10 important things about the Apple iPad

The what?  The Apple whodjimmy?  The iPad?  What, you hadn’t heard?  Oh, they did some launch thing over in the States on Wednesday…

OK, so you can hardly have missed it, but here’s what I think are the headline points to bear in mind…

…but firstly, a quick overview of the device itself:

 

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It weights 1.5lb (680g or so) so it’s pretty light, it’s half an inch thick, 9.5 inches high, and 7.5 inches wide… 

…it comes with either a 16gb, 32gb or 64gb solid state drive, all models connect with Wi-Fi, you can upgrade to 3G (so you can use a phone network, though you don’t need to have a contract, it’s pre-pay)…

…it runs all the existing iPhone apps, there”s a bespoke version of iWork (Apple’s ‘Office’ equivalent) you can buy as apps too…

…and it works just like a big iPod Touch or iPhone, really.

(stats from Mashable)

So, what’s important about it?


1. It’s cheap.

Trust the Scottish fella to focus on that. 

Seriously though, of all the things mentioned yesterday, this to me is the thing that makes me think it’ll take off. 

At a mere $499 for an entry model iPad, it’s already positioning itself as a device between a smartphone and laptop. 

It’s not aiming to replace more expensive laptops, but to do something different in between.  And I think that $499 is low enough for people to go and get one ‘just to see’.

 

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Of course, netbook manufacturers, who led the way in producing small cheap machines whose purpose of existing was the access the internet wherever and whenever, are sitting this morning wondering where to go now. 

And they’re not the only ones…

2. Apple have made their own chip for it

UPDATED

Now, you may know that every Mac ships with an Intel chip nowadays, and they’ve spent a while shifting all the Mac OS X operating system across to work on the Intel architecture, and as this article points out they’re not likely to want to shift over again any time soon. 

Intel doesn’t yet have a proven track record in mobile chips currently (though have just contributed to their first Smartphone, the LG GW990), so Apple needed another option for the launch of the iPad…

 

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However, it’s interesting news that the chip was made in-house, rather than sourcing another supplier.  Yet perhaps it’s a move as you’d expect would have been the eventual step for a company who likes to do it all in-house. 

Maybe at some point in the long term, they expect to make all of their own chips… which might cause a wee headache to some chip manufacturers…

3. Bye bye e-books

…though not as much of a headache as the e-book boys have right now. 

 

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I spoke about this a while back in the ‘Kindle Killer?  Why Bother?‘ post…

“Winning the eBook war is a little like becoming the king of the dinosaurs… it may be good for a while, but something big’s coming to make you all extinct…”

Well, here it is.

Mashable’s got a list of 4 reasons why the Kindle’s dead, and 4 reason’s why it’s not that you could read. 

But to save you the trouble, the reasons ‘not’ are pretty lame.  So the future’s not looking great for the Kindle, but what about the much vaunted thought that…


4. “…it’ll save the newspaper industry
!”

Let’s be honest; Apple haven’t exactly made it their mission to save the existing media industries. 

Just look at music… it’s not like the iPod & iTunes did anything to preserve the existing model for the music industry; if anything, it hurried the mass population into a new way of behaving that could only hasten the industry’s model decline…

“I can pay much less for music, and only pick the songs I really wanted”.

In that light, can you really see the iPad preserving the income levels that the newspaper industry like to imagine a daily read of their paper is worth?

 

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No, neither can I. 

Sure, there will be a subscription model that’ll make a little money.  Micropayments too, maybe, through iTunes. 

But it won’t be anything near the level that newspaper owners think it should be; people will think…

“I can pay much less for news, and only pick the bits I really wanted”


5. It’ll have a big impact on TV

We like having lots of TVs in our home.  Living room, then bedroom, then kitchen… the family could quickly disperse to the different rooms around the house to watch whatever they wanted.

The iPad is reportedly an excellent TV & movie device (it’s HD quality, of course).  You can sit with it on your knee wherever you are (at home, on a train, in an airport, in the back seat of a car)…

 

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…so watching content will be great; using a service like the iPhone TV Catchup anywhere you’ve got wi-fi would be a joy, much more so than it is on the iPhone.

But despite the ability to watch live TV like this, I think it’s still bad news for traditional linear TV viewing, and advertising by implication. 

People will have another option to watch whatever they want wherever and whenever.  It’ll encourage more use of downloading programming, which may have all the pre-rolls and whatever you like, but will not replace the money brought in by the traditional ad-break on TV.

And if content creators think they’ll switch to a revenue stream funded by ‘pay-per-show’, then they better be prepared to sell it cheap; already Apple clearly want to half the price of TV content on iTunes.

Finally, of course, we know that ‘two screen’ viewing is really coming into it’s own of late; sitting on the couch with your smartphone or laptop, with the TV on at the same time. 

