For those who think the iPad is going to be a miss, I'd
encourage you to see it as only Chapter 1 of Apple's tablet story. There's
still a lot going on behind the scenes, including discussions with many corners
of the media and entertainment community. Importantly, however, the iPad
provides a roadmap of the types of
devices we should be developing for over the next five years: gorgeous screens,
touch interface, constant connectivity, better battery life, and the
opportunity to build on and further monetize existing media and content, rather
than replace it or kill it.
My read of the relative lack of media and content deals (not
to minimize what's already on iTunes) is that Apple wants to put a great piece
of hardware out there, and use that as the platform for discussions with book
publishers, magazine publishers, and others in the content universe to build an
even more robust ecosystem around media of various forms. The iPad is
essentially a larger version of the iPod Touch, representing an opportunity for the
expansion of iTunes. I believe the succeeding iPad versions/software updates
will feature a reconfigured iTunes, with a host of new content and innovative
business models for media. iTunes will also head in the direction of being more
web- and cloud- based (ie. purchase of LaLa), rather than centric to a device, leveraging the portability of the iPad.
Your Next Kitchen Appliance?
I think there's a lot up Apple's sleeve that is not evident
with this initial version of the iPad. My view is that there's an important
opportunity for a "family"- or "household" -centric device that fills some
missing gaps in our multi-screen world. A typical family of four household
today has some 15 "screens", between phones, TVs, PCs, game players, iPods, and
so on. The big TV is in the family room. PCs are in the home office and other
locations in the home if they're portable. The under-addressed room? The
kitchen. What's needed there is a hybrid
PC/TV/entertainment device that is the "hub" for a family's land-based
[analog?] and digital activities. Verizon took a stab at this with its "hub"
product, but it was primarily a souped-up phone with some content widgets but
very little integration with the household's "life".
One of the learnings from the iPhone/iPod Touch is how much
it is used in the home. People sit on the couch and zip from news to messaging
to YouTube videos to Facebook updates to games - in a much "snackier" way than
they do on their PC.
The iPad will succeed if it can build upon the iPod touch
experience, and fill that "middle ground" between phone, TV, and PC. I think it
might also be more of a shared/community device. Some ideas:
with television. There's lots of media
content available on the iPad, through iTunes. But how about some ability
to receive live TV, either through cable or digital tuner, or FLO
TV add-on. The iPad is a more natural device to
integrate the TV and PC than the TV or PC.
calendar, and address book functions.
The iPad could be that great touch-screen Internet phone we've all been
waiting for, and much more. One unmet family need is a really good
centralized calendar that can have both individual and group access, as
the central point for coordinating a busy family's schedule. This would
integrate and sync with other "screens" in the home. Similar thought on
the address book/contact list, and various messaging channels, from email
to SMS to social networks. All could use MobileMe as Web-based anchor.
Apple has an opportunity here to take its PIM and MobileMe products, which
have never been best of breed, to a new level, providing content
synchronization across devices.
control for home systems. Here's where
DVR, stereo control, home security, utilities/energy consumption, and
other household functions, could be centralized and managed.
- The evolution of the book. The iPad is an
elegant version of the Kindle and other e-readers. But it's a platform to
give certain types of books a whole other life. The best example I can
think of? "How-to" books. For example, think of all the cookbooks sitting on
your kitchen shelves. Make them digital, which instantly means searchable.
In addition to beautiful pictures, there are embedded "how to" videos.
Here's an opportunity to complement the book business, not threaten its survival. The same opportunity exists for newspapers and magazines.
Even though the iPad might sit in a kitchen or family room,
it of course has the added benefit of being portable. So games can be played
and media watched in other rooms. When out of the home, the iPad becomes a
portable media player - DVDs, games, books, newspapers/magazines, and so on.
The synchronization and control functions would come with you, using the
To make this a viable alternative to the netbook, Apple has livened
up its equivalent of Office for the iPad - Pages, and Keynote, for example. It
would be a leap, however, from the productivity applications that most people
use for work. Web-based apps, such as Google Docs, would be an interesting
The Wireless Angle
The wireless network piece, through AT&T, is a bit of an
afterthought. I'm pleased to see the lower entry price, although users will
blow through 250 MB pretty fast. The lack of contract requirement is a win for
consumers, and leaves the door open for other operator relationships. I'm sure
Apple had to twist AT&T's arm big time on that one. All that said, given
the target market and likely consumption patterns, I think the iPad will tilt
heavily toward WiFi use. A big question as to how many people will spend the
extra $150 for the device plus $200-400 annually for mobile connectivity (the
first thing they'll do is spend for the additional memory: 16 GB is a
non-starter for a device like this).
Apple's recent purchase of Quattro Wireless is another important piece of the puzzle. Apple realizes that there are limits to how
much consumers can, or are willing, to pay for content (especially after their
wallets are depleted from buying Apple devices!). With Quattro, Apple has an opportunity to build a more
robust advertising capability for content that it sells though iTunes (music,
video, books, apps), or is accessed on the web through its devices. The Quattro
Wireless platform will become an important tool for the developer community.
Tectonic Battle Shaping Up
The larger story that will unfold this year is a tectonic
battle over the distribution structure and business models for media - music,
movies, TV, games, books, newspapers, magazines, and so on. A second front has
opened in the Apple-Google war, this one involving Amazon (I wrote a piece several months back on how Amazon might be a viable competitor to iTunes). Book publishers are
now having the same discussions and skirmishes as the music studios did when
iTunes was first released. Ironically, Apple is their white knight, compared to
what has been transpiring the past few months between Amazon and Wal-Mart.
Newspapers and magazines were curiously absent from the iPad
announcement. I suspect there are lots of discussions going on behind the
scenes. Hopefully, the iPad, and other expected tablet and next generation
e-reader type devices will give that corner of the content business new life,
rather than the slow death the Internet/PC has been delivering.
Apple did a poor job yesterday of
articulating who would buy this product, and what they would primarily use it
for. Their computers represented
an improved experience on what people were already getting on their
Windows-based PC. iTunes and the iPod brought digital delivery of music and other content into the
mainstream, with a great user experience and a business model that worked for
both industry and consumers. The iPhone delivered the all-in-one delightful user interface, web browser and
applications that mobile users had been craving. The iPad's role in the digi-verse is
not as clear. I'm not ready to declare it an Apple TV-like "miss". Its success will rely on a
clearer articulation of target market and use cases, and, more importantly,
content and applications that can bring what is an innovative piece of hardware
with a great UI, to life.