5 years on, is the iPad still 'magical'?

Apple's tablet created an industry and continues to resonate

5 years of apple ipad magic

Is a Pope using an iPad bigger than a celebrity endorsement?

Five years since the iPad first shipped in the U.S. on April 3, we look back on Apple’s achievement with a product that is now used by heads of state.


There was a lot of excitement on launch.

Apple boss Steve Jobs got to mention the Wall Street Journal during the event: “The last time there was this much excitement on a tablet there were commandments on it,” the WSJ wrote. Jobs also observed: “Apple is now the largest mobile devices company in the world,” comparing it with Nokia, Samsung and Sony.

Apple sold more than 300,000 iPads on day one. By April 19, Chinese concert pianist Lang Lang was filmed playing "Flight of the Bumblebee" on an iPad app as his first encore at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco. By May 3, Apple had sold its first million iPads, and two million by the end of May.

This was a very big deal.

Publishers like Wired and News International began producing iPad versions of their titles; fashion designers began integrating the tablet into their designs, starting with Oscar de la Renta’s iPad clutch bag; and schools began to integrate iPads in education.

Cultural resonance

Across 2011, the product’s cultural impact continued to be felt. Oprah called it “the best invention of the Century” and David Hockney painted pictures on the device. Modern Family devoted an episode to the product and Gorillaz released an album entirely recorded on Damon Albarn’s iPad, The Fall. The Royal Academy in London opened an exhibition of landscapes drawn on iPads in 2012.

Celebrity endorsements continued, including the bizarre 2012 revelation that Karl Lagerfield’s cat was an iPad user. Even God’s earthly representative, Pope Benedict XVI, got in on the iPad action when he Tweeted his first blessing. The heavens reverberated once again later when astronaut Chris Hadfield sang David Bowie’s Space Oddity with his iPad on the International Space Station in 2013.

iPads in space and in-flight iPads: In June 2011 Alaska Airlines replaced pilot's manuals with iPads; by December, the FAA had approved the use of iPads in cockpits. Most airlines now use them. Competing tablets didn’t have a hope.

Enterprise action

In combination with iBooks, iPads affected education. By 2012, there were 1.5 million iPads in use in educational institutions -- and by 2014, over 750,000 iPads were in use in K12 schools in Texas alone. Apple’s iTunes U now offers tens of thousands of courses from educational institutions across the planet.

2015 is the year iPad truly become enterprise products. Not only is Office available, but Apple and IBM are introducing powerful apps that bring big data intelligence to the platform. Things have changed and the old ways are gone. Just look at CNN in November, where reporters hid the iPads they were using behind Microsoft Surfaces they weren’t using during their election coverage.

The Guiness World Record-holding “fastest-selling consumer electronics device in history” is also the fastest-selling product in Apple’s history with over a quarter of a billion iPads sold in five years.


So has the product lived up to Jobs’ promise of it being “magical”?

Critics say they don’t think iPad will stand the test of time as tablet sales slump.

Myself? I think iPad will outlast those critics. Even in the unlikely event the company attracts no new iPad customers, there will still be one huge upgrade cycle to anticipate, particularly given the 90%+ customer satisfaction ratings the product achieves.

90%+? That kind of customer satisfaction rating seems pretty “magical” to me. No one else has this. Not only this, but when it comes down to it, we've only begun exploring this new platform. Oh, and the iPad seriously killed the netbook, which the critics also didn’t expect.

Looking forward to the next evolution.

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