Bicycles and Trucks

The iPad and the Mac are separate product families. Their interfaces, form factors and I/O are so dissimilar even a moron in a hurry could tell them apart. Yet despite these differences, iPads perform many of the same tasks as desktops such as connecting to the internet, playing music and videos, and creating and editing documents. Certain jobs are even better suited for the less cumbersome experience provided by the iPad. This overlap has raised questions about the iPad’s present and future purpose. Will the iPad suffice as a desktop replacement. If so, when and for who?

After the surccess of the first iPad, Steve Jobs compared the purpose of desktops to that of trucks in that they both are needed, but progressively less so by the majority of people. That metaphor compares well to one made by Jobs during the development of the first Macintosh where he saw computers as a bicycles of the mind (he was so fascinated with this metaphor, he even wanted to change the Macintosh name to “Bicycle”).

Steve’s original strategy for the Macintosh had two prongs: a radically simplified consumer product designed to enable average people to do “amazing things™” with ease, and a high end product with the power, capability, and flexibility desired by a smaller group of professionals. This strategy was evident in 1984 when the Macintosh was released next to the Mac XL/Lisa and still existed in the late 90s when Jobs simplified the product lines to just PowerMacs/Books and iMacs/Books.

As a product that meets the majority’s computing needs, the iPad already fits nicely in the consumer prong along with the non-pro MacBooks and iMacs. Much like the first Macintosh, the iPad also has a radically simplified design, but at a much more affordable price point. As such, the iPad is likely to supplant the Mac as the dominant platform in the consumer prong.

In short, iPad is the new bicycle.