Feb 10

iPad: joining the revolution-in-progress

We now return to the revolution — already in progress

Now that I’ve done the research, I’ve narrowed it down to two possibilities. Apple has either (a) created another technology masterpiece, or (b) suffered its most humiliating failure.

The sad fact is, months of over-hype force an instant response. Not enough “new” = disappointment. Attack on the mother ship = knee-jerk defense.

Now that we’ve had a chance to sleep it off, I think we should look at the forest, not the tree. iPad isn’t a revolution in itself — it’s actually Part III of a revolution that started seven years ago. Some of its most important features came well before the hype began.

Apple started down this path with iPod. That’s when the company demonstrated its ability to combine software genius and gorgeous design — and immediately grabbed a 70% market share. iPod was technology you could fall in love with, small enough to fit in your pocket. At the start, it was all about music. Then it matured with photos, movies, podcasts, radio and TV shows.

iPhone was Part II of the revolution. Adding phone and Internet to iPod’s capabilities, the pocket device was now a full-fledged computer. It just didn’t feel like one. The spectacular advance was the multitouch screen, which gave us a whole new way to interact. Competing against a legion of high-powered villains, iPhone was an instant success — because its technology matched up so well with human behavior. Then came the App Store, which gave iPhone and iPod an advantage of monolithic proportions.

At this point, all the pieces were in place: advanced OS, multitouch screen, intuitive interface, Internet, email, music, movies and 140,000 apps. No need to think about file systems, viruses, all those ancient concerns — you could just do what you want to do. For a great many people, iPod/iPhone had become all the computer they really need, except for one thing. It was all in miniature. Cue Part III of the revolution. iPad is the life-size version of the technology that the world’s already fallen in love with. And I suspect it’s a device whose potential may be seriously underestimated.

“Where are the new killer features?” iPod and iPhone have already laid the groundwork for iPad, so yes, parts of it feel familiar. This is both a strength and a weakness. The theory is that the features people already know and love are far more scintillating in the new iPad format. Hard to say until the product ships. One thing we do know: with a bigger screen, more powerful processor and even more responsive multitouch, iPad developers will be having the time of their lives.

“It’s just an oversized iPod touch.” Well, yeah. And that’s the reason iPad has the potential to change everything. iPod touch and iPhone offer a tiny window (literally) into a potentially world-changing way of computing. iPad is built on the same foundation — but blows away the limitations.

“No multitasking? What a joke.” Maybe yes, maybe no. Apple is creating a less complicated, more interactive world. They’re handing us a beautiful screen on which we can easily communicate, watch, listen, share, browse and create. Obviously iPad will continue to evolve. I expect multitasking will appear to some degree soon — and naturally we’ll see bigger screens and faster processors. There’s also that “little” matter of the global revolution in magazines and newspapers we were expecting.

Oh, and don’t go thinking that Part III is the revolution’s finale. By the time it’s over, we’ll be well conditioned for Part IV — at which time the whole idea of laptops and desktops may start to change.

If you’re interested, Andy Ihnatko had a good, level-headed review in the Chicago Sun-Times following his personal interaction with iPad at the launch event.

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  • sarumbear

    I can see only one way for iPad to fail: The demise of Steve Jobs. God forbid if the man’s illness stops him being in charge of Apple, Apple will revert to being yet another American corporation. THAT will kill iPad because they will lose focus.

    THE reason Apple became succesful in the first place (with Apple II, then later with Macintosh) was Steve Jobs. THE reason Apple made a comeback (with your Think Different campaign) was Jobs again.

    No other American corporation had managed similar comeback since IBM with entering services business in mid 80s and later, Microsoft in mid 90s with accepting the power of Internet. In both occasions there was a powerful and focused CEO at the helm.

    If Jobs fails to steer the mothership for whatever the reason iPad will fail. If not, they will sell 10 million uints in the first 18 months.

  • so what made Apple TV, the Mini and the Cube nor perform so well?

  • sarumbear

    To marino a gallo:
    Apple TV is not a product within Apple’s grand scheme of things. As Job’s said many times it is just a “hobby”. They are thinking of entering to the TV business when full interraction arrives to TVs. At present there is not enough space in the market for Apple. They will wait. Meanwhile, AppleTv will keep them in the loop.

    Who says Mac Mini doesn’t permorm so well? It is a specialist product. Do you know how many Mac Minis are used in the sineage industry?

    Cube was a mistake. Neither the manufacturing method, nor the form factor was thought out well. Do realise when Cube is introduced though. It was the very early days of Apple’s re-incarnation with iMac. Nevertheless they saw their mistake and killed the product.

  • David

    I know everyone in here has seen Avatar, Star Trek… any movie based in the future. In those movies, how does everyone interact with technology?

    Through TOUCH! I know they’re just movies, but that’s how these directors/visionaries see the future. Apple/Steve Jobs is making the future a reality with the iPad. It does not phase me one bit that this first gen iPad has limited features such as no multi-tasking, no Flash, no camera… blah blah blah. It’s just the first step. You can’t jump off the touch/tablet bandwagon before it’s even begun.

