I am not a hardware geek. Hardware and I repel each other, and always have. I am also not an Apple fan (although not an Apple hater either -- as I tend to say, I eat Macintosh apples). But I have been known to have opinions even about those things that I do not know well.
So, my gut level response is to compare Microsoft with Apple. Microsoft mostly releases new versions or new generations of software all still aimed at the same audience. Windows 7 competes with Windows Vista which competes with Windows XP/2000. Office 2010 competes with Office 2007 which competes with Office 2003. On the business end, mail in a cloud competes with mail on a server which competes with earlier mail on a server. Partly due to market dominance and partly due to company attitude, Microsoft is trying to satisfy and retain an audience,
Apple is a hardware/software/content blend rather than a software pure company, and it has larger competitors for its markets , but those only partly explain the difference in approach. Apple tends to create new products to overlap and enlarge the audience.
The iPhone had the advantages of the iPod with an integrated smart phone capability. It appealed to people who wanted the coolest smart phone, and it opened up a market to a wide array of exclusive iPhone apps, but it also removed the need for an iPod for those people who wanted fewer devices to carry about. It was aimed at the power users and geeks and business professionals who might not need quite the corporate Blackberry. For example, many of my geek friends.
The IPod Touch was introduced later to expand that to include pre-teens as well as, teens and adults who already had phones with cheaper plans. For example, my 14 year-old son.
The iPad was introduced to fill the need for those who didn't care about throwing the device in a pocket, but were intrigued by a) the "I have an app for that" mentality, b) the larger screen for older eyes, c) the use instead of a Kindle or other eBook reader, and d) the use instead of those small, inexpensive laptops (netbooks? I'm not a hardware guy) that are springing up on planes and such. So, less mobile, bigger screen for older eyes, use as eBook reader, use for simpler tasks while traveling. For example, me.
I can only conclude that Apple has actually built a device to appeal to me (and millions like me or with some of my characteristics). And you know what, besides the dumb name, they've done pretty well. I have seen no demos, read few articles and blogs, didn't watch the Steve Jobsarama, and yet:
a) I am intrigued by the apps now available on my sons iPod Touch, and can see myself using some of them;
b) I have been turned off by the iPod Touch because of its small screen, but find this interesting;
c) I have been pricing Kindles and such, since more of my published stories are coming out in eBook formats; and
d) I have been finding out more about those mini laptops on the plane, because the damn seats are too small, and I could type on those but not on my big laptop.
I could get all those needs in one place with a sexy interface? You know, I just might spring for one of those iPads, and that is spoken as a person who has never bought an MP3 player, a smart phone or anything of the kind. I think Apple may just have succeeded in expanding that audience base.
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