When the over-the-top hype met the reality of Apple's iPad, a majority of consumers decided they didn't need, and wouldn't buy, the new device, according to a survey published today.
"There was too much hoopla," said Manish Rathi, co-founder of Sunnyvale, Calif.-based online retailer Retrevo, which conducted two polls of more than 1,000 American consumers each -- one before the iPad's Jan. 27 unveiling, the other after. "There was so much [hype] that afterward, people were underwhelmed because they expected it would slice bread."
Retrevo's two surveys spotlighted the before-and-after differences in consumers' attitudes toward the iPad. Before Jan. 27, 26% of those polled said they had heard of the iPad but weren't interested in buying it; that number doubled to 52% after Apple CEO Steve Jobs took the stage in San Francisco and unveiled the iPad.
"That was the biggest number," said Rathi. "When the product came out, more than half said 'I don't need it.'"
There was a silver lining for Apple in the survey results: The percentage who said they would buy one tripled from 3% before the announcement to 9% after.
"But 52% is a pretty large number," cautioned Rathi. "It's not what you'd expect from the media hype that was delivered." That was one reason why Rathi joined others in arguing that the iPad would not do what the iPhone did: revolutionize a product category. "I don't see this as a game-changer," he added.
Rathi said there was lots of blame to go around for the increase in consumer "no" votes: lack of support for Flash and multitasking, lack of a killer application, and the $130 surcharge for an iPad that includes 3G connectivity. But he credited the preannouncement hype for most of the upturn in negativity. "It just seemed underwhelming to a lot of consumers," he said.
More troubling for Apple, said Rathi, were the results from another survey question asked before and after the iPad's appearance. When asked "From what you've heard about the tablet, do you think you need one?" 49% answered "No" before Jan. 27. After the iPad event, however, the number ballooned to 61%.
The percentage of those who answered "Maybe" remained flat, while the "Yes, definitely" votes increased from 3% before to 5% after.
Rathi interpreted the 49%-to-61% change as evidence that Apple has lost the battle to convince consumers that they need a device between a smartphone and a laptop. "Consumers are saying, 'All it offers, I can already do,'" said Rathi. "There's just no killer app that goes on the tablet."