Reactionary Engineering and Supply Side Economics

The number of people who say “I want something like an iPad but isn’t made by Apple” isn’t nearly large enough to be served by a few dozen OEMs (now including Dell) to compete over. It’s the myth that demand exists for every piece of garbage, you just need to sell it. You cannot create demand for non-Apple tablets simply by making non-Apple tablets. Demand isn’t there. People want iPads the same way they want iPods.

Ultrabooks have demand, but supply doesn’t exist. Every single one that has come out does not beat Apple on price (and certainly not on anything else). The myth of the Apple Tax erodes quickly when you need to do Apple level engineering.

But Ultrabooks may not have as much demand as we think. When I use my 11″ MacBook Air I’m using a lot of full screen apps and swiping between them with the trackpad. I use the trackpad as a navigation device, not a clicking device. Right now Windows 8 doesn’t have that fluidity. It really is a unique and necessary experience. 1366 x 768 is not a lot of room to work and I’d be lost without spaces. Even using hotkeys (Cmd left/right) in Snow Leopard doesn’t feel good enough. Since I don’t think any ultrabooks have three-finger trackpads, that’s probably the best they can hope for, and it feels so 1990s.

One of the easiest sources for finding the elusive unmet demand is yourself. When app store searches come up dry, when you hate every last TV in best buy, every time you wonder “how could no one make _this_”? Steve Jobs told many stories about going after markets because something good simply didn’t exist. Yes we had “smartphones”, but we hated them. Apple tapped that unmet demand. Sure there were pocketable mp3 players but they only had like 64MB and awkward ways of getting things onto them. 20GB players existed too but they used 2.5″ drives and weren’t pocketable. Again Apple tapped unmet demand.

I’ve done it too. In the early days of the app store there were two types of photography apps: Ones that did it all for you (for better but usually worse) and “portable photoshop” type apps that were clever, but not for the general user. Auto Adjust tapped that unmet in-between category: an app that does it all for you (and well) by moving sliders that you can then move yourself. It also did it in realtime, which back then was unheard of.