iPad: forget the old people — it’s a chick magnet

The iPad: Bloggers hate it. Investors hate it — AAPL is down 4% in the cold light of the day after. Fake Steve Jobs doesn’t seem to like it much. Even Andrew Sullivan is down on it.

What do all these people have in common? They’re all (mostly) men. What are their complaints? The lack of multitasking; no Adobe Flash; no front-facing camera; it’s just a glorified iPod Touch; where’s HDMI? it doesn’t fit in a conceptual box — it’s not a smartphone, it’s not a netbook; 64 gig NAND Flash isn’t enough, why not 128? Where can I put it? Do I have to carry it under my arm?

Many of these complaints may be justified, but are missing the wood for the trees; we are men. We are nerds and geeks, we love specs, and compete for mastery over each other by comparing the wattage of our hi-fi systems. But we are only half the population. The women I have asked about the iPad (admittedly not a statistically relevant sample) seem to be viscerally enthusiastic. 

Bento, you will be surprised to find I totally agree with your post below, even as I am extremely vexed you got yours out in front of mine on the subject and are thus getting all the glory. The iPad is as you say “a complex computer simplified”, and ideal for baby boomers like our parents. I was going to put it slightly differently however, and say it is a complex computer, turned into an internet appliance. Yes, it is to the internet as a blender is to food and as such it will attract the old and decrepit, it is true. But that’s a bit of a sideshow, if you don’t mind me saying so.  As an appliance, iPad has the potential to tap a much greater prize, that vast hard-to-reach segment of consumer tech: busy, empowered women.

Men don’t like appliances. We want things that can do lots of different things, that we can tweak and fiddle with, and then argue with each other about which one is better. Women aren’t like this, and because of this I have a feeling that it’s women who actually determine the eventual winners in consumer tech; I believe but can’t prove that Nokia, for instance, came out on top in mobile phones in the 1990s and early noughties because it was the brand of phone women liked the most. It worked. It was simple. It didn’t attempt to wow you with numbers and specs. Nokias had great battery life so it didn’t matter if you forgot to charge it the day before. Nokias were nice to look at, in a non-flashy way. Women can accept and love mobile phones, a way to communicate, much more readily than they do PCs, for instance, which most males have used for solitary gaming or porn. That’s changing now pretty rapidly, but is still probably why almost 1.5 billion mobile handsets will be sold this year, and only 200 million PCs.

Women will like the simpleness of the iPad not because, like an increasingly creaky boomer, they cannot put up with computing complexity; they can. They just don’t see why they should have to. They can’t be arsed. They multitask in their heads; they don’t need it on their screens as well. How many gigahertzes it has is not important — does it do the job it is supposed to? And what is an Adobe Flash anyway? Embarrassingly, I am not sure I know myself. Women do not worship at the altar of technology.

Mrs Baruch often forgets to charge her mobile phone . This often drives Baruch up the wall, especially when he needs to get in touch with her. She knows it needs charging, but trusts that it will last that bit longer when she needs it. Why shouldn’t it? And really, she’s right, it should. The month-long standby time of iPad will mean this is a problem much less often. The large iPad screen should be good for sharing, for doing things together with the kids, showing things she finds interesting to all her friends over lunch, simultaneously, rather than having each of them hunch over an iPhone one by one. Through tied media content, she can buy fashion magazines full of glossy adverts and miniscule amounts of irrelevant content, and keep them on hand for instant recall while shopping. She doesn’t have to worry about carrying the iPad under her arm — she has a handbag it will fit into rather neatly.

For developers, this will be great — iPad has the potential of opening key new demographics, and will keep them working on the Apple OS platform to the exclusion of Android, Windows, and everything else. That’s the key for Apple here, I think. iPad doesn’t need to be a massive 50 million unit hit product for it to work (one hears of a production run of 5 million this year FWIW). It just goes to cement the edifice of Apple’s mobile internet platform dominance even more firmly — something we have written about before.

The other, highly important, meaning of the iPad is that it opens a wholly new battleground; it is the first new category we have seen in tech for some time. It is effectively a smartphone with gigantism– largely all its innards are shared with the iPhone — and as such it is finally signalling the collision of the PC with the mobile phone, with first round to the mobile phone. We are likely to see an explosion of me-too products from PC and smartphone makers, using Intel Atom or ARM-based processors, and a swathe of different yet similar sizes and form factors are likely to emerge. On the platform side, Windows, Windows Mobile 7, Chrome, Android and other Linux-based OS are all going to be vying for supremacy. It’s going to be a very exciting time, and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen.


