My inbox this morning was full of marketing missives about the official announcement of Apple's iPad. There was Apple's own e-mail linking to the official propaganda. There was the story in the Self-Proclaimed Newspaper of Record. A couple of marketing news feeds (here and here). There are two important questions: Will it succeed like the iPhone? Why does it matter?
Will it succeed like the iPhone?
The blogosphere's commentary is mixed so far, mainly because this is a completely new kind of device and we can only talk about it in terms of known references. Thus you hear the iPad is "an iPhone on steroids", "a really big iPod Touch", "a Kindle killer", "an imitation Kindle", and even -- I am not making this up -- a feminine hygiene product.
The main thing for us all to keep in mind is that the iPad (snicker) is a mobile device. As my colleague Michael Fassnacht opined recently in a blog post about mobile marketing in 2010, "the definition of the mobile device will change dramatically." Regardless of whether Apple succeeds again, the iPad will definitely change our frame of reference about mobile devices.
The iPad is a big new product launch. One of the laws of Ye Olde Marketing that's likely to stay constant in modern marketing is the 90% failure rate of new product launches. Not even Apple can defy this law; see this list of the Top 10 Apple products which flopped.
One of Apple's secrets is to learn from failure. The road to the iPhone is littered with Newtons and Lisas that flunked with consumers. In the end, though, they changed how and when we communicate with others, receive entertainment, take pictures, shop and many other routines. (Along the way they transformed themselves from a computer hardware company into a consumer electronics company -- another harbinger of convergence.) It doesn't matter if iPad succeeds because they will have set the stage for a future success, either their own or someone else's.
What matters is whether the iPad permits engagement with consumers
What matters to marketers is whether the iPad permits engagement with consumers. There was a bit of a dust-up in the comments of an AdAge.com article this morning over whether the iPad will support typical online advertising technology. It seems the answer at this moment is "no" or "in some ways" but those are merely the answers of the moment. Everything in marketing changes so fast that it's a safe bet we will all find ways to engage consumers on the iPad. (For more on this, read Josh Bernoff's piece on the "Splinternet".)
If the iPad fails, you can count on three things. 1. Apple will learn from failure and invent something better and more successful. 2. We will all gain more experience with mobile marketing. 3. Mobile will continue to be an important place to engage consumers.