In January Apple announced the iPad. Immediately the response was overwhelming and completely bi-modal. One group of commentators believed the iPad was a revolutionary product which will usher in a new era of technology use. The other group complained that the iPad was neither fish nor fowl, they already owned both a phone and notebook computer and no one wanted to carry yet another technology device. As the debate grew more heated over the past month, it occurred to me that this debate could be viewed in terms of innovation. Is the iPad a sustaining or disruptive innovation?
In The Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton Christensen describes some of the characteristics of a disruptive innovation:
It initially costs more than the item it is initially seen as replacing, for example, the initial 5 inch hard disk drives cost more on a per megabyte basis than the 8 inch drives they were seen as replacing.
It doesn’t perform as well as similar previous devices; doing the same task, the new innovation is not quite as good as the existing innovation.
Customers and market research did not show a great desire for the new innovation or device, e.g. 8 inch disk drive customers had little desire for a smaller form factor device with a higher price.
There was confusion about exactly what one would do with it, or how it fits into the existing market.
The initial market was small.
I believe the iPad meets each of these criteria.
It costs more. The iPad is compared with both the Amazon Kindle and netbook computers and is seen as too expensive in comparison.
It does not perform as well. The iPad is too heavy to carry around compared to a smartphone, and is missing important features when compared with a netbook, e.g. a keyboard, camera, SD slot etc.
No one is asking for it. There is limited market research to support the need for a tablet computer and previous tablet offerings have had limited success.
Why does anyone need it?...