45 thoughts on “iPad: forget the old people — it’s a chick magnet”

  1. Not all women carry handbags, consult “glossy adverts,” spend time showing “interesting things” to friends over lunch, or don’t know what Adobe Flash is. Were you just trying to be funny? Because you failed. This is an insanely sexist digression to include in what could otherwise be a reasonable discussion.

  2. I second Boots. You’d be better off thinking in less general terms about what men and women like and how they behave.

  3. Hi,

    The second shot you did here on the Ipad is really border line.. have to admit it’s little bit sexist…. :) and not really funded.

    The first shot is a good (old people) but not really relevant, it’s just “one” reason why the Ipad could be a success. I think we can summarize your post as: “To be a success, the product has to aim numbers of people (ie.. easy to use)”

    For my part I noted theses points which seem important for me:

    – Ipad is not a revolutionary device
    – Apple is not going to create a new market through the Ipad, the market already existed (netBook, laptop..)
    -Ipad is the perfect Non-Risky product after Iphone.
    -Ipad and all Apple communications around the product promote the Iphone, Ipod touch and all the environment surrounding them.
    -Finally the Ipad is “just” the confirmation that Apple really bets a lot on Itunes because it’s working for all the others devices… !

    With Itunes store (App,music,book paper..so on) Ipad could not be a bad idea! :)

  4. Would you like Baruch to pretend that women and men consume technology in the same way?

    Do you really think that’s true?

  5. Yes. Bento is the age-ist one. I am apparently sexist.

    Both of us would like you to appreciate the difference.

  6. yes all women like to do is paint their nails and get their hair done- we are such simple people

    you piece of crap , why dont you go in the kitchen and bake me a pie- its hard being an aeronautical engineer everyday, but i think you are just the right guy to serve me on hand and foot.

    1. Dear This, if I served hot pie onto your hands and feet you would probably be even more cross with me. How would that possibly help?

      More seriously, I am very sorry if I have offended you. I would have thought I portrayed women in the post much more positively than I have done men, who I describe as nerdy, solitary, bores sitting in a dark room playing some dreadful MMPORG if they’re not downloading porn. In my post, women go out, share with friends, educate children, make demands of their gadgets their supine menfolk wouldn’t dream of. They DO generally have handbags an iPad will fit nicely into. Maybe men will all start toting manbags for their iPads. I don’t know. Right now they don’t.

      I am constantly astonished at magazines such as Vogue, which literally are 150 pages of full page glossy adverts and 20 of insipid content. Like with Hustler, I simply don’t believe people buy Vogue for the articles. Am I wrong? Popular Mechanics isn’t like that.

  7. Sorry for the confusion.

    No offense ! I said a “little bit” :p

    Would you like Baruch to pretend that women and men consume technology in the same way?
    >>No, but I’m not totally agreed about your understanding of the way how each kind consume.

  8. I think you might be on to something here. There have been many attempts to bring out tablets over the years. Perhaps their failure was less about the form factor and more about selling to the right audience.

  9. I came here from the giz link.

    off topic question: I see both B’s know who wrote each article, but for the life of me, I can’t seem to find a signature on either one. Am I missing something? How was Tuan to know they had different authors?

  10. Baruch, I agree with this article. I’m a girl-geek, I work in IT, I evaluate tech products for my company, provide recommendations and implement them. I live in the IT world professionally. What appeals to me in the iPad, is that I can’t break it.
    When testing Win7, I couldn’t help but try to do everything, install multiple programs at once, look up something online while waiting, etc, inevitably it crashed. While I deal with this at work, at home I just want my tech stuff to work.
    My husband cares more about the maintenance of our hard drives, or how much stuff it can hold, and he’s a creative type. I just want them to work. I have an iPhone already and love it’s simplicity. What’s so bad about only doing one thing at a time? At least it does it well and works every time (so long as it’s charged of course :).
    I multi-task all day at work and it doesn’t provide any additional satisfaction to me, only tiredness. Anyway, I believe your article was well written and the iPad appeals at least to this woman. I’m glad I discovered your blog. Keep up the excellent perspectives.

  11. I agree with your point whole-heartedly. In a nutshell, Apple doesn’t pander to the established nerdy customer base, but designs products for regular humans. It makes nerds mad, because it doesn’t pay homage to their hard-won technical prowess. They’ve spent so much time learning to deal with over-engineered, fragile, complex technology that they feel threatened by tech that is simple, usable, and approachable. Such tech puts regular folks on an even footing with them.

    It’s disempowering in the same way that saying Mass in english was to Catholic priests who used to do it in Latin: All of a sudden, with the liturgy in plain english, the priest no longer appeared to have a special, better understanding of it. Everybody realized that they too could do this job, that there wasn’t this much to it. It was bad for priests’ self-importance, good for everything else.

