So, did you buy your iPad 2 yet? We'd bet a lot of you did. And odds are if you did you bought at least one Smart Cover. These crafty magnetic covers from Apple are more than just a nice way to shield the glass on your fancy new device - they're an incredibly savvy business move by Apple.
By many estimates, Smart Covers will account for almost 10% of the margins Apple makes off the iPad 2 this year - based on profits likely to approach $30 billion dollars. That's serious money for a polyurethane or leather shield with some magnets in it. What can we learn from Apple's success with Smart Covers?
Innovate Outside Your Comfort Zone
Apple is not a great producer of peripherals and accessories. It took them 10 years of really miserable mice to get to the Magic Mouse. The iPod Hifi was a freakishly expensive boom box that almost no one bought, and the cases Apple created for the highly successful iPhone 4 ended up being a stopgap to keep people from strangling them over reception.
The Smart Covers, on the other hand, are great. The way they attach and protect is clever, slick, and surprisingly tough. Touches like turning the iPad display back on when you peel it back are great, as is the way the case folds up on itself to serve as a stand. These aren't really cases — they're an extension of opening the device.
Apple typically knows what it's good at; that's why you still don't see a cloud-based music service, or compelling web productivity services, or laptop cases, or iPod sound docks, or... the list goes on and on. However by innovating (and iterating from the previous iPad case they produced) Apple managed to score a huge win that will almost certainly prove extremely profitable.
What's Your Comfort Zone?
It's easy to stay in our comfort zones, but tons of opportunity lies just outside. Try being uncomfortable enough that you can see where the opportunity lies for your clients or customers — you may not have the same runaway success as Apple with Smart Covers, but you'll learn a lot, have happier customers, and you might just make a boatload of money.