If the much-promoted iPad is going to be a mainstream consumer hit, Apple is going to have to change the minds of people like Jon Byron.
Byron, a 54-year-old banker from Connecticut, emerged from the Apple store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan this week with a new business card scanner and serious doubts about the tablet computer trend.
“I can do everything on my MacBook Pro, cellphone and BlackBerry,” Byron said. “I don't need any more devices. I already have six phone numbers and enough things to plug in at night.”
For all the exuberance surrounding Apple's new gadget — and the circuslike atmosphere at Apple stores that is sure to accompany its debut on Saturday —sentiments like that are, for Apple at least, uncomfortably common.
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.
“The first five million will be sold in a heartbeat,” said Guy Kawasaki, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who was a marketing executive at Apple in the 1980s.
Apple and other technology companies that are introducing a wave of touch-screen tablets face an ambitious challenge. The industry wants to create a market for a new type of device that most people do not really need —or do not yet know they need.
Tablets are intended to allow people to watch video, browse the Web, play video games and read books, magazines and newspapers everywhere they go without the bulky inconveniences of a full-fledged laptop.