FOR the last month or so, I have been playing around with the Apple iPad.

Tablets have been around for over 10 years but the question is: what did Apple do to change the game that in its first three months, it was able to sell over 3.2 million units?

Not surprisingly, after the iPad’s success, almost every manufacturer has announced plans to introduce tablets or pads.

HP is coming out with WebOS (from their acquisition of Palm) and Windows 7, Dell is introducing the Streak, Toshiba the SmartPad and Lenovo the LePad. Acer, Asus and Samsung are also planning to introduce their own versions. There is also a rumored Blackpad from Research in Motion, manufacturers of Blackberry.

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The success of one has opened the floodgates to others. Even Amazon said sales of Kindle, their e-book reader that is supposed to be an iPad competitor, are also going through the roof.

Where did the earlier designers of the tablet go wrong that Apple did right, or as some would ask, what is the attraction to the iPad?

Well, it helps that the battery lasts for 10 hours. A mobile device is not really very mobile if its battery is good only for two hours. It also helps that it is a product by Apple, which is a very strong brand. It also helps that the iPad can use tens of thousands of applications that are already available for the iPhone.

The earlier tablet models were more expensive or their screen resolutions were not good or their processors too slow.

But an important ingredient to the success is what Apple did not do. The earlier tablets tried to be replacements for the notebook so it had to do all things that the notebook could do. It tried to be everything and as a result, it was not particularly strong.

There are generally two things you do in the computer – content creation and content consumption. Content creation refers to using the computer to create something, like editing a song, writing a letter, jotting down notes, creating a spreadsheet or recording or modifying a movie.

Content consumption refers to reading a book, listening to a song, watching a movie, playing games, checking email or surfing Facebook.

In order for a tablet to be effective in content creation, manufacturers had to put in applications like Excel and added a stylus or a keyboard or a mouse because these are needed for input.

What Apple did right is that they created a tablet that does not focus on content creation but consumption. It is hard to edit a Word file in the iPad by using the onscreen keyboard or edit a movie or a spreadsheet.

But what Apple focused on is making it the best device on which to listen to songs, play games or just read a book. And that is what people end up doing mostly in iPad, which for many of them, is already a second or third machine. You buy an iPad because it is very good in some things, not because it is merely good in all things.

This applies also to businesses. Sometimes, we want to create products that are cheap yet offer the best quality and utmost functionality. That is not often possible. The gains as well as the tradeoffs you are prepared to take should be based on what the target market or customer wants. Understanding this was key to Apple’s success. Doing the same could be the key to yours.