While Wednesday's iPad release was exciting, the biggest thrill may have occurred a few minutes later, when thousands of people across America simultaneously had the same thought: "They named it what?"Hardware releases often have a sense of ceremony, but Apple's launches have become about as spontaneous as a Passion Play. In the months leading up to the unveiling, there is a period of super-secrecy, during which Apple's rabid followers endlessly speculate about the new machine and Apple refuses to admit that it even exists.
A Frothing Frenzy
There is a search for advance pictures of the gizmo, Apple threatens to sue and the masses work themselves into a frothing frenzy. Ultimately, Steve Jobs shows up, dressed in his classic cult leader jeans-and-turtleneck uniform. He unveils the new machine, has a few Apple honchos rhapsodize moonily about it, and shows an overproduced little movie that highlights all its features
The backlash begins almost immediately, with disappointed techno-critics complaining that the new machine doesn't change lead into gold, doesn't heal the lame and has a limited memory and battery life. Someone makes a dire statement about how it represents the beginning of the end for Apple, consumer electronics, and Western civilization; meanwhile, millions of early adopters rush out to buy it.
In the beginning, the iPad followed the standard liturgy, with Jobs and company hiding the new machine, threatening lawsuits and finally showing how their latest piece of wizardry is going to change the world. Thousands of techno-geeks sat glued to their monitors and flat-screen TVs, their breath fogging the glass as they got their first glimpse of (this year's) future of consumer electronics. And then they heard the name.
And The Jokes Begin
It doesn't take a genius to see where the iPad jokes would come in. In fact, MadTV ran a parody commercial for the product almost three years ago. In their version, the spokeswoman brags that "With the new iPad, I just hook up my Apple...to my peach!" She goes on to note that the machine offers "fast uploading without all that water bloating," and has a firewall that protects her against viruses.
Mad TV has been on the pop culture periphery for several years, but it's hard to believe that nobody at Apple caught the parody. And, for that matter, it's not like there weren't other options: How about iSlate, iSteno, iLedger or even iReader? No, Apple chose iPad, with all the smarmy, immature, puerile references that it offers. Given the obviousness of the ensuing jokes, it's hard to imagine that the company didn't see this coming.
A more likely explanation is that Apple recognized that a great viral opportunity had landed in its lap. Within minutes of its release, the company's latest machine -- which resembles an iPhone that was scaled up for vision-impaired users -- generated a robust word-of-mouth chatter that extended its reach far beyond the usual group of Apple junkies. While the name probably turned off a few female customers, they aren't really the iPad's target demographic, at least in the first months of release. And it seems likely that the giggling references to feminine hygiene products will die out within a few weeks.
This is not to say that Apple will admit that they are in on the joke. But in the coming months, don't be surprised if you hear about how the iPad lets your imagination "take wing," or how it offers a "slim silhouette that will keep up with you, even on heavy data flow days." After all, even the best marketing plan sometimes needs a little goose.
Take the first steps to building your portfolio.View Course »