I keep reading stories about how the iPad will revolutionize everything–or not (here’s one example). There are also lots of complaints about how the iPad is betwixt and between an iPhone (or similar device) and a laptop. But these posts are missing the point: the iPad is an attempt to sell computers to the approximately forty percent of households that don’t own one. Not only is this an opportunity to sell something to a consumer sector that otherwise wouldn’t buy any computers, but it also might ultimately, by serving as an introduction to the web, email, and basic computer operation, lead to buying an iBook.
I realize to some readers this seems farfetched (you’re reading this, right?), but many households don’t own a computer. While some of this is due to either poverty or lack of internet access, much of this results from just not having any real desire to have. If you don’t use a computer for your job, or if you don’t have a job (e.g., retired, taking care of kids), you might not want to learn how to use one. Also, many people somehow manage to keep busy doing other things: reading books, watching TV, talking to people in person (quaint, isn’t it?). They’ve done fine so far without a computer, and don’t really see the need to get one.
Targeting that market segment is the goal of the iPad. Not only are you selling product to completely new consumers, but you might even convince some of them to upgrade to a ‘real’ computer. All of the concern about lack of interfaces with standard devices, and low computing effectiveness are moot*. The iPad isn’t targeted towards those with basic computer skills, it’s targeted at those who lack them.
As a shareholder, I think this is very smart.
*The whole incompatibility with Flash is puzzling however.
Update: Frasier Spiers and Jennifer Oullette have related thoughts.