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Why The iPad Is A Hit (And Why I Won't Buy One Yet)

Even before any consumers had received Apple's iPad, it was being proclaimed a hit. I didn't find that surprising, because from the beginning there were signs this day was coming. Here are a few:

  1. There was a business and tech press feeding frenzy since before the initial announcement of the impending device. The announcement had the same kind of shoulder-to-shoulder gaggles, breathless blog posts, videos shot by reporters from their handheld cameras and tweets that I saw for Kindle announcements running up to unveilings by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, a couple of which I attended.
  2. The knowing skepticism and whining was similar to what greeted the iPhone, pointing out faults (the lack of a camera, a phone, some kinds of connectivity and the ability to view objects produced in Flash) but missing the larger points that make people love Apple devices: the sleekness, the game-changing nature of the way they bring an "experience" into one's hands, that it's one step closer to the Holy Grail of that one thing you can easily carry that does it all (sound, pictures, books, editing, connectivity) with the form factor, shape and colors that Apple seems to get so right. (Here's a love poem from USA Today's tech reviewer, if you need convincing.)
  3. Apple's typical buzz-creating genius in the staging of the rollout. There were rumors that may or may not have been leaked that some sort of whiz-bang thing was coming, shifting rumors about dates and times, word spread to reporters to save a date for an announcement, negotiations with publishers (some of whom talk to the press), the big unveiling with CEO Steve Jobs at the center.
  4. There were rumblings of book and magazine publishers and other media companies scrambling to learn about the platform and build new apps for it.
  5. It was seen as a challenge to the Kindle -- something I feel is sorely needed -- and that Apple is the one that can do it.
  6. Apple these days doesn't so much invent truly new things as bring a clarity that makes their version of them vastly more pleasing than any that have come before. The iPhone wasn't the first smartphone, any more than the iPod was the first music- or hand-held video player. They were just the ones that combined great technical acumen with design beauty. The iPad fits the pattern.
  7. They created low- to high-priced versions of the machine. You can have it at the lower price, but you really want the one that costs more.
  8. They overcame the need to buy a two-year contract, by allowing people to subscribe to 3G connection plans on an as-needed monthly basis (though it is with AT&T).

The Drawbacks

Still, I won't be buying an iPad right now, even though I won a bet with my friend and colleague Brian Reich that the iPad would be a hit.

For one thing, the iPad will be missing important features incorporated into later versions. There have been complaints over the device's lack of openness and the fact that people will have to buy new versions of software they already own for their computers to make certain documents work.

There will be more tittering about the lack of a camera, and other things the device is missing -- so far, we know it has no USB port, the battery is not replaceable, and the other deficiencies noted above. Apple will, predictably, do a lot to make the next version(s) better and address at least some of the most loudly expressed concerns. It will also, no doubt, anger others who have bought the early version of the iPad and be told that they'll have to pay again to get a newer one with more features. (A Kindle spokesperson once shrugged and told me that, well, I could just sell my old one on Amazon, and apply that money toward a new Kindle.)

Meanwhile, there's speculation that Apple is manipulating their production run in order to create the appearance that demand outstrips supply. It's been reported, too, that some stores are being sent limited quantities which means, no doubt, lines and a few scrums, all causing more predictably breathless coverage and further spurring demand.

Whatever the device's shortcomings or Apple's market manipulations, though, you can believe that anyone seen gliding their fingers across the screen of their iPad will garner longing glances from those around them.

And I knew I'd won the bet when Brian decided to help our friends at We Media with their event that will explore how the iPad is going to change the media world as we know it.

Also, be sure to vote in our poll about how the iPad will change the media industry:

Fill in the blank: The iPad will ______ the media industry.poll

Dorian Benkoil is consulting sales manager, and has devised marketing strategy for MediaShift. He is SVP at Teeming Media, a strategic media consultancy focused on helping digital media content identify and meet business objectives. He has devised strategies, business models and training programs for websites, social media, blog networks, events companies, startups, publications and TV shows. He Tweets at @dbenk.

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