There has been considerable debate over the most anticipated product release since… the iPhone. Critics dismiss the new iPad as nothing more than a big iPod Touch lacking new features and not even having the same functionality of a netbook. While much of the current criticism (multitasking, keyboard, etc) is valid I think it misses the point. The iPad is not a computer – it’s a portable media device. It is not meant to replace your computer – you’ll still use that device (laptop or desktop) to create content, do your taxes, write your novel, edit your movie, etc. It’s a portable device that allows you to conveniently consume content (movies, web, magazines, books, news live events, games, etc.) wherever you happen to be. And yes, some of these behaviors will be new.
First, some personal historical context:
– I remember witnessing the reaction of a colleague the first time he saw a Blackberry keypad. He burst out laughing declaring “who is ever going to use that ridiculous little keyboard?”.
– I remember having the argument years ago with a colleague trying to convince me that a cell phone and an electronic pocket organizer are two totally different devices and no one will ever want them combined into the same device.
– I remember (yep, I’m that old) having discussions with friends about the use of the Sony Walkman hearing ‘who is every going to want to walk around everywhere with headphones on?”
New behaviors are not always obvious – which is the cause of one of the main criticisms of the new device: “Who is going to want to carry around videos, and books and magazines and games on a tablet?” Everyone, is my guess.
It’s difficult for many to imagine watching TV on anything but your 125″ plasma or reading a paperback on anything but… paper, that’s how you’ve always done it. Why would that change? There are lots of reasons why this product should succeed:
1. It’ll get you off your couch. If I had a device that I could use to conveniently watch video/tv, play a game, get the news etc. outside, in the basement, on a bus wherever I happened to be, I would use it. Yes, I can sort of do that with my laptop but it’s never simple. The app store is really, really simple. So is iTunes. Simple matters.
2. Human multi-tasking is growing. Watch a 13 year old on the computer, talking on a mobile phone and watching TV, all at the same time. Mutli-tasking is what they do and this device will accelerate this activity. (I’ll leave it to armchair sociologists to determine if this will lead to the downfall of civilization.) I acknowledge that human multi-tasking will in some cases rely on computer based multitasking capabilities. Apple will sort this out in short order.
3. New gaming opportunities. The iPad will open up a huge opportunity for gamers to develop gesture-based games that take advantage of the touch screen interface. Combine that with a (future) video camera, accelerometer and geolocation and the possibilities are endless. (imagine Foursquare with a realtime 10 inch screen video and efficient gesture support…)
4. New marketing opportunities. Advertisers should love this device. It will be the next best thing to TV screens. Magazines, video, games…. even ads in books will be easily and effectively delivered in multiple ad formats.
5. Content Owners. Open source everything is great until you realize that everything in an open source environment tends toward free… then it’s a problem. Apples walled garden will appeal to many content owners who are looking for new audiences in a structured pay for play environment. In spite of the happy talk, all businesses exist to make a profit and the only way for content creators to make a living is for them to get paid.
6. Social media potential. This device will have video cameras next iteration and when it does that will launch a new wave in social media behaviors, tools and business models… assuming the telco’s pipes are up to the task.
7. It’s Apple. (Yep, I own an iPhone, but I also work on a PC). Apple will deliver in the iPad three things it does really, really well: 1. A world class user interface, 2. A really smart ecosystem to support the device and 3. Cool.
Apple still has some things to work out – a video camera is one and not supporting Flash is another. They can’t keep the walled garden up forever and I’m not sure how/if they will ever learn to play nice with Adobe – which is ironic since Adobe is the company that kept them alive in the early ’90’s (and then Microsoft) as the vast majority of Mac users used Apple computers to run their Adobe software. (I suppose business owners have short memories for a reason.)
This device will do very well.