Obligatory iPad Opinion/Speculation/Analysis

Almost everyone seems to have an opinion about the recently-announced Apple iPad.1 If you don’t, I may surmise that you either a) live under a rock, or have been distanced from the internet and tangential media and people enough that you have not yet heard about it, or b) you do not have any opinions at all. Or, potentially c) you just don’t have an opinion about it. But c) seems rather unlikely, because it’s been a very polarizing announcement. People seem to either love it or hate it.

As you may have guessed, I have some thoughts (i.e. an opinion) about it, which I will note here. If that sort of thing doesn’t interest you, and you continue reading the rest of this post, well, you were warned. Also, I’ve had some fun with footnotes on this post, so you’ve been warned about that, too.

It’s not what I expected.

What I expected was a video phone with some nice extra features, for a couple hundred bucks more than an iPhone. Video camera in front (and maybe in back?), phone, etc. 3G probably would make for a crappy video phone, but a little bird told me we’d all have something like that last year. The bird was wrong, of course. And HD YouTube is nice, but for the price of the iPad I’d like it to have Flash.23

As an e-book reader, it could work well. But iBook prices are higher than those in the Kindle store, and the screen is a normal LCD screen with the inherent drawbacks and advantages that entails for reading books (harder on the eyes, can’t be read in sunlight, faster page turning, full color). Hopefully Apple won’t pull the Kindle app from the app store because of iBooks, since buying Kindle books to read on iPad seems like a better option than buying iBooks.

It’s got some features of the iPhone/iPod Touch missing (camera, phone–although I suspect voice chat/VoIP will be available for it rather quickly), and some features of MacBooks missing (open developer environment, multitasking).

So those things are not what it is. But what is it?

It is something new. Is it a disruptive product?4 There are a number of competing devices on the horizon, so it may not be a Blue Ocean product.5 Is there an untapped market for it?

Steve Streeting pointed out some situations in which it would be useful to have around. I agree with those; just last night I was looking up recipes online in the kitchen on my iPhone, wishing it had a bigger screen. And I can see it being cool for digital versions of board games with no hidden information like chess, checkers, and Carcassonne, as well as a DM tool for a tabletop RPG, or a game where each player has an iPad so they can hide their cards or whatever from the others. For me the price is too steep for that, but I think Ultimi Barbarorum is on to something with the idea that it will be well-received by baby boomers. In fact, it seems positioned to be loved by anyone who thinks computers these days aren’t worth the hassle.

I definitely think there is an untapped market for it. How big is that market? That remains to be seen, of course, and I get the sense that Apple is playing it safe with this initial model. It’s not clear yet what people will really want and use it for. Sure, we know what it can do, but that’s not the same thing. The next iteration of the iPad should be a lot more focused on improving what people end up actually using it for.

Pseudo-predictions:6

  • The iPad will have an iPhone-style price drop of $100 to $200 within 6 months of its release.
  • Disgruntled early adopters will report that the battery life with 3G on (for models which have it) is basically the same as that of an iPhone 3G.
  • Kindle 3 will have a Pixel Qi touchscreen, and maybe even be based on Android. This is the only way I can imagine games (other than Interactive Fiction–text adventures) working on it. And with the recent opening up of the Kindle API for developers, it seems they want to go in that direction. And, if the one above about the price drop turns out to be accurate, Kindle will likely need something like this to keep from becoming completely obsolete.
  1. I don’t mind the name. People made fun of the name of the Wii for a while, but that didn’t hurt it.
  2. I was sure it would; when Steve Jobs went to the New York Times website and the icon showed up for the missing Flash plugin I was shocked, and half-expected him to next show Flash enabled… but no, it was just a huge slip up. Tycho is right that this was an uncharacteristically underwhelming presentation for Apple.
  3. Unless, of course, Apple is intentionally trying to kill Flash. If these devices never get a Flash plugin, then before too long most or all websites will have to provide some alternative. 30 million iPhone users (plus however many the iPad picks up) is nothing to sneeze at.
  4. I recently finished reading The Innovator’s Dilemma, and yesMalstrom” is how I found out about it.
  5. I haven’t read Blue Ocean Strategy, but the concept seems straightforward enough and, honestly, it really seems like a subset of the disruption theory (new market disruption) to me anyway.
  6. I won’t be surprised if any of these things happen, but I’m not making any bets.

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