Blog / Magical, revolutionary advertising

One thing that really struck me while reading Fake Steve Jobs’ book was his assertion that Apple designs products backwards. Usually you start with market research, design the hardware, write software, run tests, then create marketing and release the device. Apple, he claims, starts with the marketing. If they can’t make a good ad for the device (whatever it is), they won’t create the product.

It’s funny - of course no product could actually be made like that! - but Apple’s advertising for the iPad watered the seed of doubt in my mind. The key words that stuck out were “magical” and “revolutionary” which Apple relentlessly repeated in their public relations.

The world's best bathroom reading device

Why is the iPad magical? Because of the capacitive touch screen? I distinctly remember being awed the first time I bought an iPhone. Zooming into pictures by pinching your fingers was like a parlor trick that worked. Every family member I showed it to was bowled over. No one had ever controlled a computer in that fashion.

But three years later it was old news. We were installing apps, surfing the Internet, e-mailing with abandon. The iPad offered no new features. Granted, as a product it was important. Moving the iPhone OS into a larger device made PDFs easier to read, spreadsheets easier to create, music easier to compose. Many apps that work on the iPad would be cramped and limited on the iPhone. But there was nothing fundamentally new about the iPad, so why did Apple repeat this “magical” mantra?

Because the iPad was in development before the iPhone. Imagine if the iPad had been released first. It would have been magical and revolutionary! No one had ever used a capacitive touch screen before. Even the heaviest laptops of the day couldn’t hit 10 hours of battery life. The 132ppi screen density was astounding. If I was doing marketing for the iPad (in a pre-iPhone world), you bet I would have called it “magical.”

Was the iPad marketing sealed in a time capsule and used, unaltered, with the device’s release in 2010? Sanity points to “no,” but I’m not so sane sure.