iPad : How Apple Started a Tablet Revolution
At the launch of the iPad3 on March 7, 2012 Apple’s new CEO Tim Cook, who succeeded the legendary Steve Jobs, said that the iPad was “the poster child of the post PC world”. With most other products such hyperbole would be dismissed as part of a sales pitch but not with the iPad. The first iPad was launched in January 2010 and in just two years; it has become the defining product of a whole new industry. The iPad 3 launch attracted night long queues in front of stores. Pre-booked sales have resulted in a 3 week waiting period to buy the product.
In 2011, Apple shipped an estimated 47 million iPads, representing a 73.4 percent market share. Over a dozen makes of tablet computers scrapped for the remainder. Forecasts predict a 2015 market of 320 million tablets with Apple continuing to dominate with a 50 percent market share. This market projection translates to a 70 percent per year compounded growth. A tablet revolution is truly in progress.
Apple did not invent the tablet computer
Contrary to common perception, Apple did not invent the tablet computer nor was 2010 the year of invention. The first tablet computer was in fact displayed at trade shows by Microsoft back in 2002. They had re-written the Windows XP platform to accept touch stylus inputs in addition to the mouse and keyboard and had packaged it as a concept product. Microsoft had also coined the name “tablet” for this device. Microsoft is not a product company and they had hoped that the concept would lead to computer makers like Dell and HP adopting stylus inputs for certain features of their computers. HP did develop a product but since the focus was always on the business user market, the product sank without a trace.
Apple itself had worked on tablet like devices in the 1995-98 periods, particularly the Newton PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) products that were not particularly successful. The impetus for the iPad tablet computer really came from the enormous success of the iPhone launched in 2007 that established consumer acceptance of touch screen technology and the intuitive ease of use that cut across language and culture barriers. The iPhone development in partnership with Cingular Wireless was to overcome the drawbacks Apple saw in its previous efforts to develop the Motorola ROKR phone.
The evolution of the iPad design was built on these foundations and helped by advances in microprocessors, touch screen displays and graphics user interface technologies.
The next phase of the tablet revolution
While the reasons for the iPad’s runaway success are still being analyzed, most people agree that the compact, simple-to-use design that permits even a 4 year old child to use the iPad, the effortless connection to the internet and the daylong battery life are important parameters that contribute to its success.
Tablet computer usage is now expanding beyond the traditional communication, information and entertainment applications to new areas like education, business and medical care. Several interesting experiments are under way around the world to propagate the use of tablet computers in education including the ambitious $50 tablet named Aakash in India. The first applications for medical care using tablet computers are with the US Federal Drug Administration for approval. Small businesses are beginning to buy iPads in increasing numbers in place of notebook or desktop computers.
The major limitation to faster spread of tablet computers remains the price. The $500 price tag is quite steep for applications such as education. The Kindle Fire tablet has set their price at $200, showing that lower prices are possible. The Aakash tablet, albeit with much lower specifications and capability, could set another benchmark.
It does appear that the post PC world is upon us and with increasing convergence between smart phones and tablets; perhaps Apple itself would come out with a new revolutionary product to replace the two devices with a single all-purpose device that everyone can afford. In the words of another Apple veteran Alan Kay, “the best way to predict the future is to invent it”.
Claudia is a blogger by profession. She loves writing on luxury and technology. She recently read an article on mobile games that attracted her attention. These days she is very fond of beach bag.