Betting Against Apple

You can learn a lot by watching human behavior.

In fact, smart marketers never take their objective eyes off of how consumers enjoy their products and services.

Over a year ago I let you know that I believed Apple was going to announce a tablet mobile device to tuck in nicely between its laptop line and handheld devices like the iPhone and iPod.

Steve Jobs took his good time doing so – although sidelined with a liver transplant along the way. And last Wednesday Jobs announced that Apple, indeed, was going to start selling the Apple iPad.

Now here’s where it gets hairy, but also where we can all learn to be smarter.

The basic version of the iPad will not be available until March (WiFi only) and the larger more tweaked out version starting in April (3G, more storage).

But something fascinating has happened -- lots of people have suddenly become a critic.

Some have complained that the name iPad sounds like a feminine hygiene product.

Reviewers who, by the way, have not actually had a demo model of any iPad in their hands, have criticized it by emphasizing what the iPad doesn’t have – the ability to use many features at once (multitask), play flash, not big enough, too big, too much like an overgrown iPod Touch – you get the idea.

In our own backyard, the radio trades have been touting the iPad as a device that will allow users to hear radio – which is true -- if you use an app or call up a website. What is not helpful is ignoring that the iPhone and iPod Touch allow you to do that now and still few people listen to radio on these devices. Many download radio apps, but a huge number of them don’t use them.

These accounts also fail to mention that even an FM chip would likely not turn a device like an iPad into a radio. Sadly for them, nothing will turn a modern day mobile Internet device into a radio.

Radio will have to turn itself into a modern day content producer and marketer for mobile Internet devices.

Much was made of the FCC’s approval to allow FM HD stations to increase power to widen coverage, but HD radio is like a model T. Antiquated and irrelevant except to historians. In HD’s case, Edsel would be a better comparison than Model T.

So what we’re seeing again is total ignorance on the part of managers, CEOs and strategic planners – the very people banks lend money to, and investors trust their savings to.

They don’t get it.

It’s not about consumer industry analysts, or technology writers or for that matter, radio people who still in 2010 want to bring radio back with a new coat of paint.

My wife was at the Apple store at Scottsdale Quarter the day after Jobs made his announcement. She was there when it opened – I forgot a cord I needed for my Mac while I was around the corner doing my Media Lab. She counted 29 people lined up at the door waiting for the Apple store to open.

I have seen polls online on Apple news sites asking whether readers intended to buy an iPad. I realize that these readers are more likely to be Apple fans so I was less interested in yes or no answers and more interested in the fact that respondents checked off which iPad they most wanted to buy.

And it was the most expensive model – in the $800 range with 3G and, sit down for this, the Evil Empire of cellular carriers AT&T (again).

In other words, it is bad enough Apple fans have to put up with a crummy carrier like AT&T for their iPhones, but if they want a 3G version of the iPad, AT&T is not the right choice but the only choice (or more accurately no choice at all).

But don’t tell this to the experts in consumer electronics, or broadcasting or for that matter the music industry. They are convinced that the iPad will fizzle. Record industry blogger, the outspoken Bob Lefsetz, sent out an email blast to his readers basically saying he doesn’t need one. Another 50-something trend setter!


Well, you’ll never see me say what I need and then deduce that the marketplace will be like me. In fact, it is frequently the other way around.

The Time Warner AOL merger, perhaps the worst media merger ever, happened because AOL and then Time Warner thought it was best for them. Not the consumer. The consumer voted and Time Warner lost.

Comcast-NBC Universal merger isn’t for the good of the marketplace in spite of what the two desperate media companies are telling the Department of Justice. No monopoly, Uncle Sam. Of course, that’s a crock.

My money is on Steve Jobs because Jobs never takes his eyes off the people radio groups have lost of sight of for almost two decades now – the consumer/listener.

The iPad will be a big winner.


Because consumers will love watching movies on a 10-inch brilliant color screen (young people already do a lot of their TV and movie watching on their laptops. Jobs noticed and apparently others are not impressed).

They will like gaming, music, photos, calendars, addresses, word processing, the Internet, email, books and periodicals and the things Apple will surely add in the coming months to make the device event more robust.

I said I have my money on Steve Jobs and I mean it literally.

The stock market which usually discounts a stock upon performance and raises and lowers its value on speculation about the future has voted on the iPad already and Apple stock has lost a lot – seven dollars on Friday alone, the day after the announcement.

That’s all I need to know.

I told you I put my entire USC pension account into Apple a little over a year ago in this miserable recession and I have been rewarded by doubling the pot. So now, on Monday, I will buy Apple at $192.06 or lower. Apple could be a $300 stock within a year.

The lesson: if you want to know why the music industry and radio business can’t seem to make even one decent decision, look no further than management that doesn’t care to know what consumers want.

They haven’t learned that the mobile Internet is where the future is and they’d be conjuring up growth businesses right now if only they would look at their audiences who have adopted everything but more radio listening and record buying.

That’s the main reason why the entertainment industry recession is not about to end when the economy gets better. Write that down and check back with me.

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