I can’t bring myself to sing odes to Apple on the imminent release of its new iPad Just yet!
But that’s not to say I don’t respect Apple for what it’s attempting.
The simple truth is I’m a huge fan of tablet computing and have been since the days of General Magic, Slate Inc., Momenta Inc. (a $40 million smoking hole in Silicon Valley’s ground) as well as Palm Inc. So, having lived through numerous technology revolutions and seen the powerful impact Apple can have on a category, there are things about its iPad that could be bellwethers for touch and tablet computing.
Right off the top, a launch backed by applications that take advantage of not just the technology but also the IPad’s form factor is a great first step. I don’t regard third party padded carrying cases, messenger envelopes or wire frame stands for the iPad as significant parts of the launch and believe that all of this should be included in the original purchase price.
I’m sure there will be hardware opportunities in the iPad market. I can imagine a rush of wireless keyboards for the new device. Unfortunately, I remember all the third-party keyboards for Palm and Pocket PC devices and how quickly they failed. But short range networking and wireless hardware could play a big part in the eventual success of iPad.
And this brings me to the AT&T wireless modem –equipped iPad. In the past, along with other pundits who follow portable computing, I have a love/hate relationship with cellular-phone network based data networking. I love the fact that I can attach to the Internet remotely in venues lacking WiFi access. But the cost of monthly service adds as much as $500 to $700 a year in costs to the portable. With iPad service provider AT&T is offering an inexpensive day use rate, which fits my budget and how often I really require cell-based networking capabilities. I applaud Apple an AT&T for this feature and really believe it’s a step in the right direction for untethered mobile computing.
There are some great applications for Apples tablet computer in the works and I believe they are significant enough to help build momentum for tablet computing. Second generation mapping applications that can be used by consumers to locate businesses offering special pricing on consumer and other goods is one example. Think MapQuest with pushed coupons or offers. Although such apps are emerging for the iPhone, their migration to the iPad seems like an evolutionary migration.
NetFlix, sundry printed publication applications, Yahoo’s content and the like are big examples of ho-hum apps to me. Some of these are already available for the iPhone. At best my initial take on the iPad is simple: it’s a better, much more capable, Kindle. It has to be noted that Apple’s recent agreements with textbook publishers such as McGraw Hill are a return to Apple’s once vaunted educational market.
But are college students willing to pay $500 for an electronic book reader with an integrated onscreen keyboard? Looking back, a similar question about pricing was asked of Macintoshes in the college market and more than a few industry execs were surprised to find out that, yes, college students were willing to pay $1,000 for a Mac. And that was an intrinsic part of the early Apple Macintosh story. Apple could repeat this scenario today with the iPad, but one problem is apparent: College students are accustomed to selling their textbooks at the end of the course and, as yet, there is no mechanism for reselling electronic versions of college textbooks.
Also, I question one of the often proposed usage scenarios for the iPad—watching movies or episodic television on its smallish screen. To begin with, there are already other numerous mechanisms for this application in existence now. And most of those have larger screens and much better audio than the new iPad.
I’ve always had a fear that Apple developed products for itself. That’s part of the reason I’m not enamored of a business model that’s based on Silicon Valley coffee shop usage. That model just doesn’t play in the Heartland where people meet at the local Cracker Barrel or Dennys before starting their workday at a nearby grain silo or agricultural implement repair shop.
But there are new applications Apple can pioneer with iPad. Medicine is one such area and it’s notout of the realm of possibility to imagine iPads being used to collect vital signs and patient information and then transmitting trhyat information to a doc as he heads to a patient exam room. Many such apps are as profitable as they are glamorous. Furthermore, it wold be easier to pitch this business model to venture capitalists than it would be a simplea pp that collects pennies on the transaction. Now go a step further and imagine iPads being used at medical conferences or required continuing education classes to distribute rich media pertaining to new treatment programs, surgical procedures or drug therapies.
It’s such ideas that really do bring out a sense of child-like wonder when I think of Apple today.
If Apple turns tablet and touch computing into a success I’ll be among the first in a long line of industry pundits to give credit for a job well done. I believe tablet and touch computing is about to come of age and Apple has the wherewithal to help make this happen.
And what’s good for the Apple iPad is also good for the HP Slate, and Lenovo’s S10-3t family, as well as the eight other new tablets being ready to be unveiled in Taipei next month at the Computex trade show in Taiwan. I may not buy an Apple iPad, but I do admire it’s potential to fulfill a long dream of portable computing—touch sensitive tablet computing with numerous connectivity options.—Jim Forbes on 040/02/2010