Skip to Content

Is the iPad Just An Expensive Plaything for the Rich?

Why other tablet makers shouldn’t bet on matching the iPad’s success.

Are you surprised that a device that costs $600 and that, by most accounts, isn’t essential to work or possibly even your entertainment is purchased by people with lots of disposable income who might be inclined to blow that disposable income on other equally useless things (apps)?

Well, some people are – specifically, those who look at how much iPad users buy when they’re not blowing their cash on iPads. To be fair, Yudu media’s analysis of the “Selling power of the iPad” at least quantifies the profligate spending habits of technology’s early adopters.

That’s great, and it’s clear other tablet makers want to capitalize on that market – after all, the Motorola XOOM, which is apparently the best thing in the world (since the iPad), is going to cost $800. But when does this market reach saturation? Tablets are still an unstable category, and it’s not clear that they won’t go the way of netbook sales at some point – especially if they don’t become cheaper.

And that’s where things get interesting. Does a tablet purchased from Walgreens for $100 grant its user the same magic purchasing power as an iPad? Of course not – it’s catering to a completely different demographic. And so, as tablets become democratized, they’ll become no more, or less, lucrative as a mechanism for delivering media or purchasing experiences than the computers they supplant. One of Apple’s secrets is that the app stores for the iPad and to a lesser extent the iPhone / iPod Touch are proprietary walled gardens disproportionately inhabited by the wealthy and/or spendthrift.

Yet for tablets to succeed, they must come down in price: witness the success of Amazon’s Kindle in the wake of the downward revision of its price. Johnny-come-lately tablet makers and everyone who would sell their wares on these devices should be wary of anyone arguing that tablets are necessarily a route to riches: they can be, but only to the extent that they remain a plaything of the economic elite.

Follow Mims on Twitter or contact him via email.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

mouse engineered to grow human hair
mouse engineered to grow human hair

Going bald? Lab-grown hair cells could be on the way

These biotech companies are reprogramming cells to treat baldness, but it’s still early days.

tonga eruption
tonga eruption

Tonga’s volcano blast cut it off from the world. Here’s what it will take to get it reconnected.

The world is anxiously awaiting news from the island—but on top of the physical destruction, the eruption has disconnected it from the internet.

conceptual illustration showing various women's faces being scanned
conceptual illustration showing various women's faces being scanned

A horrifying new AI app swaps women into porn videos with a click

Deepfake researchers have long feared the day this would arrive.

seeing is believing concept
seeing is believing concept

Our brains exist in a state of “controlled hallucination”

Three new books lay bare the weirdness of how our brains process the world around us.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.