    Tablets and touch are going to dominate this next decade. It’s a guarantee that by 2015, pretty much every laptop and desktop will come with touch-enabled screens so I think the cynics/critics need to kick back and enjoy the revolution.

  • Stephen Sonnenfeld


    My take is that iPad is an instrument helping to catalyze a broader revolution in terms of how people consume content and the business models that underwrite the publishing (both book and magazine) industry. So for this reason, much of the discussion around the iPad’s features, what’s there/what’s not, seems sort of irrelevant. iPad is undoubtedly a work in progress and I trust Apple will get everything right as future generations of product get introduced.

    Accessing content on the iPad that I can already access on a computer or mobile internet device (internet, email, music, etc.) is neither novel or revolutionary. The fact that it’s a better experience than the iPhone is nice, but it’s an incremental step forward.

    The real action here has to be around accessing and experiencing content previously not delivered on any existing device in a satisfying manner. And that of course would be books and magazines. Reading a book or magazine on a tablet that closely approximates the experience of reading a physical book or magazine is totally revolutionary and will have implications for consumers and businesses far beyond what anyone is currently envisioning.

    There’s so much speculation and discussion around this product because 1.) it’s Apple, but 2.) because no one really knows what it will be.

    I love the iPad because I think it’s a striking example of corporate courage, something you don’t see enough of today. And because it’s a statement, an enduring one from Apple, that says as a culture it’s important that supremely good taste govern the way in which we access and interact with something as important to our world as books and magazines.

  • Paul

    I was on the fence, leaning towards the b) camp but now I’m firmly in the A camp.

    I’m not convinced of your successive revolution analogy. I don’t think it was successive. And that’s actually why I think I wasn’t turned on by the Ipad. The value of the ipad is not in being an extension of the ipod, but rather a new brand completely focused on a few different niches, perhaps along with the Touch which I never quite got either.

    I don’t know how I would use an Ipad beyond a neat extra toy. I’m not into e-readers, I have computers/netbooks that do pretty well surfing the net. So the Ipad isn’t for me, at least in the short turn. Perhaps when i’m refreshing technology there will be a place for it.

    However there are certain industry verticals, specifically education and healthcare come to mind, where the potential is tremendous. The costs are so low that ipad could even be handed out to every student in a middle or high school or starting college freshman. Or freshman doctor at a hospital or med school student. Neither care about multi-tasking, we certainly don’t expect them to be listening to pandora while on rounds or reading a textbook. I do see the missing camera as a potential weakness, not necessarily for getting pics for facebook but rather as another input device either barcode reader or the like.

    As soon as I got away from the “What will I use it for” and moved to the “What could it be used for” the Ipad’s value seemed a lot clearer to me.

  • ChuckO

    Marino, the mini is selling great. Especially the server version. AppleTV’s problem is the content providers. I was looking at blue ray players and the AppleTV after the holidays and leaning toward AppleTV but the movie selection through iTunes is pretty hit-and-miss and more miss on the hi-def end. I also don’t think the Apple stores are doing a great job with AppleTV. My local has had the same grainy montage of Jack Black in Nacho Libre (talk about questionable marketing) going for years. Not very inspiring so I ended up with a blue ray player.

    I’m going to buy AppleTV in the next few months but I’m hoping they make some improvements soon.

  • Kesey

    It’ll be revolutionary when they come up with a way for the device to clean the fingerprints off its own screen.

  • ken segall

    I totally agree about the potential for experiencing magazines on iPad. If this gauntlet were thrown down at the launch, I think we’d see a lot less naysaying in this “interim” period. Also agree about the courage needed to do bring this product to market. Most computer companies won’t invest unless there they can be guaranteed a return. Apple’s enormous cash reserves give them this freedom.

    How dare you not buy my logic :) I suspect that the reason you feel as you do, and others do as well, is that Apple didn’t offer any truly compelling uses at launch. They just introduced iPad and showed the basics of how it works. I can see iPad being a really big deal in schools, as you mentioned. But I really do think that it will become a lot more than a toy for most people — maybe even you. We’ll have to give it a year or two.

  • Jimi

    It’s safe to say that the amount of debate that this device (good or bad) has created has probably already made it worth while…

    Is it a revolution? Probably not. I would call it an evolution, or an evolution-in-progress, if you will.

    For computers to move to being touch based devices is just another fairly obvious evolutionary step in the process. However, I think what the iPad will also show is it’s limitations. The main failing still being; how do I get a large amount of information from someones head into the device?? Pop up the ridiculous onscreen keyboard…. I think not.

    A revolution in computing will come when we can talk more directly with the machine, whether it is with our mouths or directly from our brains (I doubt this will remain science fiction forever)…

    Until then, we have a new casual computing ‘coffee table’ device that will at least make us rethink the way we navigate content with a computer.

  • Tiny

    Little Typo:
    “Where are the new killer features?” iPad and iPhone have already laid the groundwork for iPad,

    (“iPod and iPhone”, not “iPad and iPhone”)

  • ken segall

    Yikes! How’d that get in there? Fixed. Many thanks…