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What iPad Pro teaches vendors about product development

Rob Enderle | Nov. 16, 2015
Five years after the iPad sparked a revolution, the tablet market seems to be in free fall and PCs are making a comeback. In an attempt to revitalize the tablet market Apple just released the iPad Pro. Time will tell if this will work, in the meantime columnist Rob Enderle shares some lessons he says we can learn from the battle of tablets vs. PCs.

Developers, developers, developers

One of the most infamous talks in tech was one given by Steve Ballmer of Microsoft [Disclosure: Microsoft is a client of the writer] talking about how important developers were. Unfortunately, people made fun of him causing him to try to become someone else, I believe his failure was largely the result of that one decision. But he was right. Getting and holding developers has become the big reason iOS and Android are the powers they currently are.

What makes iOS different is that they also seemed to focus on making developers money, which made them more successful financially and more loyal. What I find fascinating is that Apple hasn’t created a strong iOS emulator for the MacOS. If they did their developer advantage on iOS would benefit the MacOS and Apple buyers would feel they could even more easily move between the two platforms.  

Users are king

One of the recurring mistakes in this industry is for a consumer-focused vendor to suddenly get the enterprise bug, invariably their growth stalls or they go under. The first example of this was Commodore that owned the PC business in the 1980s, but then ran after enterprise computing and as a result failed as a company.  

Over and over again we’ve seen users successfully reject products that IT wants and they don’t, then they bypass IT with products like the iPad. Apple is the first company I’ve seen to actually try to address this by partnering with enterprise companies while remaining consumer-focused. The jury is still out of whether this actually does work but, on paper, this allows Apple to continue to focus on the user and get the benefit available to them from enterprise sales without having to shift their focus to IT and the enterprise. Granted they’ll have to take some direction from their enterprise providers and there is, as yet, no evidence of that, but even so this is really very smart.

3 vendor lessons from the iPad

The three big lessons from the iPad are the following:

When given a choice, it is better if you cannibalize your products than it is if a competitor does.

Second, developers define the winners and losers, and these developers have to make money if you want to get and keep them.

Finally, regardless of what you make, the people that use the product are king. It often doesn’t matter how many features you include because if you don’t meet the users’ needs you won’t be able to hold your customers and you’ll go to that great vendor graveyard in the sky.


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