In martial art fashion, iPed exploites iPad obessive defense to attack
The iPed has just been released. I first thought it was a typo, but it’s not: the iPed is a Chinese copycat of the iPad, going as far as picking one of the few vowels left by Apple to comically copy the name of its californian rival. It would be easy to dismiss it as a cheap imitation (and at $150 v $500, cheaper it is indeed) that will only appeal to second-class customers. But the iPed brings something radically different: it is open source.
The iPed uses an Android platform. While in the short term it does not have as many apps as the iPad, the use of an open source platform will unleash a massive wave of developers who find it cumbersome to enter the closed and tightly controlled Apple space. I see this as a replica of the steam engine story in Cornwall, where 200 years ago two little known engineers blew away the steam engine design of the great James Watt by going open source.
Just like the martial artist can sense when the opponent is obsessed with applying a particular form of strength to the extent that it becomes a weakness, the iPed undermines the iPad on what Apple considers its ultimate stronghold: its proprietary operating system and the tight control it allows them to exercise on their apps library.
But this does not change the fact that the iPad has been a tremendous commercial success. In the light of the iPed launch, Apple’s iPad illustrates the point that time-to-market is more critical than IP (Intellectual Property). As I wrote a few months ago, “today’s imperative is to capture the mass market straight away. The days are gone when companies could be content with selling to price-insensitive customers first, then gradually decrease the price to capture a bigger and bigger share of the mass market. Why? Because in a “flat world”, competitors will copy the idea and capture whatever market territory has been left vacant. And it will happen fast. Even with a patented product, chances are that competitors will leverage their innovation capabilities to come up with a product that meets the same need without infringing on the patent.” Even if the iPed comes much cheaper, I distinctly recall that the iPad was launched at a price that was significantly lower than expected, and certainly contributed to beating all previous sales volume benchmarks.
The one critical success factor that remains firmly within Apple’s grasp is definitely not its proprietary platform; it is Apple’s ability to get first to market on a big scale. Steve Jobs is probably not worried about the iPed competition at all, for his sight is already set on whatever next Apple is going to come up with.