After a week with the iPad 2, I’ve come to realize that Apple’s true revolutionary change has been conceptual. The first iPad wasn’t just a new product … it was a whole new category of computer. I think in 2010, Apple instinctively understood that with something this different on their hands, they couldn’t go for broke. They could only lay out their cards and imply the iPad’s many strengths and then they’d have to stand back and watch what happened. After all of their efforts, they could only hope that consumers and developers figured out what the iPad was on their own. Only then could Apple make their next move, based on those reactions.
It all could have gone very badly. If Apple had sold the iPad explicitly as an ebook reader, the first complaint would have been “Why does this cost twice as much as a Kindle?” If they had gone the other way and suggested that the iPad was a substitute for your notebook, then any sensible consumer would have pointed out that while the iPad 1 was far more affordable than the cheapest MacBook, $500-$875 could buy any of a number of powerful, name-brand Windows notebooks.
Selling 15,000,000 iPads in nine months must have filled Apple with a certain degree of confidence that the world had truly gotten the point.
The public got it: the iPad was no mere accessory to a desktop and while it certainly earned best-in-class honors as a reader, media player, and document-viewer, there was no need to limit one’s perceptions of the device. The iPad was, and is, truly an entire new class of computer. Many of you were around for the transition from text to graphical user interfaces. Some of you were even around when the world shifted from mainframes to personal computers. Well, congratulations: you’ve lived to see your third revolution in computing.
Oftentimes paradigm shifts aren’t really obvious until years after the fact – sometimes many years. I think Andy is on to something that the iPad represents a paradigm shift in computing, and we are watching the creativity and destruction from such a fundamental change in realtime.
I have a feeling that I could make a good cross-reference to Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions if only I’d read the book rather than just the Wikipedia summary.
Ironically I have it here next to me, on my iPad 2.