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Race to Launch Day: The Story of an iPad Case Maker

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Every major Apple (s aapl) product launch tends to follow a pattern that many of us have just accepted. Long lines, constrained supply and lack of accessories are all common for the launch day. But with the release of the iPad right around the corner, one company dared to follow Apple’s advice to the world. Instead of the frustrating experience of buying a new iPad and not being able to get a quality case for days or even weeks, Hard Candy Cases will be ready to deliver on day one — and all it took was just thinking different.

A visit to Hard Candy’s website quickly reveals that its iPad cases will ship this month, ahead of the launch for the device itself. Digging deeper, these cases are not just generic cases that happen to fit the general size of the iPad, but quality cases that snugly fit Apple’s multitouch wonder. So how did the company pull off quality products on such an amazing timeline?

It begins with the resolve of Tim Hickman, the CEO of Hard Candy Cases and founder of Speck Products, another popular accessory manufacturer. In the traditional manufacturing process, Apple would release technical documents (or the manufacturer could measure the physical device itself) to provide precise measurements for manufacturers. The next step is the expensive and sometimes lengthy process of setting up the tooling equipment to produce cases. It’s easy to see why accuracy is important. As a result, its not until a period of time after the product is released that the bulk of cases begin to enter the market. Hickman’s solution was to engineer the cases in such a way that if the final device was a millimeter or so different than anticipated, specially designed bumpers inside the case could be adjusted to provide a snug fit. From a business perspective, Hard Candy Cases was able to start the tooling process weeks ago. From a consumer perspective, that means cases will be available sooner rather than later.

But Hickman didn’t stop there. In a move that is strangely reminiscent of Steve Jobs himself, a little over a month ago the CEO flew to China to persuade factory workers to work through the Chinese New Year and focus on manufacturing his product. After four weeks of sleepless nights, sheer madness and a fight to the finish, Hickman’s chartered 747 delivered 18,000 Bubble Hard Sleeve cases to the U.S. Another 7,000 will be delivered before the iPad’s launch on April 3.

Hickman’s purpose behind this isn’t to simply be the first on the market for the sake of being first. With iPad pre-orders numbering in the hundreds of thousands, the iPad opens the door for a huge market of third-party accessories and that can mean some serious profits. Hard Candy Cases, while a figurative new kid on the block, isn’t a stranger to this though. With revenue of $150,000 in its first month of operation, Hickman’s company has already captured the attention of the industry. With prominent exposure in the Apple Store and the resolve of its CEO, Hard Candy Cases is poised to provide some serious competition to other popular case manufacturers, like Belkin, Speck and Incase.

If you’ve already pre-ordered your iPad, check out some Hard Candy Cases’ products so your iPad will be protected from day one. If you’ve used any of their other products, let us know what you think!

8 Responses to “Race to Launch Day: The Story of an iPad Case Maker”

  1. Why buy a third-party case for the iPad when Apple has made such a lovely, functional case this time? It’s different from the iPhone as Apple never made cases for them and we didn’t have a choice but to go third party.

    Plus, the third parties got greedy and priced their cases at $30, $40, $50 for tiny little plastic, cloth or metal sheaths that are aimed to protect the little iPhone. I think $39 is very reasonable for Apple’s iPad case for what it is and the different ways you can use it: flat, angled or sitting.

    I’m buying Apple’s and no other.

  2. Chris Ryan

    Thanks J.G. and Rick for your comments. Their style may not appeal to everyone (just like I love Waterfield cases but some find them ugly). J.G. does make an excellent point though. Companies respond to their users feedback and one thing that Tim Hickman has proven is that he’s very agile – a must have to succeed in this industry. Thanks again for the comments!

  3. When I saw the cases for the MacBooks, I loved the way they looked. I bought one before I left MacWorld that day, and have had it on my MacBook since.

    The one I bought is red and looks very good on the computer. Pretty much similar to the speck cases, but appear to be thicker in some areas because it is dimpled, like a golf ball.

    They are a company with a vision. They will receive feedback on their product and change them accordingly, so what may be an ugly duckling now could turn out to be the beautiful swan in just a few short months.

  4. Rick Doyal


    Being a graphic designer by trade, I hate to critique others work but, I went to the Hard Candy website and man — those are some ugly ass cases.