Apple's iPad Is Wildly Successful Because... Apple Actually Thinks About Users

Last Updated Jun 22, 2010 5:58 PM EDT

Apple (AAPL) announced that it sold 3 million iPads in 80 days -- better than a million a month. At this rate, the iPad will blow past my conservative estimate of adding low double-digit annual growth by itself to Apple's revenue and probably surpassing IBM's (IBM) net revenue within a couple of years.

Sneer if you want at the "magical" adjective that CEO Steve Jobs regularly applies to the iPad, but there's a lesson to be learned. There is financial magic when you pay attention to users and your competitors only pay attention to themselves.

What is truly astounding is not just the large number of iPads that the company has shipped in a short amount of time, but the fact that the iPad sales rate has risen since the introduction:
For those keeping score at home, that's 3 million in 80 days, and 1 million sold in the last 20 days alone. Apple announced after 60 days that it had sold 2 million of the touch-screen tablets. It took Apple 28 days to sell the first million.
My bottom-line estimate of a 15 percent annual growth assumed three million units sold a quarter. Apple has more than hit this number. Can it sustain the pace? I think so.

Unlike the iPhone 4, there was no backlog of owners looking for the new cool version of an accepted product. Consumer tablets have failed often enough in the past that the entire category is still new. Nevertheless, things have rocketed. Some of that is the unbelievably effective marketing that Apple did. But it also suggests that the entire industry had previously missed something important.

Apple succeed because it delivered the following:
  • an easy interface
  • uncomplicated operation
  • relatively light weight
  • long battery life
Most importantly, it understood what a lot of people had tried to do with a laptop or netbook -- move from room to room, carrying an Internet connection with them. No need to constantly plug the device into a socket because the battery runs down. No need to worry about closing the case and then waiting for the operating system to wake up again.

Hardware vendors using Microsoft (MSFT) Windows have for years looked at every situation as one calling for a PC or laptop, no matter what people wanted to do. The industry focused on its own convenience, and not that of the customer. No wonder Apple has a runaway hit. It was the first company that even appeared to listen to consumers.

Related: Image: stock.xchng user guitargoa, site standard license.
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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.

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