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Million-dollar baby

Million-dollar baby
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First Published: Tue, May 04 2010. 09 05 PM IST

Illustration: Jayachandran/Mint
Illustration: Jayachandran/Mint
Updated: Tue, May 04 2010. 09 05 PM IST
When it comes to Steve Jobs, Apple Inc. and the products made by this irrepressible duo, ambivalence is not a choice. It is impossible not to have an opinion about products such as the iPad or services such as the iTunes store. Ever since Jobs unveiled the first iPod at a low-key event in October 2001, and subsequently knocked the socks off the music business, tracking every announcement by the Apple machine has turned into a religion all by itself.
And like any global religion, there are the faithful, the faithless and the agnostics. Nothing reflects this more than the response to the iPad when it was unveiled by Jobs in January. More than any product before, observers were puzzled by the iPad.
Illustration: Jayachandran/Mint
Who was it for? What gap in the market would the iPad fill? The iPod made listening to music easier, the iPhone made mobile computing intuitive and addictive. Sure, the iPad had the geeky sex appeal of all Apple products. But why would anyone 227buy, according who you spoke to, a comically big iPod Touch or a pathetically featureless laptop? Besides, was it even a new idea? Tablet PCs have been around for a decade.
On 3 May 2010, Apple announced that it had sold a million iPads. The device had reached this mark even faster than its less polarizing predecessors: the iPod and the iPhone. The faithful, the agnostics and, perhaps, a few of the faithless have lapped up the iPad.
Most experts have given up trying to explain why this is happening. Jobs, they seem to admit, works in wondrous ways his miracles to perform.
But there is another piece of data that should create greater alarm. Over the same 28 days, users of the iPad downloaded 12 million apps and 1.5 million books from Apple’s online stores. This is an astonishing figure and one that is set to grow rapidly. (A recent survey had an average of 65 apps downloaded per iPhone user at a total cost of $80. Extrapolate for the iPad. Then buy Apple stock.)
The story of the iPad is one of falling exit barriers to traditional ways of consuming content and advertising. The big question then is not why the iPad sells—that is for other manufacturers to figure out—but what to do now that it is selling.
If sales continue to boom, the iPad will be more than just an iPod for books and apps. It would mean a new market of millions who interact with content and advertising in radical ways.
For the publishing and advertising businesses, the Church of Jobs has unleashed a storm of biblical proportions.
What does the iPad’s success portend? Tell us at views@livemint.com
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First Published: Tue, May 04 2010. 09 05 PM IST
More Topics: Ourviews | iPad | Apple Inc | Steve Jobs | Views |