Here’s a thought experiment. Assume that the iPad was introduced in 2007 (not 2010). And assume that the iPhone was introduced in 2010 (not 2007).
The revised scenario…
2007: Apple announces the iPad! Brilliant hi-res color display, Internet, email, iPod features, beautifully displayed movies/videos/photos, touch display, game platform, and thousands of third-party applications. Weighs just 1.5 pounds, and measures 7.5 by 9.5 inches – fits easily in your briefcase.
Three years later…
2010: Apple announces the iPhone! Brilliant hi-res color display, Internet, email, iPod features, beautifully displayed movies/videos/photos, touch display, game platform, and thousands of third-party applications. Weighs just 5 ounces, and measures 2.5 by 4.5 inches – fits easily in your pocket.
And, by the way, it has a telephone. And a camera.
The iPhone. Does almost everything the iPad does, does some things the iPad doesn’t do, and is really, really small. We've taken the iPad functionality, augmented it, and shrunk it into an unbelievably small package.
So apropos of the iPad: Is bigger better? Or is bigger simply …bigger?
Here’s my take:
First off, I couldn’t wait to receive it. I counted down the days after being apprised by Apple that the iPad would be shipped for arrival Saturday, April 3, at our home. The UPS tracking info, which I checked every day, showed the origin scan in Shenzhen, China, on Tuesday, March 30; Hong Kong on Friday; Anchorage on Thursday (amazing how it arrived the day before it left); Louisville on Friday; Newark 6:55am Saturday; and finally, delivery to my New York City apartment a few hours later. A logistics triumph.
The iPad is the essence of elegance, in the best Apple tradition. Incomparable industrial design. It executes its functions beautifully. The hardware-software interface is seamless. Looking at it, touching it, using it – they’re all pleasures.
I’ve now had it for ten days. It does everything as advertised. It’s a barrel of fun to play with. But it turns out that my main use for it after a week and a half is… to demo it to others. And I must say, the iPad gives good demo.
But I’m hard pressed to come up with a need for me that it fulfills. Its utility lies somewhere in that zone between the smart phone and the computer. When at home/office, I use the computer. When on the go, it’s the iPhone, always there, hidden unobtrusively in a pocket. I’ve also been schlepping around the iPad, but it’s a far sight less convenient to carry.
My guess is that the iPad will eventually create its own need, emulating the path that the personal computer followed. In the late 1970s, when I was a Wall St. technology analyst, I occupied part of my time as a self-anointed PC evangelist. I tried to convince institutional investors that the PC would graduate from its then role of glorified hobbyist tool and game platform to something much bigger and more important. But my argument was pooh-poohed, that is, until the first mainstream business application was introduced in 1979 with a capability that could not then be performed on a mainframe or minicomputer --the VisiCalc spreadsheet. The floodgates opened. PC sales took off. The rest, as they say, is history.
Perhaps Apple or third parties will develop such a killer app for the iPad. An app that smart phones or laptop computers can’t do. An app that will make this new form factor a megahit, a category creator. Some maintain that just having a larger screen for reading books and periodicals will suffice, along with offering a better movie/video/photo experience. And clearly, that could be a huge market.
BTW, the iBooks reader app is pretty impressive. It blows away the Kindle’s lousy contrast black-on-gray display with a brilliant high-contrast and large color display. And all the other reading functions are superior – page-turning, search, navigation, graphics -- and deftly implemented. But in the last week, having read one book on the iPad and one in the old-fashioned tree-based implementation, the latter wins. A conventional book is easier to hold and is lighter. It’s a 500-year-old invention that still has legs. Of course, I cannot speak for the entire target audience. After all, septuagenarians are probably not really in the marketer’s crosshairs.
Meanwhile, carloads of new iPad-specific apps are being made available daily, and the 150,000-plus existing iPhone apps can be accessed by the iPad, though most of the latter are not iPad-optimized.
Is there a killer app in the crowd? TBD.
Meanwhile, want an iPad demo?