Apple Tablet Strategy: Replace your existing hardware
There has been much debate on the question of “why does anyone need a bigger iPhone?”
Many have opined that the tablet will just be a bigger iPhone and in that view they find it hard to justify why they would need such a device. Apple has obviously considered all this too. Steve Jobs is rumored to have twice killed the tablet project for this reason, along the way asking “what use does this have other then browsing the internet while you’re on the shitter?” (paraphrased).
I think the strategy Apple is pursuing is a lot bolder then simply a bigger iPhone. I think they’re looking at all the devices we currently have in our homes, cars, offices and other places we spend time and asking themselves which of those hardware products can be replaced or made more effective by pairing it with a device like the tablet.
Examples of such hardware include:
- Home and office phones
- TV remotes & universal remotes
- Digital picture frames
- Retail point of sale systems
- The screen on your printer/copier/fax machine
- Thermostats and climate control systems
- Your car’s infotainment system
- Home security systems
- Consumer video cameras
- Small televisions
- Lighting control systems
I think the vision here is that the tablet could work with or replace a lot of this stuff.
- Imagine for a minute that you could simply pick up your tablet and adjust the thermostat in your house, or set your security system or control the lighting
- Imagine you could control your TV and other A/V equipment without having multiple remotes lying around.
- Imagine if you could cook dinner while watching a video on your tablet of how to make the dish.
- Imagine you could read digital magazines and actually get a similar experience that the paper based versions produce.
When you really think about it, there are a lot of gadgets and gizmos lying around most people’s houses, cars, and workplaces, and most of those feature bad software that offers poor user experiences.
The biggest lesson the iPhone taught us was that demand exists for a lot of very diverse applications to fill specific niches, few of which are large enough on their own to justify a dedicated device. The brilliance on Apple’s part was building a device and a development ecosystem that allowed those diverse applications to be constructed by others and to come together on one platform that we all carry in our pocket. This led to a shared development cost, an insanely rapid development of niche applications and a far better user experience for those applications. The results of this strategy have been overwhelming.
I predict that Apple’s tablet strategy will follow this model. It will rely on creating a hardware device that has a few specific uses that Apple will define and then Apple is going to rely on the developer community to produce applications that fit the varied uses that people will think up.
For Apple’s part, the leading application the company is likely to target in my opinion is magazine and book reading since this activity fits with the iTunes model extremely well and is a market desperately looking for innovation and new forms of monetization. I expect we’ll see some form of generic pricing of magazines (something like $1.99 per issue or $9.99 a year for 12 issues feels right). Publishers are going to begin shifting their production focus to the tablet in large numbers and as revenue begins to come in from that source, we’ll see news stand magazine prices increase steadily to make up for the decreased sales volume.
If this is indeed where the marketing focus is, you can be sure that Apple will have spent exhaustive amounts of time perfecting the user’s reading experience. It will be something totally new and will blow us away by its sheer elegance and simplicity.