iPad creates more questions than answers

With the iPad, it's not why, but "why not?" There’s a lot of debate as to whether or not the iPad is a game changer. After all, isn’t changing the game what Apple does best? The iPod changed the media consumption game. iTunes changed the media purchase game. The iPhone changed the mobile game. Macs are an ongoing effort to change the PC game. Apple invades thriving markets and smoothes out the edges, giving consumers a simplified way of approaching familiar problems.

What game is the iPad playing? It’s a tablet PC in form factor alone. Is it an e-reader? Is it a web browsing tool? Is it a laptop replacement? Is it a desktop supplement? Is it for productivity? Entertainment? Is it for Millenials? Boomers? Toddlers? Is it for everybody? Is it supposed to do everything? What makes the iPad a truly unique Apple product may be the fact that it subverts Apple’s successful change-the-game model – this time, Apple might actually be inventing games as opposed to changing them.

Rather than asking if the iPad changes the game, maybe we should ask why the iPad exists. Is it possible that Apple might have developed a product without knowing exactly what problem they were solving?

Consider the very vocal consumer clamor that preceded the iPad. For more than a decade, Apple fanatics have eagerly anticipated an Apple tablet. A constant flow of development rumors had a significant number of people salivating over some tremendous product that would effortlessly combine form and function. Many people wanted an Apple tablet simply because of Apple’s great track record. If Apple makes a tablet, we must all need tablets.

Meanwhile, it’s entirely possible that, despite all the rumors, a tablet was not very high on Apple’s list of priorities. After all, they’d long since entered and departed the tablet space. But, as the buzz and excitement began to swell, an unmistakable market for a tablet presented itself. Consumers weren’t just asking when a tablet might arrive – they were mad it wasn’t already available. Confronted with overwhelming demand for a nonexistent product, Apple may have realized an opportunity to corner a nonexistent market. Not only were legions of consumers promising to spend money for the device, but a tablet that borrowed heavily from the iPhone playbook could expand the reach of the iTunes and the App Store. “Why” may have turned into: “Why not?”

More than 300,000 (or 600,000 depending on who you ask) devices have already been sold. More than a million apps were purchased on the day the iPad went on sale. When placed in context of other Apple launches, these are middling numbers. However, the iPad is the hot topic of conversation and the word of mouth alone is invaluable.

Is it possible that the iPad is simply the manifestation of an epic misunderstanding between consumer and manufacturer, each side assuming the other knows what it’s doing? Perhaps the iPad is a happy accident. Perhaps it’s a doomed novelty. Could it be both? What’s most interesting about the iPad isn’t the product itself, but that this odd recipe of consumer demand and corporate opportunism resulted in a new concept that will really undergo its most stringent testing and analysis after it goes on sale to the general public. At the very least, the iPad is a compelling deviation that will undoubtedly help us change the way we view the interaction between user, publisher, content and hardware. And if nothing else, it’s an easy way for these teenagers to get a million views on YouTube.