Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The iPad Unveiled -- My Thoughts

For those of you who are into mobile and technology, today was the momentous day when Apple unveiled its iPad tablet device। A group of us at AOL's NYC office gathered in a conference room to watch the event live and experience the moment together on Justin।tv (There were 114K concurrent viewers which is about as much as MSNBC on a good day).

I am not going to go over the iPad feature by feature, I’m sure sites like Engadget and TUAW (The Unofficial Apple Weblog) will cover in great detail। Instead I want to focus on the implications of this new device.

The iPad is basically a giant iPod Touch, but it's a device gets the computer out of the way for the ordinary American consumer. It’s a nice size and weights about a pound. The price starting at $499 is aimed solidly at the middle class and will surely come down in its 2nd and 3rd iterations. I travel daily on Metro North and see hundreds of iPhone users amongst millions worldwide. These users will naturally gravitate to the iPad as a complementary device that they will use for infotainment at home. Apple is establishing a lifelong relationship with them and they will spend million and millions buying content.

The Kindle is dead. Early reports indicate that the iPad has a much nicer more readable screen. Besides the fact that it is in color and that it does more than read books. Add to that that Apple has launched the iBook bookstore it is now directly challenging Amazon and Barnes & Noble in the selling of electronic media. Apple has basically chased Amazon and certainly B&N out of the hardware market.

Apple is releasing the WiFi version first followed a month later by the 3G version. I see no reason why users would wait and pay more for 3G (plus the monthly fee).

From an applications development perspective it seems that the iPad is running the standard iPhone OS (There may be some iPad specific API calls in the SDK). It runs all iPhone applications out of the box, but customized applications (like the NY Times which was shown) would look better. As a result of larger screen however newer interactions between people sharing the device will result in new forms of applications. The form factor of the small screen mobile device has been broken so it is possible to create a app that could use a bigger screen. How about watching live streaming TV and AIM at the same time.

All in all, just like the iPhone I think the iPad will gain an audience among a large section of American consumers. My search colleague Oscar Kafati pointed out that there are over 15 million college students in the US. Imagine everyone toting an iPad instead of a laptop and having their college texts available on them. It will happen.