deals, getting the music. He single-handedly fired everyone at Sam’s. He got us moving forward. Canada Post announced this week they will no longer do daily home deliveries, this thing called “the future” is happening anyway it seems. So the lesson I think everybody should learn is: you cannot stop progress. And R&D is not a “department”, it’s the executive branch! Let techies drive tech now, and you won’t have to catch up later.

  9. I have owned several tablets. I had always heard from friend to skip the iPads because Apple is too close and etc. Last week, however, I decided to buy a new tablet and this time I went for the iPad. The iPad is IMPRESSIVE. The screen is gorgeous, everything is simple nod just works! I spend several hours reading and working in this little device, it is beautiful, so beautifully designed. Now, I am buying a MacBook Pro with retina display. Goodbye junk products! For me Apple is the way to go.

  10. You’re so awesome! I don’t believe I have read a single thing like that before. So great to find someone with some original thoughts on this topic. Really..

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