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Apple’s iPad Will Push Multiple Usage Models

It is quite clear that many people have either a love or hate relationship with the Apple. The Cupertino, California-based brand announced its new iPad tablet device earlier today, and I think there are more lovers than haters at the moment.

It is sleek, it is stylish, it has the expected cool factor. Yes, it looks like a big iPod Touch. It is also missing things like a camera, Flash support, true GPS (unless you get the 3G versions), multitasking capabilities, and there is still a debate if you can do Skype on it (you can do VOIP now on 3G), since Skype is on the iPhone. Will AT&T or Apple prevent people from running Skype on it? I think there would be uproar!

The pricing was surprising. Apple usually leaves room under it for others but this time it did not. Or if it did, it’s not much room. It’s basically a space between $249 (higher end smart phones) and $499. The new price point “wasteland.” The A4 size iPad comes with 10 hrs of battery life from its 25WHr lithium-polymer battery, and starts at $499 with 16GB of Flash storage, which was an eye opener but I don’t think there is much margin there. At $599 you get to 32GB and at $699 you get to 64GB. Download a few HD movies and you are pretty much going to fill up the 32GB model. All those models come with WiFi. 3G connectivity is a $130 addition per model- $629, $729, and $829 respectively. It’s AT&T, despite all the pre-launch rumors about Verizon. The data plan is either $14.99 per month for up to 250MB, which is a useless price point because you will use that up in a week, or $29.99 for unlimited data. The question is if it’s really unlimited data? Some carriers unlimited plans are not really unlimited. And the 3G is unlocked! It’s a pre-pay plan and AT&T is throwing in free access in all of its WiFi hotspots (like Starbucks).

But an unlocked iPad won’t run on T-Mobile’s 3G network, because T-Mobile is the AWS band running at 1700MHz. The iPad is UMTS/HSDPA running at 850/1900/2100MHz. Yes, it will run on EDGE! But trust me, it will crawl! Many people are thinking that the WiFi version will be good enough with the proliferation of WiFi today. They may be right, especially for non-techies. And iPad does appeal to the non-techie crowd. It’s hitting the sweet spot of pop culture- music, photos, videos, surfing, and a little productivity thrown in.

I think the iPad is going to push the market in several different segments at once. Steve Jobs thanked the creators of the Kindle and said, “We are going to stand on their shoulders.” It’s too bad that Apple pushed Amazon into quicksand first. Apple usually decides whom they want to compete and compare themselves to. Steve Job’s other notable comment was “iPods, iPhones and most Macs are all mobile devices – Apple is the largest mobile device company in the world, now. Larger than Sony’s mobile device company, bigger than Samsung’s, in terms of revenue it’s bigger than Nokia!” That was an in-your-face wakeup call to the folks in Finland and Asia! Apple always decides whom they want to chase, and then they shift to a new thing/competitor/segment. The have the tightest hardware and software integration out there, and the most control over both— bar none!

One thing the iPad does really well is function as a big iPod Touch. iTunes is great on it. The second thing is that it’s a better ebook reader than anything else out there. Yes, it has a premium price point compared to Kindle and nook but iPad does so much, much more. And it’s in color. The third thing that it does well is that it plugs into a new keyboard dock. This means you can use it for most of your day-to-day work, as a primary device, and do email and use other productivity apps. This is one thing you can’t do with an iPhone or an iPod, they were too constraining. It’s not a great platform for CS4 or PageMaker. It’s not supposed to be. Again, it delivers in the key core areas of- music, ebook reading, photos, video, games, and the overall online experience. These are elements that Steve Jobs focused on in his speech today. There may be no reason to buy a MacBook Air going forward.

The iPad clearly bridges the gap between a smart phone and a notebook. I have met with countless device OEMs and semiconductor vendors who have tried for years to do this, with netbooks and MIDs (mobile internet devices), and it took Apple to really define the category for everyone. Apple didn’t want to produce a cheap netbook. That’s the approach that all the other laptop vendors as well as a few smart phone vendors such as Nokia took. There is a market for netbooks. Not everyone is bought into the cult of Apple, because of their price points. But the price gap between iPhone and MacBook has narrowed thanks to iPad.

iPad will go toe-to-toe with higher end netbooks ($399 and up) but there will still be room for cheaper netbooks ($199-$299) at Walmart and the price clubs, and heavily subsidized black and white ereaders if the content providers want to keep supporting those other ebook file formats. Apple is supporting the ePUB format. Amazon and Barnes and Noble will need to seriously reconsider their strategies, especially if Apple gets the boatload of titles that everyone is expecting, and applies pressure on ebook pricing like they did with music, TV shows, and movies. They have McGraw-Hill and the textbook market is sitting at their feet. So the iPad for education, especially higher-ed could be big! Watch out if someone cracks the DRM on textbooks! A couple of textbooks today cost more than the iPad. It depends on how close tightly the content is ties to the device.

