I don't need an iPad. I definitely don't need an Apple iPad. But it's, you know, so pretty...
Due to a fondness for hotel food, stale air and jet lag I've spent most of this year sporting the waxy pallor of the regular attendee of technology tradeshows. There is an upside. Attend CeBit and CES and you'll see thousands of new products. Gadgets and gizmos that can do just about anything - the majority of which you'll never see again.
Successful products are rarely the first to market, or even the best at a given task. To have a surefire hit, you must first identify what consumers want (before even they know it), then deliver it in a fully formed package. Make it sufficiently intuitive for everyone to understand, and beautiful enough to make technophobes go weak at the knees, and you've got a winner. Simples.
Consider the iPod. Neither the first, nor the cheapest hard-disk based digital music player, the iPod was unleashed as a polished single function device. Apple deliberately excluded features such as an FM radio and calculator because it wanted early adopters to concentrate only on the device's primary function. It spent an age on the design of the interface, even longer on the packaging, so poddies would understand and love their iPods literally out of the box. It worked.
Apple is infuriatingly brilliant at this. If you're a geek (reader, we both are), you're interested in the technology that goes into a device. But Apple rarely comments on specs and speeds. It knows that as a consumer, you care about what a gadget can do, how well it does it and that it looks so ruddy good it makes your mates jealous. That's it.
Already in 2010 I've seen dozens of devices that fit the slot between smartphone and laptop. E-book readers, convertible touchscreen tablet PCs. The functionality is impressive, but I don't want or need a ‘third device'. (Well, not those ‘third devices'.)