Wednesday, December 22, 2010

ROI: Why iPads Make Lousy Christmas Gifts - WSJ.com

In an entertaining commentary providing 10 serious and some not-so-serious reasons to avoid buying an iPad right now, or possibly an iPad at all, Brent Arends makes an interesting point about Apple, as a company.

"This isn't a technology company. It's a luxury brand, like Hermes or Tiffany."

Which, to the extent the observation is correct, makes Apple one of those rare firms that have achieved marketing differentiation in a big way, not selling the physical attributes of the product, but the subjective value of the product.

Not the steak, the sizzle, in other words. Not product features but the image and brand. That makes for nice profit margins.

In a broader sense, he notes that the scarcest resource for most adults is time. At some level, every application or "experience" provider is competing with limited time, not another app providing similar value. At some point, even with multitasking, a busy adult can only do so much.

At some level, the big constraint for Internet-mediated experiences and past-times of all sorts is the shortage of disposable time. Beyond a certain point, disposable income is not a barrier, time is.

Among the reasons for delaying an iPad purchase are the practical reasons. It will be better and cheaper by about April 2011. Alternatives are coming, and prices will drop. If you can live with access to Flash-authored video, use an iPad. If not, you might want to wait for a device that supports both HTML5 and Flash.

He also argues that a 3G-equipped version actually enables many of the best features, and that gets expensive, not to mention allowing people to waste even more time playing games or hanging out on social networks.

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