Friday, April 30, 2010

The iPad as Prius?

Even as I write this Apple stores around the U.S. are prepping for the release of the new 3G iPad. This release follows closely on the heels of the initial iPad launch back on April 3rd. The new 3G model will go one better than the stock iPad which needs to be connected to a wireless network in order to access the web. The 3G model on the other hand can access the web through the same network as a cellphone (AT&T only at this point).

Since it's release, less than a month ago, the iPad has been a resounding success. Such a success in fact that several of it's main competitors seem set to chuck in their current tablet projects and head back to the drawing board. Industry rumors are currently circulating that HP is getting ready to kill it's Windows 7 based tablet computer which was slated to be released later this year. Also circulating are rumors that Microsoft is getting ready to scrap "Courier," it's own, in-house tablet computer project.

Sudden bursts of acceleration aside, it's easy to draw parallals (that's what Comps As Humans does after all) between the iPad the Toyota Prius. So sweepingly successful was the Prius in it's domination of the hybrid market that it forced Honda to junk it's own hybrid car, the Insight. Honda released the first Insight in 1999 and continued to manufacture them until it became overwhelmingly clear that the Prius was quite simply blowing them out of the water.

Just as Microsoft and HP are alleged to be doing with their tablet projects, Honda scrapped the Insight in 2006. After spending the last three years or so going back to the drawing board, Honda re-released the Insight this year. The new model Insight appears to have been redesigned to look as much like the Prius as possible without risking a lawsuit. This is not a criticism, so much as a smug, slightly cheeky observation. Honda actually did the smart thing by realizing their share of the market was getting eaten up by Toyota and shuffling the deck accordingly. One can only think that with all of Toyota's problems the Insight has the potential be the automotive success story of the first part of this decade.

So instantaneous has the success of the iPad been that it has apparently given it's biggest competitors a severe case of the opening night jitters. If the rumors are true it would appear that both HP and Microsoft are doing the tech world equivalent of what Honda did. Only time will tell whether they both wind up releasing what are essentially knock-offs of the iPad, however as of now it looks as you can chalk up another victory for the good people of Apple.

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