The iPad is ‘Revolutionary’

While lots of analysts (see Forrester) and others complaining that the iPad doesn’t have this or that feature (e.g., multi-tasking, flash, etc.) and while people try to get their heads around how to think about the device — is it a netbook replacement or a big iPod Touch? — I would argue that it is in fact a revolutionary product that shows the way to the next generation of mobile computing.

It may however take up to a year or two to start to see that.

I’m not going to deny that version 1 is incomplete. But as with the iPhone, Apple will likely correct some of these things with software updates and the next hardware release (version 2). I, of course, could be wrong; the iPad could be another MacBook Air, a product with intense but limited appeal that sells moderately but does not become mainstream. The same is true for Apple TV, a product that should be better and doing better than it is.

I have argued that tablets and eBook readers are “frivolous” devices, unnecessary gizmos that are more fun than actually useful for most people. And that may equally be true here: I have a smartphone and a laptop, why do I need this?

But the larger screen, broad utility as a media player, and multi-function capability (in the kitchen, on the couch, in bed at night) makes this potentially very useful, as well as fun. People will need to hold and “use” it before they warm up to it. I have not held it in my hand; those who have remark about how fast it is. The speed of this device portends a much faster iPhone “4G.”

As a side note I was disappointed that the iPhone didn’t lose its AT&T exclusivity yesterday and surprised that for now the iPad 3G only works with AT&T’s network.

Other tablets have come before and failed, but this device will either succeed itself (I suspect so) or pave the way for a new class of larger-screen, internet connected devices. Consider how undernourished the Nokia N-900 seems by comparison to the iPad.

The keyboard is a potentially awkward aspect of this (because of the curved back, it won’t lie flat). Expect Nuance, Vlingo, maybe Tellme and Google voice search to compensate. The fact that apps work on it turns the device into a phone (though not a total mobile phone substitute because of its size).

It’s an eReader, a media player, a laptop substitute in most cases, an Internet device (with an unlimited data plan for $30 per month sans contract). Eventually people are going to recognize the value here and the larger screen will be appealing to consumers.

Somewhat ironically I would expect this to be a hit in the enterprise (not Apple’s area of strength usually). Developers will be able to build useful enterprise-centric apps (think medical, education, small biz). Its integrated hardware/software is going to make it more appealing than most competitive tablets, such as those using the Android OS or, for example, the HP Tablet announced by Microsoft at CES.

We saw Apple’s competitors take about two years to catch up to the iPhone (arguably still nothing holistically has). With that history in mind, we may see a range of devices based on Android try to more or less copy this device but adding in things like flash support to improve upon it.

Will it boot Kindle? No. Kindle will survive as a lower-cost single function device. Apps may make it more interesting over time, but Kindle can’t compete with this device outside of the eReader context. Kindle DX, however, is effectively dead.

The iPad will take a little time for people to get used to, but I predict they will and that Apple will likely have another hit on its hands.

Who disagrees?

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There had been lots of hope that this device would generate revenues for traditional media. Because it’s an Internet device people will be able to get to the free web versions of publications (unless they throw up paywalls). It will then be incumbent on these publishers to build what amount to “big apps” for the iPad and related devices. (The NY Times demo’d such an app at the keynote yesterday.)

These specialized versions of publications will need to offer value-added content or information and will need to have terrific UI and design features. This way people will buy them/subscribe to them; if they offer an experience that’s clearly superior to the Web. If not, the money won’t come.

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9 Responses to “The iPad is ‘Revolutionary’”

  1. AhmedF Says:

    I have to disagree because the screen itself is the same old – and it is not a screen suitable for reading nor an outdoor experience.

    To make the iPad truly revolutionary they had to amp up the screen – using something like http://www.pixelqi.com/products (e-ink + color + motion capable). Instead we got an ‘IPS Display’ – a higher end LCD screen, but still LCD.

  2. Greg Sterling Says:

    We can take issue with this or that feature, but I think holistically they are creating a new category of device.

  3. AhmedF Says:

    Perhaps – but I don’t think it was really revolutionary then. There are lots of tablets coming out (hell I’ve bought two in the past 4 years) – and while Apple ups the ante, I think it will play out as an extremely polished (and relatively cheap) tablet.

    I hope iPad 4G brings out the color e-ink :) I’d buy that one asap.

  4. Jason Says:

    Good points. I’m going to have to agree with you that it’s a hit. Although I can’t see Kindle really competing with it – especially given that the iPad is going to sell at such a low price point, and I think people (at least where I live) will sacrifice function for style.

    You are right when you say we could see some innovation at the enterprise level. The analysts didn’t even touch on this – it could be bigger than big. Huge. I know tablets have been around, but this one takes the cake.

  5. Fred Lane Says:

    Hi Greg –

    Interesting analysis. I think that you are probably correct, particularly as we look down the road to iPad 2 and higher. I agree that the undiscovered country here is enterprise use, particularly in education. This looks like a terrific textbook platform; imagine dynamically-updated, interactive textbooks with pop quizzes, moving illustrations, links to Web-based resources, etc. Pretty compelling. And I think the night-time book-and-movie popularity will surprise people.

    Cheers,

    Fred

  6. Greg Sterling Says:

    Hey Fred thanks . . . hope all is well.

  7. Malcolm Lewis Says:

    Re keyboard, the voice search on my iPhone Google App is very accurate – I haven’t typed a search on my phone in months. I can imagine similarly technology continuing to erode the need for a keyboard on devices like this.

  8. CallyMatters Says:

    Don’t see it as competitive to the Kindle. The singular invention and subsequent refinement of e-ink technology was designed to reduce eye strain of a backlit display. Apple’s hype machine cannot erase this; iPad’s use of backlit LED is a step backwards in digital e-readers. However, I do agree that the iPad will be used for watching video recreationally- and that a device doesn’t need to introduce new technology in order to be revolutionary. Take a look at Tivo for proof of that.

  9. Feroz Says:

    Apple’s new innovation will rapidly evolve after the first push launch during it’s launch. The lack of keyboard and Apple’s potential to fix issues will start to make the product a monster in the futuire.

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