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Posted by Charles Golvin on January 26, 2010
In the last month the din of rumor and the clamor of speculation inspired by Apple’s expected announcement this week has risen in a crescendo that is about to peak. We’re all convinced this Wednesday’s “one other thing” will be some kind of magical tablet device. We all expect it will be a big deal. And in these past weeks we’ve witnessed a parade of writers, analysts, and consumers who have all published their “wish” or even “guess” (or, in some cases, “fantasy”) lists. But we have yet to see what we think really matters: an Apple “should” list that identifies the things Apple should do to ensure that its device is successful.
Let’s put this on the record: Apple has to create a new category here – that’s something it has not done in more than two decades. Apple’s genius is its ability to consumerize a device category through great design, software, and marketing. It did it with the PC, the digital music player, and the [shudder] smartphone. The coming tablet is an oddity. It is flawed in meaningful ways: It’s a computer without a keyboard, it’s a digital reader with poor battery life and a high price tag, and it’s a portable media player that can’t fit in a pocket. As a result, Apple has to tap the 6 million people who will buy eReaders this year and/or the 7% of adults interested in buying a netbook and help them see that this new tablet is a new version of all of those things an more, where its value comes from their elegant integration into a single, awesome, user experience. This is something we think Apple can do, but only if it puts the right objectives on its to-do list. We’re not rooting for Apple per se, except to the extent that Apple: 1) improves consumers’ lives, and 2) cleverly exploits market opportunities or gaps to force everyone else to elevate their game. (Note that #2 will lead to more of #1, this is a fruit of free-market economics, and we are eager to taste it.)
So into the vast cacophony of opinion that is about to get turned up past 11 (apologies to Spinal Tap), we offer the following 3 things we think Apple should do with its announcement on Wednesday. Accompanying this recommendation is a warning: if Apple doesn’t do these things, or do them well, the long-lauded tablet form factor will remain a peculiarity.
There’s a lot more detail behind it, but this is our short “should” list for Apple. A list that, conveniently, applies to consumer product strategists everywhere who want to take on or draft off of Apple as well. Amazon’s next generation Kindle should do the same (we’ve codenamed it “Kindle Flame” around here). We’ll be publishing a much more detailed analysis of the tablet market for our product strategy clients in the coming weeks once we have the full detail of Apple’s offering and can scour our consumer data for evidence of who wants – and can pay for – this kind of experience. Stay tuned for that analysis.
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