No camera. And it seems to be the biggest downer to a lot of people. I just don’t think they could get it into v1.0. However, those developers who downloaded the SDK today reported that it has code support for a camera (there’s an “aha! moment”). So a camera will be there at some point. No USB to plug in a web cam either. No iChat. No messaging. We’re not going to hold this thing up to our head to make a call. But it does have a microphone and a 3.5mm jack. It is a shame that you can’t do video conferencing on it. Maybe there is something in the SDK on that, for down the road.

As far as supporting file formats, the iPad supports a bunch, including .doc, .docx, .pdf, .ppt, .pptx, .xls, .xlsx, .rtf, .xtx (see what I’m getting at?). They launched a new version of iWorks today too, and have a custom keyboard on the iPad that works with the software suite. And individual iWork apps will sell for $9.99 each.

No GPS except in the 3G models. I would argue that assisted GPS in the WiFi-only versions is good enough for most people. Assisted GPS does navigation quicker. We can argue about the better part of the equation. The iPhone already has good GPS apps for it, and they will port to the iPad.

I think the iPad is one of the most impressive version 1.0 products ever announced. Does it do everything? No! Are there things missing that many of us would have wanted? Yes, of course!

But Apple planted a seed— an heirloom seed for everyone to look at, and maybe buy. There are many different usage models that are going to emerge around this device:

  • The leanback mode for entertainment, web surfing, and home automation and control.
  • The education mode for not only K-12 but higher-ed as well.
  • The gaming mode with its bright LED-backlit ISP display— OLED still costs way too much for these price points— and ability to use multitouch to control in-game elements. Gaming on iPad is going to put even more pressure on Sony and Nintendo in the portable game player space.
  • The specialty mode, such as an aeronautical solution that can be used for navigation. Someone might put a rugged cover around it for certain environments. I don’t think it’s going to be a pure consumer device. The iPhone isn’t if you starting looking at the applications out there.
  • The executive solution mode because it is a killer presentation device for a road warrior who is on stage a lot.

Will it cannibalize Apple’s MacBooks? Time will tell. But some people today said they might consider the iPad when they go replace their existing notebook.

Like the iPhone, Apple has another product that has the potential to be really big, and again, wake up the industry. It will spur competition, and innovation. People will still need a phone-like device (and increasingly those are smart phones) and they’ll need some other mobile device for a better experience. iPad pushes that second envelope.

I just liked the name “Canvas” better!

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  • iPad is essentially a super-sized first generation iPod Touch, with the addition of a microphone, a connection for video out, and a bookstore. However, it has no camera, doesn’t support Flash, not a phone and inability to multi-task. What’s your take on this?

  • iPad is essentially a super-sized first generation iPod Touch, with the addition of a microphone, a connection for video out, and a bookstore. However, it has no camera, doesn’t support Flash, not a phone and inability to multi-task. What’s your take on this?

  • Apparently there’s camera support in the SDK, so developers could write apps to take advantage of a future model w/camera at some point. A camera’s more important for web cam/Skype ability as opposed to taking photos.

    It doesn’t support Flash because Apple and Adobe are not exactly the best of friends. Many within Apple blame flash for a lot of iMac crashes. Apple’s very focused on HTML5 as the future. But yes, 70% of web animation is currently Flash.

    It is a phone you just wouldn’t hold it to your ear. You’d use it to make VOIP calls (Apple just announced iPhone OS support for VOIP) with a headset, just like you’d use VOIP on a netbook or notebook. The 3G is mainly for the data service. I do believe the WiFi only models will be very popular.

    Multitasking’s the main drawback but that’s due to the iphone OS (you can do one data-related thing while you have a phone conversation). That’s not true multitasking. It would take a major iPhone OS upgrade to support it, and I won’t rule it out. I saw one comment that it doesn’t support IM as a multitasking app. But I think IM is being replaced by other social networking platforms.

    I’d have to play with the browser on the iPad to confirm anything. I like Safari and you can open multiple pages, and one is always my Twitter client. But that’s on an iMac. Yes, multitasking is a drawback. Even on my BlackBerry I can keep Seesmic in the background.

    Still, I think Apple put the iPad out as a platform with a few unfinished pieces, to see what developers might do with it. I’m already hearing a lot of buzz from the community as far as writing apps that go in different directions that iPhone and iPod could not go because of their sizes.

  • Apparently there’s camera support in the SDK, so developers could write apps to take advantage of a future model w/camera at some point. A camera’s more important for web cam/Skype ability as opposed to taking photos.

    It doesn’t support Flash because Apple and Adobe are not exactly the best of friends. Many within Apple blame flash for a lot of iMac crashes. Apple’s very focused on HTML5 as the future. But yes, 70% of web animation is currently Flash.

