“Look up in the sky – it’s a bird, it’s a plane. No it’s an iPad.”

I was listening to my 14 year old son discuss the relative merits of an iPad versus his iTouch with a buddy of his. Now my kid is Apple’d out – MAC, iPod, iTouch. No wonder he was intrigued by the iPad as all things Apple is inherently good in his world view.

“It makes no sense”, I hear my son saying”, “why would Apple want people to think of iPad as a computer – it would kill their other business”. He then declared; “To me, this is a bigger and better iTouch that I would use at home.”

His friend thought for a minute and replied simply; “Yeah, but Steve Jobs thinks this is the new way people will use computers. Maybe, Apple wants to be the Microsoft, Dell, AT&T and Google all wrapped up in one.”

At first I was surprised at the thoughtful way these kids were getting right to the business heart of the matter. What is an iPad anyway? More interestingly though, as a marketer, I was eager to ponder what implications the iPad’s “position” might have on its astonishing 1MM sell through.

Clearly, the physical sleekness of the device drove a big part of the sell through. Surprisingly though, the huge gap in how “Junior Consumer”  was interpreting iPad’s main function, a.k.a. hyper cool entertainment device versus Jobs’ declaration that this is “the most important thing he has ever worked on” usually spells D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R, but that seemed not to matter in this case.

This disconnect is amplified when one realizes that the iPad may well be the computing version of a wolf in sheep’s clothing because it becomes the gate/ portal and police of what services or apps or content comes out of that portal. I kinda hope my son’s friend was wrong and Apple is not interested in displacing other devices and services providers from Judy Consumer’s world. Uh – no – that’s not likely. So it seems to me that the shiny iPad Apple carries a time delayed poison within that will, ultimately, bind Judy Consumer to the Apple franchise with little hope of escape.

OK – I admit – I am playing drama queen here. But it seems in maybe 5 years, our digital world will be defined by a few major players – maybe a handful – who will deliver all information, content, communications and commerce to us.

The “so what” of all this mega aggregation of services is that Judy Consumer will have fewer choices and higher prices. In the future world of information services wars, over time, Judy Consumer will lose out just like she ultimately did in the telecom wars of the past (I am battle hardened veteran of those wars). The final result being that, in fact, when choices go down, pricing goes up.

If iPad is meant to be the point of entry for a new way of computing that inextricably ties hardware to services – I worry (yes – I am a Jewish Mother and we worry.) I worry that it will be harder for competition to evolve and over time we know without competition, Judy Consumer pays more for less.

So I wonder – do you think the iPad is a merely step up from an iTouch as a hyper cool content consumption device or is the iPad Steve Jobs’ attempt at creating a new computing paradigm (hence explaining his sentiment that this is the most important thing he has ever done)?

I fear my son’s opinion on this matter is borne of youthful naïveté. I think I’ll go read Snow White again … at least that has a happy ending.

Judy Shapiro

You know you’ve made it to the big time – when you get Mac Attacked

I was somewhat prepared I suppose – Mac users have a reputation for being “passionate” – even a bit nut case-y. I was girding myself for a bit of a backlash when I wrote an article for Ad Age on how easy it is to be slippery with the truth in technology advertising because “heck Judy Consumer won’t know the difference anyway”. The article, for instance, questioned whether Mac’s emphasis on virus free operation was giving “Judy Consumer” a false sense of security.

While I may have prepared, I figured I am not important that anyone would really notice. I was wrong. The Ad Age article did catch the attention of a Mac daily digital daily newsletter, which took exception to my article. Politely, I will restate their point which was they felt that my lack of technological knowledge did not allow me fully appreciate how bullet proof Macs really are.

Got it – they really really disagreed with my point. I respect that.

But then they launched a guerilla attack that was pretty well coordinated to lobb every conceivable personal attack. Many were very funny. Someone took a fair amount of time to create reusable content for others to hurl at me. I was described as an idiot”, worthy only of being in the kitchen, a dishonest reporter (pretty funny since I am not a professional writer), an archetype of silly women everywhere who don’t understand technology. They even pulled the old, tired, “you ignorant slut” why don’t you get some “recreational activities” and stay out of tech. In short, the onslaught was saying – I was worthless as a human being and had no right to even invoke the precious Mac name – much less challenge their sacred reputation.

In many ways, the attack reminded me of a guerilla organization. They come out of the weeds – do their dark deeds and then skulk back into their holes.  The editor deliberately took my article and edited it in such a way to suggest the focus of the article on why Macs can not claim their bullet proof status (that wasn’t the focus at all). They created a bunch of content so users could flood me with a barrage of personal insults that had no intelligence in it. They even accused me of being in the pocket of MS or the security company I quoted in the article.

And just like any guerilla terrorist organization, there is no honor in their fight. There is no desire to keep the conversation focused on the real issue — how real people must grapple with new challenges as we all become more dependent on the Internet.

Nope. The site wanted to whip up a frenzy to drive traffic. They did exactly what my article was complaining about – they played with the facts to satisfy their business needs. There was no straight talk in their harangue.

But I am consoled by the fact that I must have hit big time … otherwise they would not have bothered. I know others have been in this Mac Attack club including a recent article from Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt in his article; “Why are there no Mac viruses?”
http://brainstormtech.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2009/09/02/why-are-there-no-mac-viruses. But they seem to reserve their special ire for “ignorant women”…

I thought the days of persuasion by coercion were only reserved for close minded fundamentalists. I was wrong and on this point – I wholly admit my error.

Judy Shapiro


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