iPad may make a great play date but still a little pricey for mass market

Topics: College of Communication Information and Media, Emerging Media

July 28, 2010

Ordinary consumers may be impressed by the experience of using the iPad, especially for reading and other entertainment. But they are more hesitant than early adopters to purchase the device, primarily because of price, says a new report from Ball State University.

The iPad drew praise from a small group of users who integrated the device into their daily routines for 24 hours. Although they found it was difficult to use for work tasks during their allotted time and it still costs more than they would prefer to pay right now, the participants found it ideal for use in cozy settings around the home and felt it would be great for travel.

"Some people were skeptical about how good the iPad would be for reading long form content like books or magazines," said Mike Bloxham, director of insight and research for Ball State's Center for Media Design (CMD). "Our findings indicate the opposite is true. People talked about curling up with the iPad; they enjoyed the screen and resolution and the portability of it — these things seem to be major selling points."

Called "A Play Date with the iPad: Real People Experience Apple's New Tablet," CMD's new white paper explores the attitudes and factors that impacted 10 average consumers' orientation toward the iPad after spending a day using the popular device that has sold more than 3 million units since its official introduction in April. This analysis is based on discussions with ordinary people, early and late majority users who comprise a larger segment of the mass market than early adopters, who tend to rush to grab new devices as soon as they are released.

According to the study, after hands-on experience with the device:

  • Users quickly realized the iPad was better for leisure and entertainment than for work-related activities because content creation (e.g., word processing, spreadsheets and presentations) demanded too much of a learning curve with the iPad's touch screen manipulation and on-screen keypad.
  • Users felt the iPad delivers a more crisp, impressive and enjoyable reading experience compared to other e-readers.
  • Interviewees agreed the iPad offers a breadth of other functionalities and features, setting a new standard for competing devices.
  • Users praised applications optimized for the iPad, while applications not formatted for the device drew little more than disappointment.

Bloxham added that consumers in the report also said that for them, the iPad still was a "nice-to-have" rather than must have immediately item, suggesting the device is "cool and valuable" but not yet worth the investment for many.

Meanwhile, Jen Milks, CMD project manager for insight and research, said study participants stressed that a future iPad purchase hinges primarily on a drop in the tablet's price point.

"The users we talked to enjoyed their experience with the iPad," confirmed Milks. "They saw how they could use it around the house and with their families. They thought it would be great for traveling. They even understood how it might be a practical addition to their media ecosystem. But the price was still too high for them to feel comfortable spending that much just yet. In time, or because of competition from other devices, the price will go down, and then they may be more inclined to purchase."

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