    It is a phone you just wouldn’t hold it to your ear. You’d use it to make VOIP calls (Apple just announced iPhone OS support for VOIP) with a headset, just like you’d use VOIP on a netbook or notebook. The 3G is mainly for the data service. I do believe the WiFi only models will be very popular.

    Multitasking’s the main drawback but that’s due to the iphone OS (you can do one data-related thing while you have a phone conversation). That’s not true multitasking. It would take a major iPhone OS upgrade to support it, and I won’t rule it out. I saw one comment that it doesn’t support IM as a multitasking app. But I think IM is being replaced by other social networking platforms.

    I’d have to play with the browser on the iPad to confirm anything. I like Safari and you can open multiple pages, and one is always my Twitter client. But that’s on an iMac. Yes, multitasking is a drawback. Even on my BlackBerry I can keep Seesmic in the background.

    Still, I think Apple put the iPad out as a platform with a few unfinished pieces, to see what developers might do with it. I’m already hearing a lot of buzz from the community as far as writing apps that go in different directions that iPhone and iPod could not go because of their sizes.

  • Claire

    “The second thing is that it’s a better ebook reader than anything else out there.”

    I haven’t tried the iPad yet, but was surprised at the ebook comment. One of the best things about my Kindle is the contrast (more like reading a real book than an LCD computer screen which I can’t do for long periods) and the battery life. The physical books I read are almost always in black and white, so color isn’t important there.

    I can see the appeal of many of the features of the iPad – not sure if books will be it for me.

  • Claire

    “The second thing is that it’s a better ebook reader than anything else out there.”

    I haven’t tried the iPad yet, but was surprised at the ebook comment. One of the best things about my Kindle is the contrast (more like reading a real book than an LCD computer screen which I can’t do for long periods) and the battery life. The physical books I read are almost always in black and white, so color isn’t important there.

    I can see the appeal of many of the features of the iPad – not sure if books will be it for me.

  • jimtravis

    I also was surprised at the ebook comment. The iPad may have fancier graphics than the e-ink readers, but for long reading sessions, an e-ink based reader like the Kindle / Nook is the way to go. I read Dan Brown's latest novel in two days on the Kindle. I would not try that on any LCD / LED display. I have PC Tablets with the Kindle app. The PC, and iPod touch Kindle apps are fine for reading a chapter or two, but for long reading sessions, better get the eye drops if using a LCD or LED based display.

  • igor111

    You gotta be kidding… I'l admit, I'm not an Apple fan, but really, this was a downer even for fans. NO camera and NO multitasking are big minuses. Grandma can't chat with grandkids with VoIP. Business guy can't switch between notepad, calendar, and doodle pad apps. College kid will strain eyes over screen. How is this useful?!? Even as a stepping stone, it will already be surpassed this summer by other devices in that price range. Obviously this writer is a fanboy…

  • Well, I have two coments- First, agreeing that it’s bad display for long term book reading because it’s reflective and color. The e-Ink stuff is much better on the eyes for long term book reading. Second- but, it’s a good screen for magazines and newspapers. I’ve heard this from a few publishers and people in that space. The iPhone has apps where you can throttle contract and brightness up and down with a finger swipe. I’d expect that on iPad. So unitl we can get one in our hands and throttle down the contrast and brightness for long term ebook reading, people shouldn’t jump to conclusions. Plus I’d expect a black on white and white on black text throttle too.

  • see my previous comments- yes, I acknowledge the backlash from folks about long term ebook reading on a color LCD display. But for magazines and newspappers it’s pretty good. We have to see what dimming tools come out for e-book reading on the iPad.

  • this wasn’t a downer for fans. There are just two camps- people who love it and people who like you, point out all the faults (which are all PC-related features) and not many in the middle. I don’t think it’s the buzz like the original iPhone, but it’s not the flop of Apple TV. I’m not an Apple fan boy, I run both Apple and Win7 platforms and I don’t use an iPhone, I use a BlackBerry.

    If Apple added a camera, VOIP support, multi-tasking, etc, there is NO WAY they’d hit the price points. Apple’s strategy is to get you to ugrade your iPod, iPhone, etc. every 18-24 months. Or..pay it forward to someone in your house, and go buy a new one.

    My thoughts and impressions are based on talking to lots of mobile developers (on both coasts) that write for multiple platforms. Their focus list for 2010 in order seems to be iPhone, Android, and tweaking for iPad, while keeping an eye on Symbian’s transition to open source, and who buys Palm/WebOS. There are pockets of them who remain loyal to BlackBerry too.

  • Before increasing iPads usage, Apple must first consider the specifications of the iPad before increasing it's memory and price. Now there is a reason why I should not buy an iPad.

  • This weightless desktop is just fantastic with lots of features and stylish look.

  • Apple owns the music business. And it deserves too, as a company it’s done a lot of hard work providing people like myself with fantastic tools that are reasonably priced.