What's Your Primary Consumption Device?

[ Photo of cat as iPad stand by Veronica Belmont via creative commons license. ]

By Jason Calacanis

For the past month I've been asking anyone with an iPad the following question:

"What’s your PCD?"

After explaining that PCD is short for "primary consumption device," almost everyone said, "My iPad."

There were two outliers.

One is the 50+ year-old CEO of one of the largest print media companies in the world that has transitioned to almost 50% digital revenue from a cold start a decade ago. He said the iPad was equal to his print consumption.

The other defector was an agent from Creative Artists Agency who said that TV was still slightly ahead of his iPad because he has a Roku on it. He confessed that if all movies and TV shows were available on Netflix, his iPad would edge out his TV set as his PCD.  

Think about that for a moment.  

Anyone who has an iPad -- a device that did NOT exist 18 months ago -- says it's their PCD or tied for their PCD.

Eighteen months ago the iPad. Did. Not. Exist.

That’s stunning.

Why the Tablet Will Be Your PCD

Why is the tablet computer so compelling for content consumption? The answer is obvious: portability, comfort, battery life, form factor and speed.  

One person reported to me he doesn't watch TV without his iPad. Ever.

One CEO of a major online media company said his household of four owned five iPads, and that they kept an extra one around in case folks ran out of battery life. What?!

Finally, another executive reported to me they don’t go to the bathroom without their iPad. Overshare to be sure, but understandable and commonplace based on what I see around Mahalo’s office.

If you don't have an iPad, you probably don’t understand this phenomenon, but you only need to look to the previous PCD to confirm the evolution of mobile computing: the Blackberry.

There was a rash of stories based on "blackberry widows" at the turn of the millennium due to the addictiveness of the tiny device.

In fact, one famous VC told me that he and his wife had come to an agreement that his Blackberry went into a drawer in their vestibule when he got home in order to preserve "domestic tranquility."

If a postage-sized email device can do so much domestic damage, a magazine-sized, Wifi-enabled one with "Angry Birds" on it is going to cause marital Armageddon!

Side Note: The easiest way to tell if a device is a game-changer is if it causes martial or parental strife. Atari, skateboards and Xboxes have all caused parents to go to war with their children, and the Rubik's cube, poker and iPads are doing it to couples.

Trust me, "iPad Widow" and "iPad divorce" stories are only moments away.

Why Is Apple the Only Game in Town?

The above-mentioned CAA agent asked me why no other company has made a dent in the tablet space yet. I thought for a second and came to the obvious conclusions.

1. No one has made a better device (although some are clearly equal, or close to equal).
2. No one has made a dramatically cheaper device.    
3. No one needs to customize a tablet computer.

If you look at mobile, desktop and laptops, the reason Apple doesn’t own the entire market is because there are, in fact, better desktop computers and laptops in the market.

Additionally, there are $600 to $700 laptops out there that are just as good on a functional basis as Apple’s $1K+ laptops.

There are desktop computers that are just as good as Apple’s for 30% to 50% less.  

Finally, there is nothing that Apple left out of the tablet that people really want.

Flash? Turns out Steve Jobs was right: no one cares.

USB port? Turns out no one cares (except maybe me and Cory Doctorow) http://twitter.com/#!/DOCTOROW

Removable media? No one cares.

How to Beat the iPad?

If Microsoft, Sony, Google, HP and Samsung want to make an impact in the tablet space, there is a very, very simple solution: lose money.

If I was running any of these companies, I would simply create a $99, $199 and $299 tablet and lose $10B getting 100M of them out there. Seriously, Apple will lower the cost of this overpriced device only when some maniac enters the market with a stunning price.

Microsoft should stop paying a dividend and tell its shareholders that it’s going to subsidize tablets for the next three years. That would be a bold and visionary move. Larry Page is aggressive enough to do it with a partner I bet -- or maybe with his new Motorola sandbox.

What Does This Mean for Startups?

I’m a big fan of skating to where the puck is going, and I’m actually in the process of shifting resources away from open ecosystems with low barriers to entry like the web and YouTube and into the tablet.

Mahalo’s first iPad app, on learning how to play guitar, will average $1.5K to $5K in revenue for each of the 27 videos in it over the next three years. Compare that to the $100 to $200 we will make per video on our website and the $100 we will make on YouTube over the same time period, and you can see why I’m so excited about tablets.

Why the huge disparity in revenue? Simple: on the iPad folks will pay $0.99 for anything and on the web they won’t pay for anything.

I'm sick of the open, spammed-to-death web where you can only win if you're willing to game the hell out of things. I don't want my life as a content producer to be fighting for scraps with content farmers, spammers and MLM schemes.

The open web is filthy, crowded, dangerous, and it just sucks as a publisher to compete there.

I'm in love with the iPad, the clean Apps Store and the huge barrier to entry.

Oh, you want to compete with my app Mr. Self-Publisher? Great, go find $50K to pay an app shop to make a butt-ugly app that you’ll never update and we’ll fight it out in the store. Oh, you can’t find app developers, I’m sorry... that sucks for you doesn’t it?

Oh, you think you can do it on the cheap with "instant app kits"? Name me the best-selling app that was made with instant software. OK, I guess we’re done here.

Seriously, I’ve drunk the Steve Jobs Kool-Aid.

Closed ecosystems with reviewers FTW!

If Steve Jobs Had Created the Web Browser

Imagine if Steve Jobs had created the web browser and instead of coming to websites and being blasted, you were faced with a road block that said "inside this fine website you’ll get X, Y and Z all for the low price of $0.99!"

Why isn’t there an App Store for websites anyway?

Can you imagine how that would change things?

Steve Jobs changed the game by forcing folks to put their credit cards into their phones, and if Google’s Android team can work with the carriers to do the same thing, we will reset one of the biggest mistakes in the history of the web: making it free and a free-for-all.

In fact, how amazing would it be for content creators if, in order to use Safari, you had to put in a credit card?

I know, I know... that's filled with problems from a democratic sense, but it is filled with possibilities from a sustainable content basis. It's just a thought bomb, not a manifesto (no need to flame me).


P.S. I’m hosting a one-day tablet/iPad event in Mountain View on Oct. 21 because, well, I want to get all the smartest folks in the space together to teach me (Tom Sawyer's whitewashed fence model has always been a favorite!).

Who should present/speak at the event? Email jason at calacanis dot com and tell me (and cc them if you know them).

If you’re a developer you can come for free by applying here.

If you’re anyone else, you can buy a ticket (which subsidizes the developers coming for free).