Why the Wait?

Apple typically makes their products available for sale within days of their announcement (a typical example being the new iPod nanos, announced Sept 9th, available for sale just days later; atypical example being the iPhone, announced January 9th, 2007, available six months later). Similar to iPhone in 2007, Apple announced the iPad in late January, to go on sale some “Sixty days” later.

A friend recently asked “Why the wait?”, and my initial, glib response, was to stave off would-be netbook owners from shopping elsewhere while Apple spit-shined iPad for a late March release.

After letting the response percolate in my head for a days more, I'm beginning to feel there's more to it.

(Digression: there was a minor stir in the Apple-web following the announcment of iPad's April 3rd availability; Sixty days from January 28th is March 29th — a Monday. This lead to the conclusion Apple is late with iPad, either from hardware or software delays. My speculation is neither were delayed, and “Sixty Days” was a ball-park estimate; if the release date had been set, Apple would have said “March 29th” from the start).

Which leads me to why the sixty days between unveiling and for-saling: generating buzz, marketing, and developers.

Apple is touting iPad as a “breakthrough device”, Apple detractors are touting iPad as a “big iPod touch”, and Apple supporters are touting iPad as “for your mom”. Whatever you consider iPad to be, it's important for Apple to figure this out. I have a feeling even Steve Jobs doesn't quite know how to classify it. Also important is getting the word out to the masses, including Your Mom. She's not going to know about iPad the day it's announced, but you can be sure, Apple-bearing, she'll know about it come release day.

And like iPhone before it, iPad made its real public debut during the Oscars, with the premier of the first television advertisement. This is exactly what Apple did in 2007 with iPhone, the only difference is Steve Jobs was, himself, in attendance. It targets the perfect audience for the device (read: Normal People), showing them precisely what problems the iPad solves (my gut tells me iBooks will be a must-have for Normal People), and sets the stage for the device's release. Apple wants to get people's mouths watering.

But of course the iPad, with its iPhone OS, would be mocked heavily were it lacking the third-party apps which made iPhone+iPod touch so successful. And while Apple lets these existing apps to run “out of the box” on iPad, the experience seems sub-par at best. The iPad really demands apps designed specifically for its larger display and form factor, and those take time. So wisely, Apple made available the iPad SDK the same day the device was announced. Though Apple hasn't unveiled its plan for when these apps become available, one can imagine it will be at least, you guessed it: sixty days.

If you think of iPhones OS devices more like Game consoles or even desktop operating systems, Apple's direction makes much more sense. Apple sees iPhone OS as a platform, and it's important to have third-party support.

Speed of Light