What is fascinating about a Steve Jobs event is that it almost doesn’t seem to matter what he presents - the folks at the event walk out like they have turned into Apple buying zombies.
The day before the event they could have, and often are, complaining about the number of gadgets they have purchased they don’t use and suddenly are transformed from jaded buyer to near rabid buyer. If more CEOs had the capability that Steve Jobs demonstrates we’d likely all have a lot less cash and a lot more electronic stuff.
Generally, however, when Steve announces a product in a competitive area the product is available within a week of the announcement so that folks can be harvested while they are in frenzy mode. Two months for the less attractive but more aggressively priced Wi-Fi version and nearly three for the more desirable 3G version is a long time to stay excited for a product in this price class in a tight market.
iPad: Reality Steps In
The Jesus Tablet this isn’t but, let’s face it, the hype was largely not coming from Apple and so out of control that no product was likely to match expectations. Still, it looked like the majority of people who were watching the event wanted one of the devices by the time the event ended.
However will that desire hold? This is an expensive device, when you factor in the accessories, the fact you can’t use the data plan for anything else, the lack of phone or camera features, and the AT&T 3G support you are likely in the $1,000 price range and not exactly perfectly happy.
You can buy a lot of cool things for a thousand dollars and outside of Steve Jobs “reality distortion field” the parents, spouses, siblings and friends are likely to weigh in on why we shouldn’t be spending this kind of money right now.
If this were any other company I’d figure that sales would be underwhelming.
Apple’s Magic Sauce
However this is Apple and they are likely to seed these things with people we respect and admire who will praise the products incessantly. Apple’s marketing campaign for the device should start to ramp up aggressively in March and they have always been very good at product placement so we should see them in TV shows and eventually movies.
They may have even held back a feature or two so they have something fresh and new to announce when the product becomes available just to fuel interest.
So Apple is capable of rebuilding demand for this device prior to its release. The question of whether you will buy one will depend on your other choices if you are in the market for this kind of a device.
Once again assuming you want a device in this class the choices should get more interesting when the Kindle refresh products and other 3rd generation eBooks come to market in the second half of the year. We should begin to see the first 4G products, products using the Qualcomm Mirasol and Pixel Qi hybrid displays, and that provide different function sets and sizes (many will be more portable 5” screens).
Don’t forget CES was awash with tablets mostly less expensive (down to $200) smaller, and potentially more capable (but not from Apple or with iTunes).
By the end of the year I expect we will start to hear rumors of the 2nd generation iPad that will be coming to combat these interim more advanced competitive offerings as well. Your choice will be to have something expensive and exclusive for a few months but that will provide a year or more of enjoyment, or wait and get something even more capable and less expensive. Remember how expensive and limited the first iPhone was?
Wrapping Up: The Vast Majority of You Will Wait
A broad market product needs to be under $300 and even at its cheapest the iPad is too expensive. Given the price point and the likely news of better products on the horizon coupled with the ugly economic news which is likely to continue this year, the vast majority of you, many of which currently intend to buy the device, will choose to wait.
Those that don’t wait will have a piece of history and be part of the beginning of something big, those that do will save a few bucks. Most of you will save the money; unfortunately I’m not like most of you, which is why my wife should hide my credit cards.
Let me know what you think, will you still want one in 2 or 3 months or will you wait for something cheaper and better?
Rob Enderle is one of the last Inquiry Analysts. Inquiry Analysts are paid to stay up to date on current events and identify trends and either explain the trends or make suggestions, tactical and strategic, on how to best take advantage of them. Currently he provides his services to most of the major technology and media companies. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.