Photo courtesy of Engadget
Since last Wednesday's announcement of the iPad 2, we've heard a lot of tech bloggers stating that they think the newest Apple tablet is going to be a flop. Well, maybe not exactly a failure, but not as successful as the original iPad was.
I think the naysayers are completely out to lunch, and it's not just because I am a rabid fan of Apple products. Follow along as I go through my reasoning as to why the iPad 2 is going to be a resounding success for Apple.
Newer is better (or at least that's the perception)
Unlike the innovators and early adopters who write for tech blogs, there are a lot of people who don't buy the first round of anything; instead, they wait until the second edition becomes available. I heard this a lot from people who were gazing at my iPad with lust in their eyes: "I really want to get one, but I'm going to wait until the second generation comes out."
For those who waited, they now have their chance to get an iPad that is demonstrably better than the first model. It has cameras, it has a dual-core processor, and it has graphics capabilities that are much better than what came with the first-generation iPad. Those people who waited are still in the "early majority" of consumers, so they'll still appear to be ahead of the curve in terms of being technological leaders to their friends.
I think we'll see a lot of people who were on the fence about buying an iPad suddenly deciding to pick up an iPad 2. The features of the newer tablet address many of the complaints that the tech press had about the original iPad, and for a number of people, those features will take down the last barrier to making a purchase decision. Even if the iPad 2's specs aren't a huge step forward over the original iPad, for many people the perception is that "newer is better," and that perception is all it takes for someone to make a purchasing decision.
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Many networks are better than one
When the original iPad hit the stores last year, it was available only in the United States, and for a while, it was Wi-Fi only. When the Wi-Fi + 3G model finally made it to market, it was only available on the AT&T network. For a lot of people on the Verizon network, the iPad wasn't an opti as they didn't want to get a Wi-Fi version with a MiFi tacked on.
With the iPad 2, we'll see availability of GSM and CDMA models (as well as the Wi-Fi only version) immediately. Better network coverage by two American mobile carriers will make for less indecision on the part of potential buyers. As noted in the next section of this post, there will also be faster worldwide availability of the iPad 2, most of those devices connecting to GSM-based networks around the globe.
Greater Retail Availability
Last April during the launch of the iPad, there was one place you could buy one: at an Apple Store in the United States. As time went by, availability grew dramatically. AT&T Stores started carrying the iPad, then Verizon was selling them with mobile Wi-Fi hotspots. Best Buy had 'em, along with Target, Walmart and Sam's Club. The iPad is now sold in a huge number of countries worldwide, and the iPad 2 will only see a two-week delay before it starts appearing in overseas markets.
More instant availability in stores is going to make the iPad 2 even more of an impulse buy for people who were considering the original iPad but decided to wait.
FaceTime (almost) everywhere
Although I've heard other tech bloggers poopooing the impact of FaceTime on the iPad, I think that it's going to make the new device even more popular that the original. FaceTime has made it very easy for anyone with a Mac, iPhone, and now an iPad to easily make face-to-face video calls.
So why will FaceTime on the iPad be so compelling? It's the size of the screen. Sure, those Apple iPhone 4 ads last year tugged at the heartstrings and made video calling look like something that all the cool kids were doing. In reality, the 3.5" screen of an iPhone 4 doesn't have the impact of the iPad 2's 9.7" screen, even if it does have almost the same number of pixels.
Rather than having the family huddle around an iPhone 4 screen to make a FaceTime call to Dad in Afghanistan, they can now use an iPad 2 to make the call and everyone can see the screen. FaceTime's ease of use compared to other solutions (i.e., Skype, Google chat and other video chat options) and the new portability of the application on a large-screen device like the iPad 2 are sure to make it a selling point for many potential tablet buyers.
Competition? What competition?
Earlier today, Apple stock blogger "Sammy the Walrus IV" provided an enlightening analysis over at Business Insider about the iPad's market share. While Steve Jobs noted during his talk on Wednesday that "Many have said (iPad) is the most successful consumer product ever launched. Over 90% market share and our competitors were flummoxed," a lot of people were wondering where that number came from. After all, Strategic Analytics had shown the iPad's market share to be around 75% and dropping rapidly.
I won't go through the details here, as Sammy provides a logical argument in his post, but if you look at actual devices sold and not just shipped, Apple's market share does appear to be over 90%. Now, there is a certain percentage of the population that wouldn't buy an Apple product even if it was the only available product in its class, but a lot of people want to go with the market leader. Why? Just because they know that they're making a solid and safe purchasing decision.
During CES 2011, we heard about over a hundred new tablet devices that are expected to hit the market this year. Given the number of manufacturers who are going to be creating "me too" Android tablets, the noise and confusion in that part of the market is going to be tremendous. Sure, a few larger players like Samsung and HTC may pick up market share percentage points here and there, but faced with the overwhelming variety of devices that are going to be coming out, it seems likely that the average consumer will go with the iPad 2 because it's a safe decision.
Apps make the device
Robert Scoble made a good point in a post on March 2: "No apps, no sale." For the iPad and iPad 2, there are already 65,000 apps available. As he points out, the highly-touted (and over-advertised) Motorola Xoom has a whopping total of 16 apps, and most of those are smartphone versions that are stretched to fit the larger screen rather than apps that have been specifically designed for the big screen. As we all found out last April, stretched apps look like crap.
As for the other platforms, HP's TouchPad and BlackBerry's PlayBook, there are no apps right now. Zip. Neither of those devices are even shipping right now. Scoble also points out that in terms of hardware specs, most of these devices are remarkably similar to the iPad 2. So what does the iPad 2 have that the others don't? A huge variety and depth of apps.
I'm sure that this post will generate a lot of comments. There will be those who agree with my points and believe that the iPad 2 is going to do even better than the original, and then there will be those who think that the rising tide of Android devices is going to knock Apple out of the tablet business altogether.
Whatever your feelings, we'd like to hear them in the comments. Just one thing: please respect your fellow commenters and don't make personal attacks.