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Checkpoint: The Perception of Value Edition

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Someone on NeoGAF posed a question: “Why is it that $599 consoles are (generally) considered expensive and the iPad isn’t?”

The resulting multi-page thread was quickly filled with “cult of Apple” accusations, crafty marketing and the notion that people don’t know better. If the iPad wasn’t flying off the shelves and generating millions of dollars for Apple, I could have sided with this line of thinking. So what does the iPad do to justify its price tag? Why is it that people (like me) are willing to drop over $500 for an iPad, but are weary with paying $250 for a PlayStation Vita?

The answer comes down to:

  • What the product offers

and

  • What we value most

The PlayStation 3 debuted at $599.99 USD and the world gasped in horror. A video gameconsole costs $600? The world viewed the PlayStation 3 as nothing more than a single purpose machine: it played games. It’s incredibly reductive, but unless you are a person who values gaming their source for entertainment above all else, it’s an incredibly tough sell.

But it’s also a Blu-ray player you say? At the time of the price announcement, HDTVs were still luxury items. People weren’t even sold on the idea of high definition yet, so the value of Blu-ray wasn’t something the masses could appreciate. However, when HDTV adoption began to ramp up, Blu-ray was declared the victor of the (last?) media war, Sony was able to legitimately tout their Blu-ray feature.

It took awhile, but the PlayStation 3 can now be viewed as a gaming and movie consumption device. It does other things like web browsing, but those aren’t the features that the console does well — it’s not something to be proud of. We’re at a point in electronics and computing where user experience trounces hardware power. And no other company knows that better than Apple itself.

Nearly every internet capable device can check e-mail. It’s the most basic of functions, but it’s an important one. The PlayStation 3, my old Dell Mini 9, the iPad and the iPhone can all check e-mails, but they don’t deliver the same experience. With the PlayStation 3, I have to turn on my home entertainment center and wait for everything to start up before I can even begin the process of checking e-mail with the built-in web browser. On the opposite end, I can pick up an iPhone and check my e-mail within seconds. It even has notifications to tell me when I have mail and most importantly, I can check it from anywhere that has access to the internet via the magic of the cellular networks.

Again, just because a device can do something, doesn’t mean it can do it well and on my terms. It all depends on what I personally value more: convenience, time and/or money? Let me give you a few examples:

For gaming, some people value the ease of console gaming over PC gaming — even if it means paying $10 or more for a console game.

For console online gaming, I can tolerate the inconveniences if it means that I can play online for free which is why I find the PlayStation Network sufficient for my needs.

For e-mails and internet, I can stand to wait until I’m at home, but for others they see a $30 per month as a small cost to pay to get access to the internet and their e-mail.

A laptop or a PlayStation Vita that’s considerably cheaper than an iPad can do the basic functions of e-mail, internet, gaming, videos and music. In some cases they may even out perform the iPad. But the iPad’s mix of mobility, functionality, ease of use and longevity makes it a unique device. It’s easier to use than laptop or PS Vita and to those who value that ease, it’s a very compelling device.

Like the iPhone, the iPad’s success isn’t because of Apple’s fans or its marketing. It’s because it does multiple things that people want and does them easily and conveniently. Through the lens of someone who values gaming above everything else, the iPad isn’t the wisest choice. But for everyone else who just wish to plop down some money to make their lives a bit easier, it’s well worth it.

Currently playing everybody’s favorite sci-fi action adventure role playing shooter game, Mass Effect 3.

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