iPad – Part 1: Initial Thoughts
I confess — the doorway did not get out of my sight for the entire day yesterday. I had placed my order early in the morning on March 12 and when the first tranch of thousands of iPads left China for Louisville, KY and then to Orlando and on to Daytona and then onto a big brown truck, I did not want to be the unreliable part of the distribution scheme that Apple had planned with precision. By 4 PM the doubts were arising but at 5 PM my iPhone rang and it was UPS driver at the front door with an iPad in his hands.
If you know how to use an iPhone then you know how to use an iPad. I would not agree with some who say the iPad is *just* a “big iPhone”. In fact I see the iPad as the beginning of the end of a lot of things as we know them today. It will not immediately replace laptops, netbooks, magazines, Kindles, and televisions — not immediately. Over time, however, it is easy to see how the world will change.
When we introduced the ThinkPad in 1992 it seemed like a huge deal just to get everyone at IBM to agree with the name. No one, certainly not me as VP of marketing at the time, had any idea that more than 30 million ThinkPads would be sold. The iPad will surely sell multiple times that number but more important the iPad will change the model of personal computing — not immediately and not for everyone, but for many millions of people the PC will begin to look like a dinosaur.
One of my reasons for such a bullish view is the number of skeptics coming forward to say that the iPad is not what it is cracked up to be. Skeptics have been a reliable predictor of the next big thing — the Internet is too insecure to allow for banking and insurance. WiFi is too expensive and slow and will fizzle. Blogging was to peak out some years ago. Social networking is a fad. The iPad is just a big iPhone. Those with decades of experience with PC’s may find it difficult to master the iPad but the younger generation which grew up on Nintendo will find it natural. They will use it not just for games, music, videos, and browsing but for creative work — writing, drawing, composing, authoring, building, creating documents and web sites and multi-media content.
The extra “real estate” — roughly seven times more area — of the iPad has a bigger impact than one might think. It becomes very obvious when you first see a map on it. It is not just the size but the number of pixels. The iPhone is 480 x 320 while the iPad is 1024 x 768. The clarity and brilliance are stunning. You have to see it to believe it. The TV ads and pictures do not do it justice.
It is the applications that will make the iPad (and iPhone) highly successful. There will be hundreds of thousands of them and the larger screen opens up many new possibilities. Magazines will be huge hit — the screen allows for not only more advertisements (not a feature) but for embedded video and high quality graphical content. You can do have all this on an iPhone but there is really no comparison.
There is much to say about the iPad. It has been stimulating to explore it. Many questions in my mind and much more to learn but bottom line — I love it! There are some things that are not perfect — more about this later. For now, let me just comment about books and the impact on the Amazon Kindle. Amazon’s profit for the fourth quarter of 2009 was $384 million on revenue of $9.52 billion. That is more than $10 million of products shipped each and every day. They are not going away, with or without the Kindle, but will the iPad dethrone the Kindle?
I don’t claim to have the answer but I may have clues. There are more than 40 e-book readers out there. Apple may be the largest threat to the Kindle among them, but it is not a slam dunk. At least in the short term, I do not see the iBook reader as a Kindle killer. I read a lot of books and I don’t buy any that are not available on the Kindle. I am Kindlzed. The 5 once device never burdens the wrist. The iPad is just one and a half pounds — not a lot compared to a laptop or even a netbook — but compared to the 5 once Kindle it is almost five times as heavy. If you spend a lot of time reading you may develop a need for a wrist brace. The other thing is the lighting. The Kindle uses e-ink — it is reflective — like paper. The more light the better. The iPad has back-lighting. I was using the iPad out on the terrace today and it was very difficult to see the screen clearly. The Kindle was clear as a bell. (I watched a movie on the iPad indoors later and the quality was fantastic). The journalists that got to see the iPad in person in January reported that the room was dim. Why would that be? I suspect because good lighting makes the backlit screen harder to read.
I am currently reading the biography of John Adams (highly recommended based on first 40%). The Amazon Kindle book was $9.99. I invested $14.99 to buy the iBook version from Apple. It is not 50% better. The iBook is flashy and impressive. I like the feature that shows how many pages remain in the chapter you are currently reading. But we don’t need color to read a novel and the iPad becomes heavy after holding it for awhile. For heavy reading, the jury is out and the Kindle wins hands down.
On a positive note, I think the iPad will find very large adoption — tens of millions for sure — and will make a big dent in PC’s. The netbooks have been very successful but they are basically PC’s with Windows. Their only redeeming feature is their low price. That is a good thing but it is not innovative and who needs another copy of Windows? PC desktops and laptops are already in decline and the iPad is going to accelerate the trend. I see the iPad lightening the load in briefcases when travelling. It will also take up a lot less space on the kitchen counter and while resting there in the new iPad case it will double as a picture viewer. In the family room it will be the controller for movies and music. Most of this story was written using the Bluetooth wireless keyboard with the iPad. I need more experience with this before I say it will become my tool for writing. Finally, with most of our data in the cloud why would anyone need a PC or laptop? Many of us will still have a PC and a big flat panel for certain things — like Quicken — but more and more of my time will be with the iPad. The bigger question is iTunes. When will it be in the cloud? More on that to come.
The iPhone will continue to be an important part of my life — for calls and picture taking. And if I am in a location where there is no WiFi for the iPad, the iPhone will be my backup to the Internet. I do not plan to get the 3G model and sign up for another AT&T data plan. WiFi is available at most everywhere I go and the trend of expansion of WiFi will only accelerate.
I suspect I will keep my Kindle too. There will be many naysayers and critics of the iPad but I am certain it will be a smashing success and a long-term game changer for personal computing. It will become so pervasive in our lives that even though it is a very powerful computer, it will not be thought of as a computer. It is at the crossroads between technology and the arts.