While my iPad will arrive in “late April,” I’ve been following all the buzz this week, reading reviews, checking out the app store, etc. Late April can’t get here soon enough in my opinion. Here’s what has me so excited about it.
I’ve always preferred taking notes electronically, but in the past three or fours, there’s a stigma associated with that. Starting with blackberries and getting worse when laptops started becoming standard corporate issue, people stopping paying attention in meetings. I’ve been to many meetings that had no laptop and no mobile phone rules. Even if you were taking notes, the screen is a bit distracting to others. The small footprint of the iPad should be less distracting, and the fact that it doesn’t do multi-tasking means that if I have Evernote open, that’s the only thing that will be there.
As best I can tell, this device is laser-focused on content consumption. Not just books, audio, or video, but all content. The form factor is better than iPhone/iPod Touch, and it strips away all of the unnecessary stuff to make that experience as good as possible. I spend a lot of my day simply consuming information, and if this improves that experience, that’s a positive. Where it has the opportunity to excel is in context-specific content consumption. I’m not talking about surfing the web here, that’s general purpose. I’m talking about things like the MLB At Bat application. I have it on my iPhone, but when I saw the screen shots of the iPad with, I thought, “Boy, I could see myself taking this with me to Busch stadium as I watch the game live.” I doubt I will, but I’m tempted
Here’s another example which I think could be really cool. How many of us check menus of restaurants online? Imagine going into a restaurant with your iPad, and having the menu for the restaurant automatically appear, complete with ordering capabilities? While today, you’d have to have the app for your favorite restaurant pre-loaded, this is the kind of thing that could be possible and makes much more sense for a device like an iPad or iPhone than it would for a laptop.
I never thought about using the iPad as the multi-purpose board game for the family until seeing some of the apps. I can see me doing this with my kids. The form factor just works for this, while passing around a laptop with an unnecessary keyboard doesn’t.
As my kids get older, I think this will be the perfect first device for them. Time will tell whether the desktop/laptop is better suited for term paper and presentation creation, which is why I think it was smart of Apple to create iWork for this.
I think this will continue to nudge things toward cloud storage. This is probably the one area where I think things should be opened up, but the problem is there is no standard. Apple will likely drive Apps to use MobileMe for cloud storage and synchronization, and third party apps can already do the same. I can also see where someone would prefer DropBox, or some other solution, though. Until there’s a standard and well adopted way of talking to cloud-based storage providers, I wouldn’t expect Apple to do anything other than their own system.
As one of the early reviewers noted, the things I am most excited about are the apps that have yet to be developed. As I’ve said before, people who are looking at this as a laptop replacement are missing the point. This is a new form and new platform, primarily (but thankfully not exclusively) focused on content development. It is intentionally not as broadly focused as a laptop or desktop. If you need something with broader capabilities, go get a laptop or desktop. You don’t see Apple phasing out the MacBook or iMac lines anytime soon, do you?
As for the negative comments out there, here are my thoughts. On the lack of multitasking support, I think this will fade away. I’d rather see Apple take the conservative approach they are to preserve the experience and keep this positioned as something other than a laptop. Developers can assume they have my full attention, and don’t need to worry about multiple windows, resizing, etc. All of that takes away from the user experience which is what Apple has always been so good at. There is room for improvement, where a stack metaphor (so you only see the app on top) could be useful, such as when I click on a URL in a mail message. I want to close the browser and go back to mail. Today, that process is inefficient.
On the closed Apple platform, as a consumer, I don’t buy into the social/political movement around having an open platform. I just want it to work well and the tasks I need it for. Let the consumers decide. For the mass market application developers, I believe they will go where they can make money, period. I don’t think they get hung up on having to have one interface in Objective C and another one in Flash, as long as they’re making money. Could they increase profit margins if it were all in one platform and one framework, sure. Apple has to preserve their experience, because that’s their differentiator. They’re not about to sacrifice it, and why should they? Are they over-conservative, well, probably, but I’d rather have that then a free-for-all.
On Flash, again, from a consumer perspective, it’s really not a big deal for me. It hasn’t been an issue for me on my iPhone, and I don’t expect it to be a big deal for me with the iPad. The only concern I see, since I mentioned that I see this as a great first device for my kids, is that the games my kids play aren’t available. They can’t run Club Penguin, ToonTown, or Webkinz on an iPad. It would not surprise me at all, however, to see a Club Penguin or ToonTown app show up very soon. I don’t believe the thing holding these back was the lack of Flash on the iPhone, I think the thing holding them back was that it made absolutely no sense to put those applications on a screen the size of the iPhone. The iPad changes that. Flash support is really a business decision, because as soon as the iPad supports it, guess what? The whole app store ecosystem could be tossed on its head. That doesn’t make business sense for Apple. Google’s differentiator is not the experience. I don’t think they care where you get your apps from or how you pay for them, as long as they improve their advertising business. If the experience is not as important to you, but being able to put whatever you want on it is, then the iPad may not be for you. I think there will always be a sustainable market for more closed, easier to manage devices, and that’s where Apple rules the roost. That market will never achieve 80% share, but that’s okay. It’s certainly enough to keep a company very successful as Apple has shown over the past few years.
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