Report: The iPad won't go mass market anytime soon

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As magical as Apple’s iPad may be, it’s unlikely to go mass market anytime soon. That’s according to research carried out in the UK, which concludes that consumers struggle to see how the device could fit into their lives.

Simpson Carpenter‘s qualitative research drew comments from participants such as: “It’s just a big iPod Touch … a big iPhone without the phone” and “everything it does I can do on my PC or my phone right now.”

All of the iPad’s perceived advantages were seen to be filling a niche or too use-case specific, such as reading eBooks, consuming content on the train, or making presentations. And while the majority of those interviewed thought the iPad had the wow factor, they couldn’t justify a purchase.

“It occupies too much territory already covered by smartphones, PCs, laptops and traditional media”, says the report, concluding that most consumers are unable “to find enough rational argument to justify taking the plunge.”

But over time that could change.

Part of the problem, the report notes, is that the amount of hype that the iPad garnered before and at launch doesn’t match up with expectations. Mainstream users were expecting a revolution when all they see is incremental change.

A second group, however, described as the “impulsive minority” say they don’t need it but simply have to have it. For them “it’s not about function, compatibility or improvement but about raw appeal, its sheer magic.”

The report quite rightly concedes that these early adopters may well show the way, and that over time the iPad could make more sense to mainstream users.

I’d also add that the price will come down too, inline with expectations and that the iPad will likely have a break-out moment or killer app, perhaps gaming, which has driven sales of the iPod touch. I also very much subscribe to Paul Carr’s analysis that the iPad isn’t competing against a single device but competing for our attention — it’s a jack of all trades when it comes to content consumption and this makes it a serious contender.

That said, the report signs off with the following verdict: “In our view the iPad will take longer to achieve the sales growth and wider market impact of the iPhone.”

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