Former top Mac evangelist says iPad may fail

This weekend, hordes will turn out en masse to buy iPads. But even Guy Kawasaki, the brains behind the intial Mac marketing campaign, and a one-time top-level Apple "evangelist" is skeptical that there's a long-term mass market for the product.

Guy Kawasaki, who as a marketing exec helped launch the Mac, and was an Apple "evangelist" told the New York Times:

"The first five million will be sold in a heartbeat. But let's see: you can't make a phone call with it, you can't take a picture with it, and you have to buy content that before now you were not willing to pay for. That seems tough to me."

Another doubter is Stephen Baker, an analyst with the NPD Group. Baker says that there's not much evidence that the mass of consumers have any interest in buying what is a niche tablet device. He told Bloomberg:

"You're asking people to take a leap of faith, regardless of how interested they are, in a category that consumers have shown very little interest in. For most people, $500 is a lot of money for a product they’re not sure they need."

He said that after the initial iPad buying blitz by the early adopter crowd, it's not clear much of a sizable market will remain:

"It's easy to sell stuff to early adopters because they want to buy stuff. It's hard to sell to the mass market because you have to convince them what you're selling is something new they want."

NPD research shows that the iPad may be a hard sell, even to existing Apple customers. An online survey done between Feb. 24 and March 3 found that 66 percent of all consumers and 60 percent of those who own Apple products "don't foresee an iPad purchase in their future."

The New York Times interviewed plenty of people about whether they would buy an iPad, and found that true believers buy in, but most everyone else is a skeptic. The Times noted:

Many consumers do not understand the device's purpose, who would want to pay $500 or more for it and why anyone would need another gadget on top of a computer and smartphone. After all, phones are performing an ever-expanding range of functions, as Apple points out in its many iPhone commercials.

Eitan Muller, a professor of high-tech marketing at New York University's Stern School of Business told the Times that the intial iPad buyers "are technophiles — the phrase 'leading-edge technology' sends goosebumps all over their skin." He added, though, that "The main market is made up of pragmatists, and the same phrase sends them into convulsions."

Of course, Apple true believers will buy any product with an Apple logo. For details, see my blog post, "What's next for iPad buyers? iShorts and iPanties?"

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