If Apple was in the business of making movies, the iPad would arguably
be its biggest bet yet. So it’s fitting that Apple used Hollywood’s
biggest night to let consumers know that the iPad will be ‘in theatres’
on April 3.

Last night, the company, which now has a market cap just shy of $200bn,
aired its first television ad for the iPad on the 82nd Annual Academy
Awards. The 30-second spot provides a visual (and musical) depiction of
the iPad and its capabilities, and concludes with the words “April 3
and “iPad“.

With that April 3 date now less than a month away, the question is: will the iPad be a ‘blockbuster‘ or a ‘box office failure‘? Given Apple’s track record, it wouldn’t be surprising if the iPad turns out to be the tablet computing equivalent of the film Avatar, which has grossed well over $1.5bn globally.

But what if the iPad doesn’t sell? There are a few good reasons to believe that Apple has its toughest challenge yet in convincing consumers to say “iPaid for the iPad“:

  • From 3G pricing and Flash support to accessories and the lack of a camera, there are a number of unanswered questions surrounding the iPad. These questions could conceivably give consumers pause, which would of course hinder sales in the process.
  • A recent survey by AdMob found that only one in six iPhone users currently plan to purchase the iPad. While that still represents millions of potential iPad buyers, it’s hardly the most encouraging figure. AdMob’s survey only had 960 participants and AdMob is owned by Apple rival Google, so I wouldn’t read too much into the survey. But if it’s anywhere near accurate, it would support the numerous iPad critics who have voiced concern about the challenges Apple will face in trying to create interest in an entirely new category of mobile device.

Again, Apple’s track record is such that it’s hard to write off Steve Jobs and crew. But if theory becomes reality and the iPad gets off to a slow start, it would be an interesting test for a company that is so used to ‘getting it right‘ (or close to it) on the first try in recent years. Would Apple be able to reset expectations and adjust the iPad’s positioning? Would it listen to iPad critics who have complained about, say, the lack of a camera and Flash support? Or would Apple respond with hubris and arrogance?

Great companies are defined not only by their successes, but by how they address shortcomings and failures. We know that Apple is capable of producing great products but I for one wouldn’t mind seeing what it does with one that needs a bit of work. We’ll soon find out if the iPad is that product.