It's a dangerous path to think that the iPad is just a PC, as numerous sources quoted Steve Balmer as saying at the 2010 D8 Conference. I'm not sure that he actually said exactly that, but that was the most common byline after his session. Holding on to that interpretation is surely delusional and not in Microsoft's best interests?
I think that Balmer actually said something like everything you can do on an iPad you can do on a PC, and it's just about form factor. And in fact just a couple of days ago one of the senior PR gurus at Microsoft echoed those exact words, so I guess that IS the party line:
They [tablets] are each highly optimized to do a great job on a subset of things any PC can also do. Poor Frank Shaw got well and truly hammered in the blogsphere for his post.
Whereas Steve Jobs had described the PC as being "like trucks", Blamer countered by saying shared devices e.g. a PC in the home are not going away, if only for cost reasons. (You know, Balmer should have said that there are some important things we do on a PC that are just a pain on an iPad - try blogging for example. But in any case his mental model is a liability.)
The mental model matters
So what's the problem in holding on to the mental model that the iPad is just a svelte PC?
For one, the iPad is making massive gains in market share, and creating new markets, and powering Apple to be an extremely serious competitor to Microsoft in some of it's core lines of business. Large corporations are buying large blocks of iPads and Apple cannot keep up with demand. The corporatization of IT is a big deal, and Apple is at the forefront of that wave.
- Perth woman offers iPad for romance
- Sign a contract on your new Simonds home, you'll receive a FREE Apple iPad
- Or why not buy a home in the beautiful AMEN Estate in Lekki, Lagos and get TWO free iPads?
- Get a new iPad 2 Free, with EVERY HomeSec Caveat loan
Etc etc etc
Hey, would any of these work if we replaced "iPad" with "PC"?
That's why the iPad is not just a PC.
What IS the iPad?
It's something different, and Microsoft's challenge is to find out what it is an how different. If they don't start with that attitude then they are likely to never bridge the gap.
By the way I don't actually know what it is. It is all of these things but what else:
- a brand
- a fashion statement
- a geek statement
- a business statement
- a personal statement
- a business tool
- an entertainment tool and portal
- a great way to interact with your children
- a satisfying experience
- a personal assistant
- part of Apple
- not part of Microsoft.
What the "whole product" is, which is driving incredible wealth to Apple's bottom line, I don't quite know. Most obviously the iPad whole product is a LOT MORE than the device - which is what I think most of the other tablet makers don't quite get.
What the other tablets are IS just a piece of junk, a boat anchor - HP proved that! Of course Android will make some headway, and that headway depends on everything other than the tablet itself - the table is just a ticket to the game. But what is the game?
The "ecosystem" is a word, and a powerful one, which explains Apple's success. But it is not all.
If Microsoft have a mental model which is focused on the device a la the PC world, and the concept that they are just remodelling the form factor, then that is surely doomed to failure. Even if they don't quite understand it, as I don't, then they should approach the iPad "whole product" with a mindset that this is something different.
Let''s face it, if you've been dissing your competitor for years, and then failed at everything you've done where they've been beyond successful, then something isn't quite right with how you view what they are doing. (Examples: Zune - total failure; Retail Stores - total failure; Tablets - total failure; Mobile Phones - significant relative failure)
This is a different world and we need to understand it.
To do otherwise is to dance on the head of a pin, while the spoils fall to Apple in bucketloads.
Adjust the mindset - let go
There's no rocket science here. I'm just saying that it takes a "simple" Peter Drucker-ish adjustment to the mindset, and then progress can be made by Microsoft. And good luck to them, sometimes Apple gets on my nerves with their crappy attitudes to customers.
But hey, I'm still "queueing up" for my iPhone 5 !!
So let's see the mental model that the iPad is not just a PC, and see what Microsoft can turn out with it's incredible resources. That would be exciting. Another form-factored PC as a tablet won't be.
What do you think the iPad "whole product" is - the secret sauce?
How should Microsoft think of the iPad in order to challenge it?
I'd like to hear your opinion, please comment below.
By the way I thought that the Simonds Home iPad promotion was very clever. It may actually save them money! When new home buyers sign up, and receive their iPad they can
- "follow your new home being built on MySimonds;
- receive building updates;
- receive information alerts;
- receive one to one service from start to finish; and
- then your new home will be constantly at your fingertips."
Very neat ! And those interactions reduce the workload and costs on Simonds and the iPads pay for themselves many times over, and the customers are thrilled. Clever