"Because that’s where the money is."
I’m pretty obsessed with mobile & tablet these days. It feels like we’re reinventing so much of the world, so quickly — it’s just an amazing time of transformation.
And I’ve finally come around to what Steve Jobs said a couple of years ago at D: computers as we know them — with keyboards & monitors, whether they’re laptop or desktop — will continue to be around, but they’ll be sort of like big trucks: useful for certain specialized types of work, but not really what most people want to drive around all day every day.
I didn’t really believe it when he said it — I rationalized, more or less, that I’m a ton more productive with my laptop (which is true, since the bulk of my work is e-mail at the moment). Lots of other reasons to be skeptical.
Except what he pointed to is what’s happened. I’m convinced (like many others are — this isn’t really a stretch insight at this point) that for many, many people, they’ll never buy a traditional laptop or desktop computer, that they’ll interact via smart mobile phones and tablets. They do enough already to make that happen, and they’re more personal and intimate — and, importantly, they blend better into the fabric of our lives at some level — than PCs ever have.
Having said that, there’s ahugedifference between phones and tablets. Often when I talk with entrepreneurs they lump them together as mobile — most often justified by saying the hardware technology stack is essentially the same. But we use them differently, at different times, in different ways, with different expectations. ILOVEmy iPad, love it. But really I only use it a few times a day, for long stretches. My iPhone I don’t love as much, but I use it all day long, every day, over and over, for quick snacks of delicious, delicious interwebs.
The iPad is a super attractive platform — changes the way we think about computing, and gives rise to apps like Paper, from Fifty-three. (It’sbeautiful— if you haven’t tried it, you should.) It’s going to revolutionize reading, education, and more. Lots more surface areas for UX people to play with, to innovate on. Who wouldn’t want to work on it?
Except this: it’s not where the users are. In the just-announced quarter, Apple sold a staggering number of tablets: nearly 12 million. But they sold nearly 40 million iPhones, about 3x as much. And because for all intents and purposes Android ships phones but no real tablets, it makes the numbers even more lopsided — maybe another 50-80m handsets and minimal numbers of tablets? Any way you slice it, about 10x more smart phones shipped last quarter than tablets.
That’s on top of the fact that the installed base is much larger: iPhones have been shipping since 2007, iPads just since 2010.
So I think the temptation is often to build for the more beautiful platform of the iPad, but in most cases that won’t make a ton of sense if you’re looking for broad adoption.
It brings to mind the old (possibly apocryphal) Q & A. Supposedly the prolific bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he replied “Because that’s where the money is.”
The same is true (for the moment & next few years) on mobile & tablet: that’s where all the people are. (And theverygood news is this: there are an awful, awful lot of them.)
[related: check the number of Mac sales last quarter. Lots! but nothing compared to tablets and phones.]