Laptop killer

During the 2007 AllThingsD, both Bill Gates and Steve were interviewed by Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher from The Wall Street Journal. Kara asks Bill about the future of computing:

Kara: What does that device look like in five years? What would be your principal device? Is there one or… 

Walt: I could be wrong, I think you carry a tablet with you, right? 

Bill: Right. 

Walt: Which has not necessarily stormed the world yet. 

Bill: Yeah. This is like Windows 1992, I think. That is, I’m unrepentant on my belief.”

Steve fidgets and swings his chair restlessly. Occasionally a Mona Lisa grin appears as if he is bursting with something to say; but keeps quiet.

Walt: What’s your device in five years that you rely on the most

Bill: I don’t think you’ll have one device. I think you’ll have a full-screen device that you can carry around and you’ll do dramatically more reading off of that. 

Kara: Light. 

Bill: Yeah. I mean, I believe in the tablet form factor…

Bill is an open book. He expands on this tablet idea. Steve keeps quiet despite himself. What is he hiding? 

Bill: Yeah, I’d say it’s a healthy period… we’ll look back at this as one of the great periods of invention.

Finally, Steve interjects. He can’t keep quiet anymore. 

Steve: I think so, too. There’s a lot of things that are risky right now, which is always a good sign, you know, and you can see through them, you can see to the other side and go, yes, this could be huge, but there’s a period of risk that, you know, nobody’s ever done it before. 

Kara: Do you have an example? 

Steve: I do, but I can’t say. 

Kara: OK. 

Steve: But I can say, when you feel like that, that’s a great thing. 

Kara: Right. 

Steve: That’s what keeps you coming to work in the morning and it tells you there’s something exciting around the next corner.[1]

Three years later, Steve unveiled his iPad – a tablet that exceeded even Bill’s expectations. It was basically a big iPhone that can’t make calls. New Yorkers would recognise it as the same touchscreen tablet that cab drivers have been using for years – only this was has a picture of an apple on the back, but no USB jack.
At All ThingsD, three years later, Steve confided to Kara and Walt,
I’ll tell you a secret. It began with the tablet. I had this idea about having a glass display, a multi-touch display you could type on with your fingers. I asked our people about it, and six months later, they came back with this amazing display, and I gave it to one of our really brilliant UI guys. He got [the rubber band] scrolling working and some other things, and I thought, ‘my God, we can build a phone with this!’ So we put the tablet aside, and we went to work on the iPhone.”[2]
One r/evolution at a time, huh, Steve?
However, that’s not the whole story of the iPad’s genesis:

Another former Apple executive who was there at the time said the tablets kept getting shelved at Apple because Mr. Jobs, whose incisive critiques are often memorable, asked, in essence, what they were good for besides surfing the Web in the bathroom.[3]

The day after the AllThingsD conference, “Post PC Era” was the headline story on all the tech news sites that mattered: Mashable, cNet, InformationWeek, Wired, PC Mag, and CNN. Walt from Wall Street Journal called the iPad a “pretty close” laptop killer.[4] Michael Arrington of TechCrunch said, "The iPad beats even my most optimistic expectations. This is a new category of device. But it also will replace laptops for many people.”[5] Steven Levy from Wired wrote, “The iPad is the first embodiment of an entirely new category, one that Jobs hopes will write the obituary for the computing paradigm that Apple itself helped develop”.[6]
The iPad's most creative review came, not from a tech head, but from someone Steve would prefer to impress, the architecture and design editor of The Guardian, Jonathan Glancey:

…I can only say that the universally-hyped iPad looks very much like a giant iPhone.

....Computer and communication buffs will have to tell us how well the iPad performs. If it works as well as it probably does, then it will sell like hot cakes – raising the perennially fascinating issue of why so very many people, worldwide, otherwise oblivious to such coolly sophisticated design, will fork out good money for Apple's latest gizmo. Because it's a gizmo is the most probable answer. Would a Jonathan Ive or Dieter Rams style house, or pad I should say, sell as well? I very much doubt it.

...Meanwhile, expect to read – many times over – of how Steve Jobs really did look like a contemporary Moses at the product launch, coming down from Apple's very own Mt Horeb with what many computer pundits said would be called the iTablet. The iPad will do many things, yet I doubt if it will allow users to talk to burning bushes or strike water from a rock. With the hype surrounding this coolly sophisticated gizmo, you might expect nothing less.[7]

The following month, Apple finally surpassed Microsoft as the world’s largest technology company.[8]

For so long Moore’s Law dictated that everything IT gets faster and cheaper with each new upgrade. This was always great news for customers. Unfortunately, all this great value was bad news for profiteers like Apple whose business model depends upon bad value. Steve’s greatest unacknowledged achievement was defying Moore’s Law. This was not meant to happen for another decade.[9] The gimmick he needed was the iPad’s wafer thin touchscreen. Legions of customers found that molesting an oleophobic screen was so seductive that they were happy to let their infinitely more powerful laptops gather dust as they take a massive step backward in mobile computing.
For thirty bucks less, one could easily purchase a Lenovo (IBM) Core i5 laptop. It’s six inches bigger than iPad’s screen. It has a three times faster CPU than iPad. It has an eight times bigger hard drive than even the largest iPad. Not to mention, the laptop has HDMI, and it burns DVDs. Better value, huh? Sorry, but value just doesn’t get a customer’s juices flowing like caressing a cool Gorilla Glass surface that reacts to your every touch.

[1]Israelson, A. (2007, May 31) TRANSCRIPT–Bill Gates and Steve Jobs at D5. Retrieved from

[2] Paczkowski, J. (2010, June 1) Apple CEO Steve Jobs Live at D8: All We Want to Do is Make Better Products. All Things Digital. Retrieved from

[3] Stone, B. & Vance, A. (2009, October 4) Just a Touch Away, the Elusive Tablet PC. New York Times.

[4] Mossberg, W. (2010, March 31) Apple iPad Review: Laptop Killer? Pretty Close. Wall Street Journal.

[5] Arrington, M. (2010, April 2) The Unauthorised TechCrunch iPad review. Retrieved from

[6]Kahney, L. (2010, March 22) How The Tablet Will change The World. Wired Magazine. Retrieved from

[7]The Guardian. (2010, January 27) The Apple iPad: reactions

[8]Tweney, D. (2010, May 26) Apple Passes Microsoft as World’s Largest Tech Company. Wired Magazine. Retrieved from

[9] Kanellos, M. (2005, April 19) New Life for Moore’s Law. retrieved from:

No comments:

Post a comment