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A roadmap for the iPad

January 29, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

The iPad is all over the news since Steve Jobs announced it yesterday so we probably do not need yet another “yay” post.    My first reaction to reports about the device was one of disappointment, not unlike what I felt after watching the classic Tom Hanks movie “Forrest Gump.”   It is not that what I got wasn’t good, it just wasn’t as good as everybody promised it would be. However, I have mulled it ever since.

If history is any indicator at all, the iPad device is just the preamble to a game changing play on content consumption, communications and computing.  Let us look at the Apple track record:

  1. The Mac:  after the return of Steve Jobs to resurrect Apple from the ashes it was in the early 90s, the mac steadily revived its cult following and then went on to get a large segment of users who were looking for simplicity in computing.   Apple decided that it could sell hardware and software bundled together and based their offers solidly on the premises of quality, usability and simplicity.   This was the obvious success story at Apple as the Powerbooks and Macbooks became a statement of trend, independence and mass affluence.   However, I was amazed at the growing numbers of users who were using “mac.com” (now called me.com) for email, file backup and photo sharing, etc.   The mac came pre-integrated with a lot of functions that folks would other wise go to Gmail, Picasa, Moxy, etc.    For a lot of users the mac integrated not only hardware and software but also their view of the Internet.   The Mac has redefined computing every decade in the recent past.
  2. The iPod:  The ubiquitous music player in its first incarnation was a marvel of design and miniaturization.    However, it also launched the iTunes music store.   Over a few years, Apple single-handedly changed the way music was consumed and gained enough muscle to make the RIAA and other stakeholders mere bystanders.   It broke the “album”: music  was now available at low prices in single tracks.  It also made podcasting more accessible.   Soon they introduced video and extended it to paid TV shows and full length movies.   The iPod changed the way we consume entertainment.
  3. The iPhone:  The iPhone when first released raised the bar for what mobile devices should be.   In retrospect,  a full browser, a multi-touch  screen, media player, and a full-fledged phone were game changing in their own right.  But Apple introduced their  “app store” and now the iPhone was the Swiss Army Knife of devices: one persons trading platform, another’s social networking tool and a third’s small business workhorse.   All packaged in revolutionary design that has spawned clones.  The iPhone redefined mobile computing.

The iPad? It now looks like a glorified iTouch (no 3G wireless hence not an iPhone), but the ecosystem is coming.   An SDK has been announced so we should see more apps and the app store getting extended to the iPad.  But how can Apple change my life even more?  What new ecosystems can the iPad redefine?

  1. Content:   E-Books perhaps?  I would love for this device to be a “Kindle” killer.  The world is going “e-book” and why should I have to use a single-purpose device to read digital books in this age?   And this of course means not only the works of Shakespeare and the latest non-fiction best sellers but also magazines, periodicals and newspapers.   Extending the iTunes store to include books and newspapers is an easy next step.  [Updated: the iBookstore has already been announced].
  2. Communications: This version of the device lacks a camera but with that, a touch screen and a suitable mounting the iPad could be the elusive “fridge-book” for household computing and video communications that has been talked about for ages.   Next up: a family .mac account and a Webex or Polycom  like IP communication system from Apple perhaps?
  3. Computing:  I can see small businesses using a well made touch screen application for point of sale terminals and credit/debit transactions delivered as a managed service.   Apple as an SME business services provider anyone?   More importantly,  a large segment of personal and business computing could go “thin client” with most services running in the cloud via apps on the iPad.

In its current form the device does not offer much but I think there is more to come on this front.  I also believe Google is well placed to respond to their moves with Android/ChromeOS moving into other computing paradigms.  Stay tuned!

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  1. Monali
    January 29, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    iPad Wi-Fi ships in late March and the 3G model ships in April. http://www.apple.com/ipad/

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