    That’s what nerds are mad about: This device doesn’t give them an edge over the common folk. It actually does the reverse. Let nerds be mad, and in the meantime, let’s enjoy the iPad.

  12. Wow – can’t believe the hate here!

    I like Baruch’s analysis of a potential upside. As a guy I identify with both gender roles – I read both Scientific American *and* GQ (also Vogue, actually). I’m a total geek, but what I love about my iPhone is that I totally can trust it. Single-tasking? Bothers me as a geek, but it’s clear that Apple *can* do it and has chosen not to surface it, so as user I’m fine with it. When they figure out a safe way to let us do it, they will. No Flash? Annoys me, but clearly a business decision. Has it hurt iPhone sales? No. Has it hurt the delight level of iPhone users? Apparently not much.

    Thing I love most about iPhone? App Store. iPad will *kill* because it has the App Store. No question in my mind at all. No other vendor is going to be able to compete with the App Store. Why? No Flash, no multi-tasking, and a “draconian” approval process. That is, a tightly controlled hw and sw platform. And cheap apps. Oh, and a beautiful device that your hand wants to hold. It all fits together, people! That’s the beauty of what Apple has done.

    My problem with the iPad – form factor. A purse is an awesome solution. And every woman I know, running the range from totally geek to totally non-geek, already has an iPad carrying unit. Gonna be a problem for us guys – what do you bet we all start carrying purses?

  13. Ha ha ha! Baruch has hit a nerve!

    It’s hilarious to see the joyless, ‘pointing out obvious differences between men and women is SEXIST’ jelly-brains get their knickers in a knot about Baruch’s observations. These types always see the recognition of difference as an insult. Screeching about how sexist/racist/intolerant everyone else is makes them feel GOOD about their irrelevant little lives.

    “Look at me, ma! I’m a GOOD person, cos I’m calling out the evil sexists on teh intarweb. Sexists make generalisations and are thus worse than Hitler, while I am a saint and holier than Bono. I know that there are no differences between men and women, and everyone should wear the same beige overalls and never go outside like me.”

    They hate you, Baruch, because you are right. Women in general don’t want to waste time fiddling about with irrelevant software and hardware configuration. They just want the damn thing to work. How anyone could construe this as insulting to women is beyond me.

    Actually, it isn’t beyond me. They’re self-righteous, passive aggressive little prudes, just waiting for a chance to demonstrate their moral superiority on teh intarwebs.

    Finally, Baruch, some advice. Stop apologising to these fruit-cakes. Just tell them that they’re wrong, and when they get really mad, laugh at them. Laugh in their face. They HATE that, because they’re insecure.

    Oh, and Boots, who wrote:
    “Not all women carry handbags, consult “glossy adverts,” spend time showing “interesting things” to friends over lunch, or don’t know what Adobe Flash is”

    Not all, but at least 90%… and they’re the ones any sensible company will try to sell to. The other ugly spinsters and army-boot wearing lesbians don’t spend much money anyway.

  14. As an oldie my first thought was, this is an apple made for me. Big screen, robust etc. I agree with the analysis on male vs female. If there were no differences between m/f why would we bother with distinguishing females from males.
    However thinking futryher my question is: why is the thing called I pad and not YOU pad? There may be a time soon where you can upload your shopping list to a Pad on your supermarket cart and the pad will guide you most efficiently through the store, chatting about special offers just for you, and playing your favorite (I) tunes. Same story in restaurants: live connection to the kitchen to see the preparation of your food, you ordered thru the pad the waiter gave you, and so on…

  15. THX, althugh I have no clue where to start actually making thes apps. So everyone feel free to use them. BTW if I am right the Pads nano will be at around $10 in 3 years. Let’s wait and see.

  16. I agree with the nokia theory which I observed back then in 1996-2000 in Brussels. My wife already carries her 13” macbook in her crocodile bag, so much more classy than a nerdy computer bag! So Ipad will definitely makes it way in her household. Cheers

  17. Here’s what you get for writing about a new Apple product in popular terms rather than staying wonky: an onslaught of comments from people who have never read the blog before criticizing what they think they read rather than the actual content. I think both the last two posts should have been twice as long and included lengthy digressions on Spinoza as well as a side note on the continued decline on Motorola and a technical discussion of Qualcomm’s competitive position as the 3G market continues to evolve/phone companies consider 4G.

