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iPad Widens Apple’s Product Platform

by Christopher Meyer on 01/27/2010

Apple’s new iPad is testimony to the leverage companies’ can harvest from product platforms.

The iPad literally widens the iPhone which enlarged the iPod.  The iTunes store made it easy to download music.  Now iBooks will bring books and periodicals to the iPad.  Each product leverages a focused set of technologies and business processes from the former.  The gesture technology carries forward and there’s no question that while the initial versions with 3G capability carry data only, it’s a no-brainer to add iPhone capabilities to the iPad.  It’s just a matter of time.

Derivative products are faster to develop, less expensive with lower development risk.  Customer acceptance is easier because they have familiarity with the product.  Developers can extend existing apps with less effort.  The supply chain is established and tested.  Derivative product returns are much higher per dollar invested.

What Apple does amazingly well is design and market derivative products to appear revolutionary. They invest the effort to write a few simple apps like a calendar that utilizes the larger form factor better.  They adapt their gesture technology to now make turning a page on an iBook appear as a normal book.  By focusing on a few critical elements and taking them to the next level makes an evolutionary product looks revolutionary.

More than any other company, Apple has its finger on the pulse of consumer computing.  In recent years, consumer computing has expanded the presence of the computer in our lives far more than the corporate world.  Social networking was created for consumers.  Nearly every consumer device has a camera and soon GPS.  The creative energy of programmers is attracted to rapid app development and feedback that consumer computing provides.  This has generated a new wave of motion recognition that will come to the gaming world shortly.  Computing innovation leadership has shifted from the corporation to the people.

This creates opportunity.  Rather than being stuck in rows and columns paradigms that are over ten years old, there’s plenty of space for business creativity and innovation.  It goes far beyond SaaS models and cloud computing though it certainly may be enabled by them.   Perhaps it’s a breakthrough in collaboration?  It might finally be data visualization, or something else.

Whatever shape it takes, there’s an opportunity out there.

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