Apple iPad, the New Mall of America?

POSTED ON May 28, 2010

Joel Friedlander

Written by Joel Friedlander

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The iPad has sold over 1 million units in just the first few weeks since it has come out. Competitors were caught unaware. They were expecting a machine that did half as much, at twice the price.

Hewlett Packard, who had been touting their own tablet (the Slate), quietly retreated. Numerous other hardware manufacturers have gone back to the drawing board, knowing they will need a better device to try to take some market share away from the iPad. New eInk devices—the black and white screens like those on the Kindle and the Nook—are coming out at prices well below what’s currently on the market.

Even skeptics, after using the device for a few days, seem to be seduced by it. Every time I read the account of some skeptical blogger or writer who has acquired the tablet, it sounds the same.

Here’s Michael N. Marcus on BookMaking:

This afternoon I’ll be giving my less-than-a-year-old Acer netbook to my sister. I have no reason to use it again.

Others write of how they won’t be taking their laptops on business trips any longer. It’s as if the tablet exerts some powerful pull, a tractor beam too strong to resist.

Here’s Chris Brogan, on his blog, Chris Brogan:

I did two back-to-back tests. Week 1 with my iPad, I tried using it as my sole computer on the road. Week 2, I left it home. Far from a good scientific test, what I proved was this: I really missed my iPad. . . . I missed the flexibility, I missed the simplicity, I missed the single-tasking, and I missed the interface.

And What About Those iBooks?

The advent of the Kindle, with its almost instant downloads, has conditioned millions of readers to reading ebooks. Now, with the incredible vibrancy of the iPad screen and the smooth responsiveness of its intuitive interface, ebook reading is more seductive than ever.

Guy Kawasaki, on Holy Kaw, talks about the decaying market for printed books, citing Mike Shatzkin of Idea Logical:

By the end of 2012, digital books will be 20% to 25% of unit sales, and that’s on the conservative side. Add in another 25% of units sold online, and roughly half of all unit sales will be on the Internet.

But Kawasaki himself has been bitten by the iBook bug:

You can see a picture of my iPad library above. I have not bought a hardbound book since the day I got an iPad. I usually buy about one a week.

And here’s Dominique Raccah, publisher of Sourcebooks, which issues over 300 titles a year:

. . . I’m actually a book publisher and I used to read 1-2+ physical books a week. I converted to digital books in a weekend, the weekend I got the iPad. I’m actually buying more books (unbelievably) but they’re all digital.

The New World Order

After a week with the iPad, I can attest to its allure. Beautiful images, gorgeous movies, the simplicity of the interface inherited from its iPhone origins, and the tactile closeness enforced by the multi-touch interface, all draw you into a close connection with the smooth slab.

This week saw the introduction of Wired Magazine’s first issue built for the multi-media environment of the iPad. The ad at the top of this article is (one of the many) from this issue. It’s for the MGM Grand Hotel, and is also one of the many with hot links to web content, in-line videos and other “involvement devices” that would make any direct marketer sit up and smile. Broadly.

Why? Look at the demographic of the iPad buyer. These wonder devices are in the hands of people with massive purchasing power.

The “secret” if there is one, about the iPad, is in its role as computing accessory. It’s so easy to use because the entire environment is tightly controlled, regulated, safe. It took me a couple of days to locate anything that looked like a file list, and that was only after installing a third-party file manager.

iPad: The New Mall of America?

The beauty and ease of operation of the iPad is a function of this sealed environment. Because of this, it’s obvious that the iPad is a premier platform for consuming content. It’s not an enviroment that’s very well suited to creating content, at least not yet.

In some ways, the iPad may be the most seductive direct-marketing vehicle ever created. Imagine catalogs that come alive at the touch of a button, drawing you in to product demos, instructional videos, and models demonstrating products. Just a touch of a button away from downloading books, movies, games, all kinds of digital content. Just a swipe away from ordering new curtains, a pair of shoes, whatever marketers can serve up.

It is, indeed, a new age. iBooks begin to look like just a sideshow, not the main performance we thought they would be. Combine the ease of shopping on the iPad with the data trail that we are leaving behind constantly in every online transaction, and you have an amazing, targeting and demographically-pinpointed selling machine.

It will be interesting to see what happens, and I’d love to hear your opinion.

Takeaway:Apple’s iPad is a revolutionary computer accessory ideal for consuming content, consuming digital products and, eventually, for targeted direct marketing.

Joel Friedlander

Written by
Joel Friedlander

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