John Doerr and Fred Wilson are among the very best VCs in the world. Surprisingly, they have very different takes on the iPad which were published this morning.
Today's Techcrunch guest post by John and his partners from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers talked about the iPad as The Next Big Thing. The post starts with John's "aha moment" when Bill Joy showed him the Web for the first time using a Mosasic browser. He goes on to say that the "advent of the iPad feels like deja-vu, like it’s happening all over again. Not once, but TWICE-in-a-lifetime."
Later this morning, I read Fred Wilson's thoughts on the iPad which had a very different take. Fred thought it was a nice device but was not blown away. In his words, "the iPad is stuck in a difficult place between the smartphone and the laptop and it's not nearly as convenient as a phone or as powerful as a laptop." He goes on to say "I don't think Apple has the kind of hit on its hands that it had with the iPhone."
So who is right?
From my own observation, my 2 and 3 year olds have taken to the iPad like nothing else - better than any computer, book or TV show they've ever seen. It's highly intuitive and interactive. We read the Toy Story book last night (free app) and played with the drawing apps (many free) before putting them to bed. I had to pry the damned thing from their fingers.
I think the iPad will be the computer for the masses. For both young and old people who don't really care that much about computers. The device has a magical quality.
In the tech world, there has been much talk about "Techies" and "Normals" (or Muggles as some like to call them). I guess Techies are like the grand wizards who understand and appreciate technology that might seem mysterious and sometimes magical to mere Normals.
The thing is, to build a big company, you have to appeal to Normals. Sometimes, a product which appeals to Techies end up becoming a hit among Normals; like Twitter, for example. However, most of the time, Normals could care less about what Techies rave about. They don't care about technology. They don't want technology. They just want something that works. It has to be simple and useful - right away. If it's too complicated it'll go th way of the blinking 12:00 light on VCRs.
It's ironic that Steve Jobs has such a huge following among Techies because he could care less about them. He has an intuitive sense for Normals. He has great empathy for them.
Bill Gates once commented that he would love to have Steve's taste (goto minute 2:30 of the video). What Bill Gates admired most about Steve was his "sense for people and products" that was magical. He called it "wow." A product decision that Gates would view as an engineering decision, Steve would look at from the end users perspective - the end user being a Normal, rather than a Techie.
That is the difference between Fred and John's take on the iPad - Fred has a Techies view; John has a Normals view. They are both right.
From the viewpoint of the marketplace, Normals win. Apple is a massive company that will produce more than $40B in revenues from only a handful of products. They will grow at something like 40% this year which is phenomenal for a company of such massive size. To help justify Apple's market cap of more than $210B (which is only about a 20 forward p/e ratio) Apple has to keep producing hit products which generate tens of billions a year.
Shipping hit products among Techies will no longer move the needle for Apple. Steve Jobs could care less about Techies; he caters to Normals. With the iPad, I think he's done it again.