What Were You Thinking?

I need an iPad and I need it now

Marketplace Staff Mar 26, 2010
What Were You Thinking?

I need an iPad and I need it now

Marketplace Staff Mar 26, 2010


Tess Vigeland: And iWonder just how many iFreaks will shell out 500 bucks or more for the new iPad next weekend. iSwear I’ll be iWitness perhaps iBall to iBall with mad crowds when I pass the neighborhood iStore. All of this over a bright, shiny toy these iShoppers have neither seen nor touched. Which prompts us to wonder…

Comedian: What the hell were you thinking?

So far, more than 200,000 people have pre-ordered an iPad to ship to their home next Saturday. They just know they want it. And they’ll pay between $499 and $829 to get it. We found a couple of these early adopters, 30-year-old Tyten Teegarten works in tech support at the University of Missouri, and he’s what you’d call a gadget geek.

It didn’t take much to convince him of his need to add an iPad to that list.

Tyten Teegarten: I have a Macbook, a Macbook Pro, I’m calling on an iPhone 3G, a Play Station 3, a Sony E-Reader, and I think that pretty much covers it for gadgets.

And of course, it’s part of his job to know and use the latest technology.

Teegarten: I decided I wanted it, just basically after seeing the demo on stage, when Steve Jobs gave the keynote address.

Jen Beaven lives in Rochester, N.Y. The 51-year-old designs apps for the iPhone and cops to a houseful of gizmos.

Jen Beaven: I think we probably have, oh I don’t know, 13 or 14 computers, we each have an iPhone and an iPod Touch that I do development on, GPS’s… We’ve got a lot of gadgets.

And she says it was a no-brainer to order the iPad. Well, almost no-brainer.

Beaven: I had that tinge of indecision when they announced that there were going to be two of them, the Wi-Fi-only and then the 3G one, like a month later. Like, “I don’t want to wait that long!” But then my husband solved that problem for me. He ordered the first one and then I’ll get the next one.

And so to explore why some folks shell out major coin for products without so much as a test drive, we turn to Geoffrey Moore. He’s a Silicon Valley author and consultant who studies how and why new things make their way into our lives. Of course, I had to ask the most obvious question, did he order an iPad?

Geoffrey Moore: OK, so I have not. It’s an irony of my profession that although all my clients are earlier adopters or most of them are, I tend to be a late adopter.

Vigeland: Let’s talk about this phrase that we’ve been using, “early adopter.” What are some of the trademarks of the type of person who goes for this sort of thing?

Moore: The word goes back, if you would believe it, all the way to the 1950s. There was a fellow named Everett Rogers, who did a study originally of farmers adopting new agricultural methods. What Rogers’ model did is he showed that over the life cycle of the adoption of any new technology, there were actually five different strategies and they unfolded in a sequence. So his first are people who do it because it is their passion to get the latest and greatest and newest thing on the block. It’s their vocation, it’s their avocation both. The second strategical, the visionaries, they like to be the first guy on their block or the first woman on their block to show off the new technology. They may not actually be interested in technology, per se, but they’re interested in the status. And they think of themselves as trend setters, and in fashion, they’re often the people who do the first fashion kinds of things. This third group is an interesting swing group. We call them “the pragmatists.” They adopt a technology once they see everybody else doing it. So it’s sort of a junior high dance phenomenon, you know, once everybody else is on the dance floor, we’ll go.

Vigeland: The wallflowers come off the wall.

Moore: Exactly. And then the fourth group are the people who say, “I don’t like these new things, so I’m going to wait until it’s really proved out and also cheaper.” And I’ve also self-confessed to being a member of that group with many consumer electronics. And then the fifth and final one are the skeptics, who just think that this stuff is the instrument of the devil and that you can never use it.

Vigeland: Well, I don’t know if I’d classify the iPad the instrument of the devil, but… So are these things that we are born with? Are you born to be one of these?

Moore: No, it’s interesting. There are some people who are constitutionally predisposed to one adoption strategy over another. But it’s typically in one area of their life. So an early adopter of consumer electronics might be a late adopter of a new dance style or maybe foods. Maybe they like to try new technology, but they don’t like to have anything but a hamburger for dinner.

Vigeland: Where does money play into that? Because certainly, if you’re adopting a new dance style that doesn’t cost you anything. But if you’re an early adopter for consumer electronics, you are spending a looooooooot of money.

Moore: Be careful, because for example, there were early adopters of the Web and early adopters of Facebook. That was free, but it was still, by the way, the pragmatist wouldn’t even for free, they wouldn’t adopt it early. So the style does actually does trump money.

That said, you’re right. That second group, the status-oriented individuals, they actually expect to pay up. And in fact, part of their cache is that they have bought it first, and they know that they’re going to spend more for this product than anybody else would, any other time.

Vigeland: Right.

Moore: But these are people who would buy a $300 bottle of wine in a restaurant too. If you want the status, part of status is this conspicuous display of economic consumption.

Vigeland: What do you think it is in the heads of the rest of us who roll our eyes at the folks who are pre-ordering the iPad?

Moore: Well, there’s a lot of things. If you look at economic success, all economic success requires you to win over the pragmatists. And it’s this transition from “I’m early” to “No, I’m now with the herd.” And so we look at each other, and we say, “So Tess, have you gotten an iPad yet?” And you say, “No, I haven’t got one.” And I say, “Me neither. OK, that’s good, that’s fine.” But then all of a sudden, it may be, “Oh yes Jeff, I do have an iPad. In fact, my mother has an iPad, my father has an iPad, my brother…” And all of a sudden, I think, “Oh my God, I’m behind the curve. I’ve gotta get an iPad.”

Vigeland: So as with so many other things in life, it all comes down to high school peer pressure.

Moore: But it’s not just peer pressure, it’s actually… This is Darwinism in a way, because this is a strategy which says, “Look, I don’t have time or skill to truly evaluate all the purchase decisions that I’m going to need to make in my life.” So the smart thing for me to do is — in most cases, unless I’m really passionate about the purchase — I should do what people around me do and that’ll work, and I can spend my time on the things that I really think I ought to be paying attention to. Whereas, the early adopters are saying, “That’s fine, but this is what you oughta be paying attention to.”

Vigeland: Geoffrey Moore is a managing partner at TCG Advisors and he studies all about our brains on new products. It’s been fun talking to you. Thanks so much.

Moore: Well Tess, it’s my pleasure. Thank you.

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