On the first day of iPad availability, here’s my prediction: more iPhone than iPod. In other words, it will be an interesting, widely-adopted gadget, but Apple won’t own the whole category.
Two big reasons that Apple owns the portable music player market are sync and the music store. When iPod was introduced, no other manufacturer had a sync program that came close to iTunes. iTunes moved the portable music player from the category of fiddly tech gadget to must-have device. And, pre-iPod, the only way to get legal downloads was to rip your own CDs. The iTunes Music Store changed that, and iTunes DRM makes it tough for people who have purchased music from Apple to change players.
iPhone is successful device, but it’s not a market-owner like iPod. In North America, Blackberry outsells iPhone by almost 2:1. Worldwide, Nokia eats everyone else’s lunch in the smartphone market. Part of the reason that iPhone isn’t the number one US smartphone is contract lock-in and AT&T exclusivity. But people still buy Blackberries on the AT&T network, and Nokia smartphones worldwide, so having an existing, decent set of competitors cut into iPhone’s smartphone share. On the low end, the reason everyone doesn’t have an iPhone is cost: a regular cell phone still makes calls and texts. iPhone is more luxury than necessity.
Like iPhone, iPad is an optional device. Most people already have a PC or laptop that does a lot of what iPad does. And, like iPhone, Apple’s competitors aren’t asleep. Equipment manufacturers can, and will, make pad devices that run either Google Android or Chrome, without paying a cent to Google. Expect the market to be flooded with these devices by the end of the year.
It may sound like I’m addressing a straw man: of course everyone isn’t going to run out to buy a $500 electronic device in the middle of almost 10% unemployment. If you think that, you probably haven’t spent much time around the tech blogs lately. They’re treating this device like the second coming.