It was three years ago that Steve Jobs unveiled the original iPad. So people everywhere immediately saw what a game-changer it was going to be, and rushed to embrace it, right? Nope.
On January 27, 2010, at the iPad debut, the Apple CEO said “What this device does is extraordinary. It is the best browsing experience you’ve ever had. It’s unbelievably great — way better than a laptop, way better than a smartphone.” Never one to be short on hyperbole, Jobs called the iPad “a truly magical and revolutionary product.”
Few people believed him. Scathing editorials were written, like Gizmodo’s 8 Things That Suck About the iPad. Humorists had their say, with videos like Hitler Reacts to the iPad. An analyst called it “a modest disappointment”, and Apple’s share price dropped 4% the day after the product was announced.
The reason there was so much immediate criticism of this tablet was that Apple was betting there was a market for a computer that was bigger and more powerful than a smartphone, but without all the features or bulk of a laptop. Analysts and Apple’s competitors thought this was a horrible bet — they saw that as a niche market at best.
It turned out Apple was right, and just about everyone else was wrong. The most optimistic Wall Street analyst predicted at the time of the iPad announcement that the device would sell 7 million units its first year. The most pessimistic said it would be as little as 1.1 million. In actuality, there were almost 15 million units sold that year. The company has now sold over 100 million tablets.
A Brave New World
The huge success of the iPad created the flourishing tablet market as we know it today. And it has changed the entire computer market, too.
A record 52.5 million tablets of all types were sold during the fourth quarter of 2012, according to IDC. An analyst from that market-research firm said, “The record-breaking quarter stands in stark contrast to the PC [both laptops and desktops] market, which saw shipments decline during the quarter for the first time in more than five years.”
It’s clear: increasing numbers of people are buying tablets instead of laptops. The effects of this can be seen in the real world. On just about any plane flight or airport gate, even a quick check of which types of devices are being used will turn up more tablets than notebooks.
The date when tablets are going to replace books on paper for a majority of readers is approaching. A milestone in this process is going to happen soon in San Antonio, Texas, where a public library is opening where people will check out tablets and eBooks, no paper involved.
Tablets are also cutting into sales of game consoles. Increasingly powerful tablets mean that gamers don’t need to take over the TV to play games. Some companies are even making gaming-oriented tablets.
All of this was inconceivable three years ago. Well, clearly it wasn’t inconceivable to Apple and Steve Jobs, but to just about everyone else it was.