  18. I’m a woman and a feminist. I agree with your observations. The critics that have panned the iPad have completely missed the ‘domestic’ nature of the technology. While I don’t completely agree with typology of men and women as tech consumers, I do agree that women will buy the iPad.
    Running a household and studying part-time, I’ve longed for a piece of technology that could excel at doing the things I do on my laptop (read, write, budgets, menu plans, email, FB, web surfing) in a lighter, more robust form.

    I just wish it had a USB input…

  19. I agree with each and every world of this article. Baruch hasn’t said women are worse or incapable. Baruch said they consume things in a slightly different fashion, and that statement is true.

  20. I’m not sure that purses will be much of a gender divide. Most guys I know already carry purses in the form of brief bags and messenger bags.

  21. I’m a female who’s relatively tech-savvy but I know a TON of women who don’t have a clue what Adobe Flash is. When discussing the Internet, they often begin their sentences with “Google says…”

    Having said that, there are also plenty of men who haven’t a clue what Adobe Flash is. Male models. Pro athletes who don’t spend time in front of a computer. Actors.

    I’m mixed on the iPad. I certainly don’t need one. I’ve got my macbook and my iPhone.

    I can’t imagine typing on the iPad as being very desirable. Then again that was one of my arguments agains the iPhone and I eventually got one of those, too.

    Generalization is not often a good idea, but this post contained many thought-provoking points. Mainly – just because bloggers don’t like it – doesn’t mean it won’t sell.

  22. The chick-magnet idea may have some legs, but I think for a different reason, which is not that women in general avoid technical things (even if this is somewhat more true of women than men, it is so much vastly more true of human than geeks that the m/f variance is just noise). I venture to suggest, without offering any hard data in support, that women are significantly more fashion-conscious than men in clothing and other personal accessories, which includes the laptops, phones etc they are seen with in the cafes I go to. If I am right, women are a major driving force of the iFad factor, meaning Apple is a fad, a fashion, which could dissipate as fast as the current cyclical yoga fad.

    As for old geeks like myself (over 50 anyway), since when were we a demographic that marketeers cared about? Isn’t it teenagers with disposable income that matter?

    And bear in mind that in for example South America, the population is a lot younger with a lot more room for tech-toy market penetration. Maybe what 20-somethings in Curitiba will want over the next few years will be significant.

    All we’re talking about with these tablet gadgets is scaling up what my G1, ugly prototype that it is, already is as far as hardware. The only question is the tradeoff points between the desiderata (screen, battery etc) and form factor that will be most popular.

    The software is pretty much already there. A tablet needs to be a browser you can carry around easily, not much else. One can already watch/listen with a browser. Chromium ( http://www.chromium.org/ )
    should be perfectly adequate, which is all that is needed. Runs browser. doesn’t crash: Mission Accomplished…. and phone calls, you ask? Ever watched a Korean girl in a cheap hotel in Buenos Aires videoconferencing with family back home using Skype on a generic laptop picking up a random wifi router? Yeah… whatever it is, it has to do phone calls, too.

    Or are we supposed to lug this beast around and a smartphone too? Not so much…

  23. CaptainReality: To quote you: “Not all, but at least 90%… and they’re the ones any sensible company will try to sell to. The other ugly spinsters and army-boot wearing lesbians don’t spend much money anyway.”

    What a ridiculous thing to say. So 90% of women are brainless airheads flitting about socialising thinking of nothing important and there are only 10% who don’t and they MUST be ugly or a lesbian. Mmmm

    1. Elizabeth said “What a ridiculous thing to say. So 90% of women are brainless airheads flitting about socialising thinking of nothing important and there are only 10% who don’t and they MUST be ugly or a lesbian. Mmmm”

      Nope, the ‘brainless airheads etc…’ bit is your statement, not mine. Thus demonstrating my assertion that women like you are socially dysfunctional misery-gutses who hate normal women. You clearly think that any woman who socialises is a brainless airhead. You perfectly fit my ‘passive aggressive prude’ stereotype.

      Ha ha. I win again!

  24. Yeah, it’s amazing the “lesbian” slur made it thru moderation.

    Anyways, those not still living in their Y2K bunkers will be aware that lesbians are very much in fashion, and more than likely quite influential in tastes and fashions with their more conventional friends and associates.

    Among the substantial tribe of 20- (and now 30-something) lesbians within which I have some kind of diplomatic status, two are probably the go-to girls for the whole tribe as far as tech matters go. One is tolerably short and squat and little more physically prepossessing than myself, and the other is quite hot. They are both smart as whips, the whole tribe is hard-working with disposable income and way above-average general talent and intelligence, and I am tolerably certain their influence is widely felt among the coolest people in and around Western NC, USA.

    A demographic, I suggest, of much greater interest than those on their way to retirement and then a nice assisted-living facility.

