Where Apple always aims

…while most people have entered the digital world, participation falls off sharply as complexity increases. For example, 93% of respondents have a digital camera, but less than a third use digital photo-sharing tools. Similarly, 92% of respondents have a cell phone, but only 22% have used an internet-based phone service such as Skype.

via marketingcharts.com

The iPad — like the iPhone, like the iMac and all prior Macs — aims for simplicity of use amidst a sea of complex products. It’s what Apple does best and what Microsoft claims it wants to do: give you the power to create and consume media and information with the least effort.

My technically-minded friends are unimpressed with the iPad, and personally I’m a little disappointed at some things that were left out of this first edition (some things seem to have been left out deliberately, like a camera). But the iPad isn’t aimed at us. We can load Linux on commodity PC hardware. We can hack the Windows registry. We manage e-mail servers, not just our own e-mail. It takes a lot to impress or challenge us.

But for the average user — the person that doesn’t care about the difference between a Gigabyte and a Megabit — the iPad fulfills the 93% use case, like a digital camera. It’s a digital lifestyle appliance, simple enough for everyone and powerful enough to be useful in several situations.

I don’t know if it will be an unqualified success, like the iPhone. To me, the iPad is an evolutionary product rather than a revolutionary one. The iPhone revolutionized the smart phone market because it was the first to get it “right” for a broad swath of consumers. Uptake was instant, even when it was just a 2G model with no apps and no cut-and-paste.

iPad uptake will be far slower. But each revision will be better and better and the price will moderate over time. As people are disappointed by netbooks and find they want to consume a variety of media on the go with the least hassle, and with familiarity from the iPod Touch and iPhone, it’s got a serious shot at creating this new category.