The Apple iPad: So Many Devices, So Little Time

Customer adoption of the iPad will depend less on economics and more on time-onomics.

My back-ordered Kindle DX finally arrived a few days ago, well over a month after I ordered it. But instead of opening it, I set it aside. Why? Because the hype over Apple's iPad was running at fever pitch. Maybe, I thought, the Kindle DX was about to become hopelessly obsolete—and I should just ship it straight back to Amazon.

So, I tuned into the live Apple announcement with baited breath. While watching the glitzy Apple introduction on-line I was impressed – it had color, it worked with iPhone apps, it played movies and music and I could read books and newspapers from the big screen. This was a slam-dunk – who wouldn’t want all of that?

Then I heard more.

A Change in Digital Routine

 Apple went on to talk about iWorks, using the device for presentations, keyboard accessories, 3G connectivity, and storage. My head started spinning. Not because of the features and functions - after 20 plus years in the tech industry I am quite comfortable with speeds and feeds. Because such a multifunctional device raised many questions about how it would fit into my digital life and routines.

I’m not without gadgets. I already own a laptop, a Blackberry, an iPod (and now a Kindle, at least temporarily). If I added an iPad to the horde how would I make all of this work together? How would I sync my files? When and for what would I use my laptop, the iPad, and my smartphone?

With the Kindle, the fit with my digital life is relatively straightforward; no conflicts with my laptop or my smartphone. I could take it to the beach and not worry about where my work files were located. I wouldn’t have to think about it much. Like most people I’ve got more important matters on my mind.

With the iPad (or a netbook for that matter), I need to plan for where my data would be stored and when I would use each device. It was all getting so complicated. I started to ask: am I willing to take the time and alter my routine for this new device? Is the value of the iPad greater than the time it will take me to reorganize my life to accommodate it?

Apparently, I’m not alone. A poll conducted by Gadget Lab indicates that 71% of those who would not buy an iPad already own a laptop and a smartphone and they already felt covered.

Time-Value is a Key Driver in Customer Decision-Making Today

The lesson here for innovators and marketers is this: we need to factor customer time into decision-making. Consumers already own devices, they have software. They want their digital and personal lives to run seamlessly.

So the question on whether I purchase an iPad is not just about features and functions–it’s about value relative to time– what I call a Time-Value Tradeoff. The issue is not economic– it’s time-onomic. At $499 the base model iPad isn’t much different from the Kindle DX, so value for money isn’t a question. Value for time on the other hand, that’s still a big question. I’ll decide in the near future whether the iPad value is worth the additional time-cost over the Kindle DX.

Help Customers Understand How New Products Fit into Their Busy Lives

Apple’s big introduction might have been more effective if they had devoted less time on features and more time demonstrating use cases. Who will use this device? How will they use it? And when will they use it? How will it work with non-Apple devices and software? What is a day-in-the-life of iPad users?

Helping customers understand how and when a new product fits into their time-starved lives rather than leaving it for them to figure out on their own is a requirement for market adoption. In today’s connected economy new products and services must slide into existing customer routines, or provide exponential value to incent a change in behavior.

If you don’t factor time into the customer’s value equation, you’re going to find they won’t make time for you.

Adrian Ott has been called, “One of Silicon Valley’s most respected, (if not the most respected) strategists” by Consulting Magazine. She is the author of the book The 24-Hour Customer: New Rules for Winning in a Time-Starved, Always-Connected Economy (HarperCollins, Aug. 2010). As CEO of Exponential Edge® Inc., consulting she helps businesses gain a market edge in today's exponential economy. Follow her on twitter at @ExponentialEdge


This blog reflects the author's opinion and does not represent those of clients and affiliates.

© 2010 Exponential Edge Inc., All Rights Reserved

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