Image via CrunchBase
I know, I know, this weekly blog entry often seems like just a space for me to write about my latest Apple gadget. And I'm going to do it again this week. I know, I know, there's a so-called cult of Apple that some people are put off by. (See here and here for some recent considerations.) But for me it's all about the usefulness and effectiveness of the tool. I've used 3 major operating systems in my life: UNIX, Windows, and Mac OS X, and I just find OS X more effective for my current needs and usage patterns. I also think it's far more elegant and user-friendly than the others. Your mileage may vary. But in this space, since I use primarily Apple products, when it comes to computing devices, I'll be talking about Apple products.
And the news this week was all about the iPad. Not because there's a new one. But because Apple apparently sold a lot of them last year. More than anyone was predicting.
Apple sold 14.8 million iPads in 2010.
I sometimes use the phrase “unforeseeable growth” to describe the kind of growth that not even the most knowledgeable observers of a market can predict. It’s usually an indicator that fundamentally transformational change is taking place.
It’s not a sufficient condition, but it’s clear that “nobody saw it coming” is a common refrain when disruptions are seen in the rear-view mirror.
If analysts, to a man, fail, you can be sure that competitors are no wiser. This collective shrug amounts to the greatest competitive advantage any entrant could ever hope to obtain.
I'm no consumer electronics marketing guru, but that seems to me like an awful lot of gadgets to sell in less than year. (The iPad went on sale in April.) I don't quite know what to make of it. I have been intrigued over the last few months to read various assessments of how tablet computers, and apparently the iPad in particular, can be very useful for certain users with distinctive needs, such as autistic children:
Since the iPad's unveiling in April, autism experts and parents have brought it into countless homes and classrooms around the world. Developers have begun pumping out applications specifically designed for users with special needs, and initial studies are already measuring the effectiveness of the iPod Touch and the iPad as learning tools for children with autism.
Through the devices, some of these children have been able to communicate their thoughts to adults for the first time. Others have learned life skills that had eluded them for years. Though there are other computers designed for children with autism, a growing number of experts say that the iPad is better. It's cheaper, faster, more versatile, more user-friendly, more portable, more engaging, and infinitely cooler for young people.
And also: centenarians:
He requires large-print books and he’s read through most of the ones he cares to from the local library. He’d like to revisit some of his favorite books but he can’t because they aren’t available in large print. But thanks to the iPad, many now are.
The day before we returned home from our holiday, my mother asked Lew to put down the book he was reading and take a look at the Dick Francis e-book she’d purchased from the iBookstore. She placed the iPad in his lap, launched the iBooks app, adjusted the font size, and asked him to read the first page aloud to confirm that he could see the print clearly. This he was able to do. She then showed him how to turn and bookmark pages and use the table of contents.
He looked down at the large-print book in his lap, looked up at the iPad, and said, “This is the end of libraries for me. How marvelous!”
With such a range of potential users, maybe that 14.8 million isn't so surprising. I know as soon as they release a version with a camera, we're going to get another one (for more portable video-Skyping with the grandparents if nothing else). As always, it will be fascinating to see what happens next with these technologies.