On the eve of iPad 2.0, it’s time to think again about this curious new computer. My intuition tells me that this product category will behave very differently from the iPhone and will not be subject to the same sales ramp.
The iPad has been on the market for less than a year but it’s still a puzzle for many. It’s a product that’s often seen as an iPhone product line extension. From a hardware point of view, it certainly seems to be. It has an almost identical internal architecture and uses almost the same software. An engineer would look at it and reasonably say it’s the same thing.
However, from the way it’s used and the way it’s sold, it has very little in common with its smaller cousin. There are plenty of experts who can detail how the products are used differently, but I would highlight the portability of the iPhone makes it suitable for a completely different set of tasks than the less portable but more immersive iPad.
But what I want to dwell on here is how differently the products are sold.
In a recent answer on quora, I wrote that I did not believe developers are tempted primarily by economic incentives when choosing which platforms to work on. I suggested that they hire platforms because of their star-making potential and that star-making value is not a something that money can buy. Using Hollywood as an example I suggested that subsidies decrease the perceived value of a talent-oriented platform.
The notion that a platform signals meaning to developers led me to think about how mobile platforms signal meaning to consumers. I have a hypothesis that platforms can and should be treated as brands. This point of view allows platform orchestrators to develop a comprehensive market-driven strategy for platforms that transcends technical debate.
The relationship between Google and Apple is an interesting one. It’s enticing to declare them “at war” with one another, but that type of relationship does not account for the collaboration and partnerships they enjoy. To wit:
- Google pays Apple for default Search placement on Safari. This means that Google treats Apple as a distributor.
- We can presume that there is a deal between the two over Gmail and Maps on the iPhone as well.
- AdMob is available on iOS without hindrance.
The business relationships between the two companies are self-evident. However, I would suggest that there are more important strategic reasons why Google and Apple are in fact implicitly collaborating against a common goal.
The concept of “co-belligerence” may describe the relationship:
In the recent series of exposés on Nokia’s new strategy I sought to paint a background for what caused such a dramatic decision:
This gives a backdrop to the decision, but it does not explain the most crucial part of the decision: why did Stephen Elop decide to maintain an exclusive platform for Nokia rather than a multi-platform approach as chosen by successful competitors such as HTC, Samsung and Sony Ericsson.
In the quarterly smartphone summary published here, I noted the significant acceleration of Android sales at the expense of “other” and Windows Mobile/Phone. Some share was also lost to Symbian. This might be seen as justification for the “platform jump” that Nokia undertook.
In a second discussion, I published the history and life cycles of the smartphone platforms, identifying 10 platforms (out of 16) still in the market. This challenged the view that it was a two horse race today and that it will become no more than a three horse race in the future.
Questions came up about the “quality” of these platforms. Clearly some are barely viable while some are thriving. To explain the value of a platform, one metric we can use is the cumulative sales which allows us to derive the installed base.
The following charts do just that.