    While one of the two geek girls may have a Mac (the other is more of a Linux and Windoze girl), I doubt either of them have any great opinion of something pretending to be a computer which has neither a USB port nor a replaceable battery (they do wear out eventually, and being able to swap in a charged spare can be handy).

    Hubris. Pride that cometh before a fall, ojalá.

    1. For the record, we are very pro lesbian here at UB. Cash, comment moderation on this site is arbitrary and half-assed at best. I see my dear colleague Bento has deleted the majority of the supposedly “insulting” and “hating” posts accusing Baruch of being a sexist “douche” and a “homo”, on the grounds that they were written by a troll pretending to be different people, including a female aeronautical engineer, when in fact we understand he is a teenage boy.

      Personally, I was all for keeping at least most of them but reluctantly agreed. Really I think only very obvious spam should be censored.

  25. Surprised this is so controversial with the girl-geeks. You carry your shet in a plastic garbage bag instead of a purse? That’s your unique style, but I stress unique and a $50 billion industry is built on the market research showing that most females prefer nice things. If this were totally off the wall, Louis Vuitton would spend its millions developing murses.

  26. Baruch,

    No criticism intended.

    Now, if someone can explain to me why the Nexus One is generally going for well over $600 on Ebay when it can be had straight from Google for $529, probably even with some kind of warranty, I’ll be happy.

    I’m too cheap to pay $529 for a phone, but am happy enough with my old G1 (running Cyanogenmod 4.14.1, which has a lot of the new Droid and Nexus code) that I am tempted. If there is anyone reading with both an iPhone and a recent Android phone, please post a comment comparing them.

    Way off-topic: anyone else out there playing puts on TM? I’ve been convinced for a while that their problem is electronic, and just discovered that unlike most other companies using drive-by-wire, they decided to skip adding a brake-override system (meaning “If the brake and the accelerator are in an argument, the brake wins”,
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/28/AR2010012803971.html?hpid=topnews )
    … how could anyone be stupid enough not to design that in from the start? Did they have no liability lawyers?

  27. I agree with you. When I saw the Steve Jobs keynote where he and the Apple team showed the iPad, I thought, they’ve got it. Meanwhile, my male tech friends focus on how Android phones have this and that, are open source, etc. etc. They don’t focus on ease of use, but on the gazillion features that most people don’t care about.

  28. [version with the “i” tag closed… wish I could delete/edit…]


    That’s interesting. My phone is also an ugly prototype running bleeding-edge software, but I don’t think I’d want to drive it. There is enough tech involved here that I hope one of our hosts will write about this so we can discuss it in that thread.

    I think the way this is going to play in the US market is something like this: Toyota cut corners on safety (no brake override) to push inadequately tested new technology into their cars to help them consolidate the demise of the domestic US car industry, which they are probably the largest external contributor to.
    It may emerge that they knew or should have known that the problem was in the electronics, but because of the ghastly expense in changing the electronics in millions of cars, they decided to blame driver error, floor-mats and now gas-pedals and just push the problem forward in time. This seems to be how they handled their financial crisis (and the way the US is doing the same); maybe Toyota will become a zombie car brand surviving only with continual bailouts.
    Whatever the actual truth is, if the perceived truth resembles what I have sketched out, they will get no mercy from the US government or car-buyers, meaning long F short TM.
    Of course maybe TM will do something brilliant like televising the seppuku of their board along with offering free accident, life and burial insurance to all Toyota owners (well, maybe just the seppuku). If they just keep stonewalling on electronics and changing gas pedals, and a post-recall new-pedal Toyota minivan with a church youth group in it plunges into a ravine during a 911 call, they’re gone from this market for a generation, I would think.

    Especially for you, Baruch:

    Financial crisis
    Stalled too many customers
    CEO no more


  29. Tim,

    Good find, the contrarian Toyota link. I had run into that also, while watching 7203.T bounce in Japan last night.

    Check out http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6144AP20100205 from Reuters, wherein a former Toyota lawyer says: “Toyota can’t admit that it’s an electronic problem because it would be way too expensive to fix in 20 to 25 million cars,” he said. “The bottom line is that they want to save money.” If they guy is for real, they are soooo busted…

    As for iphone vs. Nexus One, there are a bunch of comparisons at YouTube, which I mostly consider as the internet made safe for semiliterates, but I did watch the TechnoBuffalo video (the first one in the results) and it was interesting.


    His comments about waiting a year for the 2nd generation of any Apple product are interesting: http://www.technobuffalo.com/blog/apple/the-case-for-waiting-a-year-for-ipad-generation-2

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