But if the device you hold is bigger. brighter, better, easier to surf… then less of your attention is going to be pointed at the screen in the corner of the room.  The TV may be on, but the advertising will be increasingly ignored.

6. A new era of gaming

The iPhone was a huge success when it came to games.  So much so, that it kinda caught Apple by surprise (they’ve never been that good on gaming, let’s be honest).

What was apparent that people really did want to play more intricate, complex games on a touchscreen platform…

…but in such a cramped space such as the iPhone, that made it hard; at times it seemed half the screen was taken up by virtual buttons.

 

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But with a bigger device, you get more ‘game’ screen, and less pressure to squeeze in fiddly virtual buttons.  Control gestures can be bigger, more natural. 

And of course you’ve still got the accelerometer to control things by tipping and turning the device.

When games developers are set loose on the new SDK (Software Developer Kit) for the iPad, we’ll start seeing some amazing, ground breaking games

Which brings us nicely to the next point…

7. The apps maketh the device

When the first iPhone launched, sure, there where a few things you could do with it. 

But it was only when the thousands of developers populated the iPhone with the 100,000+ apps that everyone’s really been able to make it their own personal, perfect device.  And now you can get all the iPhone apps on the iPad.

(BTW – Letting those developers in, whilst maintaining a level of control to keep quality at a decent threshold, was the smartest thing Apple may have done with the iPhone, IMHO)

 

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But now there’s a whole new device to play with. 

The gestures are based on hands, not thumbs.  The viewing can be for many eyes, not just yours.  The holding position is more book & magazine, less phone and iPod.  

 

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As Bryce says here, the iPad is about “packaging a new user experience which really comes down to the software’s gesture interface, the SDK and the underlying hardware that powers it all.” (HT David Cushman)

It’s not just a ‘big iPhone’; I think that’s just a lazy (if not snarky) observation to make.

When the developers are let loose on it in anger and start releasing proper iPad apps will we understand exactly what it’s capable of…

…and where it’s going to be of most use, like in…

8. Work

I think there’s terrific opportunities to adopt the iPad (and the new generation of devices it will no doubt spawn from competitors) more in a work scenario.

Which Apple do too, given that they’ve launched special bespoke versions of the ‘iWork’ tools (Keynote, Numbers and Pages) as $9.99 apps for the device.

 

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Now, as John Griffiths points out here  it’s really at odds with the Microsoft Office charging model (who every time charge hundreds of dollars to upgrade to the next version of Office). 

Though Apple of course want you to buy the new sausage, so give you the sizzle for virtually nothing.

But I was talking to Mike at Made by Many about this, and we agreed there’s huge potential for a device like the iPad to move into healthcare, education as well as traditional business.

It could represent a new way of accessing, creating and sharing information.  Of course, you wouldn’t expect to walk into an NHS hospital and see all the Doctors accessing patient information on iPads, but there will be alternatives that are cheap enough to make widespread rollout possible. 

The iPad will change the perception of what is possible & desirable from a device in the workplace, creating opportunities for many other manufacturers too.


9. Some folk are pretty disappointed

It’s well known that techy, bloggy types want the moon on a stick.  For over six months, speculation has been rife about what the iPad ‘may’ be able to do. 

Of course, when it doesn’t arrive, people get all disappointed… and start making (inevitable) Downfall versions of Hitler being told about it…

Sure, there’s no camera, no Flash support (Apple are clearly trying to kill Adobe’s Flash too, just for kicks), no multitasking (so you couldn’t run Spotify at the same time as a Keynote app, for instance)…

…but the overall disgruntlement is, I think, misplaced.  Take this for instance…

“I still can’t believe this! All this hype for something so ridiculous! … I want something new! I want them to think differently! Why oh why would they do this?! It’s so wrong! It’s so stupid!”

It’s not a reaction to the iPad this week.  But to the original iPod, back in 2001 (via ReadWriteWeb).  The first generation iPhone, when announced, faced similar disappointment and derision from within the techworld.

And look how they turned out…


10. The Market and Stephen Fry are impressed

Have a look at the Apple Share price over the last 6 months or so, ever since the rumour machine really started cranking up…

 

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Not bad, huh?  The market clearly thinks Apple are onto a winner…

…as does Stephen Fry, who was there, and is in the Guardian today saying…

“There are many issues you could have with the iPad. No multitasking, still no Adobe Flash. No camera, no GPS. They all fall away the minute you use it. I cannot emphasise enough this point: “Hold your judgment until you’ve spent five minutes with it.”

No YouTube film, no promotional video, no keynote address, no list of features can even hint at the extraordinary feeling you get from actually using and interacting with one of these magical objects.”

I can’t wait to try it.

So there you have it, the Apple iPad.  Personally, I think it’s going to cause big ripples across many markets, and you know what, that’s how I like things.  Change is good.  The iPad is great.

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