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The (iPod)Touch(i)Pad

The world’s largest PC company just launched a “media tablet[1]”. Conflating the iPod Touch and iPad brands into “TouchPad” HP joins RIM in announcing an integrated OS/device product to compete as a platform vs. iOS and Android (and to some degree even against Windows).

There are others waiting in the wings. Presumably, Microsoft is hard at work to release a tablet-compatible Windows sometime near the middle of this decade. MeeGo is also going through its gestation period targeting Atom-based tablets. John Gruber notes the excitement around tablet platforms in his article about this post-PC renaissance in computing alternatives. I also noted that the end of the PC era was marked by the end of WinTel at CES.

In that context, yesterday’s WebOS event was perhaps anticlimactic. But it’s still remarkable. Consider how far we’ve come. Step back now and remember the dark days only one year ago when, right after the iPad announcement, a  nearly unanimously chorus was pouring derision on the concept.

AAPLinvestors is still maintaining the iPad death watch which I took a snapshot of back in March 2010. To reminisce: It was exactly one year ago, on Feb. 10th 2010, that Bill Gates was quoted as saying “It’s a nice reader, but there’s nothing on the iPad I look at and say, ‘Oh, I wish Microsoft had done it.’” On the same day, Shannon Zimmerman of The Motley Fool wrote: “[Apple’s] hamster-wheel of innovation … may have hit a snag with the iPad.” Those are just two of dozens other memorable quotes.

I noted last May that the secrecy surrounding the iPad prior to launch was unnecessary. Nobody understood the product for months after it launched (and many still don’t a year later).

Apple keeps a tight lid on new products so that competitors don’t get a head-start on copying, but in the case of the iPad, advance knowledge would not have had any impact. Competitors look at the iPad and see nothing.  They’ll only react once the market explodes and they start to feel belated pain.

Indeed, responses only came after sales figures started to cause consternation among competitors.

How did these presumably keen observers of the market fail to notice the sea change under way? This is not just a rhetorical question. It really is hard. Students of disruption know that spotting such change is a difficult skill to obtain. But it is a skill, not a gift.

So here we are, 12 months later and the derision has turned to flattery by imitation. The only scorn I hear about the TouchPad is that it can’t come to market fast enough.

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  1. I find this term repugnant and highlight it here only to ridicule those who coined it.