If we have learned one thing about Apple in recent years, it’s that they don’t do anything by accident. Every move Apple makes is the result of a well thought out, calculated decision. It may be the wrong decision (think the MobileMe launch, iPhone 4 antennagate and a few others), but even those were the result of calculated choices the company made. So when Apple decided that they would launch the iPad2 next Friday at 5 PM we can assume there is some reasoned decision behind it.
In a conversation with Elana last night, those reasons became abundantly clear to me.
By not allowing people to even order the iPad2 until next Friday, Apple ensured that the first shipped versions of the next-generation device would not arrive at people’s homes until Monday at the earliest. That means that anyone who wants to get one early needs to actually go to a retail store and pick one up. And because the device does not go on sale until 5 PM, it gives people the opportunity to gather and spend the day waiting in line — People who would not have gone out at 2 AM for an early morning opening will now likely do so. That translates to lines. Lots and lots of lines. And not just any lines, it translates to Apple-sized lines. The type of lines that make it onto the evening news. The type of lines that can be shown next to the launch of other tablets and put them to shame. The type of lines that Apple loves, because they get more advertising for no cost then they could ever dream of. Yes, Apple decided to put the iPad on sale next Friday at 5 PM because of strategic decision. And I suspect that decision was informed by the launch of the Verizon iPhone. Tons of the device sold in the first days, but you would not have known it based on the lines at Verizon stores. Why? Because as Verizon themselves admitted, strong pre-order sales translated to less in-store demand. That doesn’t make for a good photo-op, and Apple could not have been pleased with that. As a result they are working to ensure that there IS pent-up demand for the iPad 2, and that the demand not only IS but LOOKS huge. That’s why 5pm in stores next Friday makes sense.
And it is why, once again, Apple shows itself not just make amazing devices … but to be brilliant in the process of rolling them out as well.