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team lead, strategy

iPad: The Dawn of a New Era (Part II)

Now that we’ve had a few days to digest the iPad announcement, I wanted to follow up with more thoughts on the significance of the iPad.

1.  The iPad is the beginning of the era of touch computing going mainstream.
The iPhone brought us an amazing and revolutionary way to interact with a mobile device.  It removed the “distance” between the user and the phone by allow touch to guide the user experience like never before.  It’s not surprise that almost 3 years later, the competition is still far behind.  The iPad now brings the intimacy of touch computing to a larger screen.  But it’s not just a larger screen.  It’s a screen big enough for desktop applications.  In many ways, the iPad is in the class of a notebook/desktop computer.  The problem with notebook/desktop computers is that there’s a separation between the user and the computer.  You need to interact with a keyboard and mouse, and those actions then translate into actions on the screen.  The breakthrough with touch computing is that it removes the typical separation between the user and computer by allowing the user to interact directly with the screen through touch.  This is a truly more intimate and effective way to do things.  To do touch computing right, you need to have amazing software and amazing hardware.  So far, only Apple has been able to bring these two things together to create a truly responsive and intimate touch experience.  What revolutionized cell phones is now coming to personal computers.  And the competition is at least 3 years behind.
2.  The iPad is the first notebook computer/tablet to feature always-on internet at a super reasonable price.
One of the great things that has propelled smartphone usage is 3g technology.  It has allowed iPhone (and other phone users) to access the internet anywhere they are.  Now, this is coming to the notebook/tablet with the iPad.  I’ve asked myself, “How in the world did Apple negotiate the iPad internet deal with AT&T ($15 for 250mb, $30 unlimited, no contract)?”  The price is so reasonable that almost any college student can make this their only computer and not need any other internet subscription, like dsl or cable in their dorm room.  And the price is not only super reasonable, but users will be able to cancel anytime because there’s no contract.  This is truly amazing.  Usually carriers charge $60+/month for unlimited notebook data plans and there’s a 2 year contract with a steep cancellation fee.  The iPad internet plan finally brings always-on internet at a reasonable price for notebook/tablet computers to the masses.
3.  The iPad though a tablet device will eat into the notebook/desktop market.
What many people don’t realize is that the iPhone OS is so powerful it can handle most all desktop-like applications.  Apple showed the iWork examples during the keynote to show how they were able to create new versions of iWork for the iPad that were not inferior to the desktop versions, but rather were better.  The files created on the iPad can be opened on the desktop iWork versions, and viceversa.  In other words, the iPhone OS is capable of running desktop-quality applications but do it even better by adding the intimacy and interactivity of touch.  Where are all the cool desktop-quality applications going to come from?  The iPhone OS is all about the apps, and the iPad is even more about 3rd party apps than the iPhone.  The iPhone has phone features, so some people don’t even visit the AppStore because they just use it as a phone.  However, the iPad comes with less built-in apps than the iPhone and doesn’t act like a phone.  When people buy an iPad, they buy it knowing that they will download apps and extend the functionality of the device.  In my opinion, developers will develop amazing apps for the iPad (see my next point).  I think we’ll see iPad apps that will blow people’s minds.  Already, it’s mind-blowing some of the iPhone apps out there.  Wait until you see what developers can do with a much bigger screen and a faster processor.  The iPad will eat into the notebook/desktop market because of two reasons: 1) it offers a better experience because of the intimacy, responsiveness and interactivity of touch computing, and 2) the 3rd party apps on the iPad will be some of the most amazing applications ever developed.  More and more people (over time) will start to use their iPads more than their notebook/desktop computers, and before you know it you’ll start meeting more iPad-only people who don’t own a notebook or desktop computer.
4.  The iPad will sell more than people expect.
I read yesterday that Wall Street is expecting Apple to sell 1 to 5 million iPads during the first year.  I think the numbers will be significantly higher.  The reason is two fold: 1) the device price is very low for what the iPad can do, and 2) the iPad will be available worldwide soon.  First, at $499 the iPad is an attractive option for most everyone.  Teenagers and college students will crave it for it’s gaming, music, apps, and will probably use it as their main computer.  Older people might like it because it’s simple.  Around the world the $499 price tag will attract a lot of users, simply because it’s $499 and not $999.  People know value and they know that the iPad is at a very attractive price.  The other reason is because the iPad will be available worldwide.  During his keynote, I noticed when Steve Jobs was announcing the WiFi model was going to be available is 60 days, the accompanying slide had a sentence that said worldwide availability in 60 days.  Thus, when the iPad launches in 60 days it won’t only be in the U.S., but it will be worldwide.  Apple will ship the iPad probably to all it’s 284 Apple Stores around the world.  Previously the iPhone was launched just in the U.S. and that slowed sales in the beginning.  The iPad being available worldwide from the onset is huge.  Sales numbers for the first year will be much higher than the 1 to 5 million analysts are predicting.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple sold 10 to 20 million during the first year alone, with over half the sales coming from outside the U.S.
5.  The iPad is just the beginning.
iPhone OS will be renamed (maybe Touch OS or something).  iPad will get better as a device, maybe even have a few models (I’d love to see a 12 or 13 inch model).  Apple will do very well in the digital book marketplace (they’ve finished a ton of negotiations with publishers already).  And most of all, developers will make the iPad an even more delightful device.  The beauty of the AppStore on the iPad is that the iPad will get better and better with more developers and users.
Our team is already at work discussing and looking into what we can develop for the iPad.  The more we talk, the more the possibilities seem to grow.

iPad: The Dawn of a New Era (Part 1)

After weeks of pondering and discussing with our team about what the “Apple Tablet” might be, today Apple announced the iPad.  It’s not what we expected.  But after spending the whole day discussing it, I think the iPad just might be the dawn of a new era.

To understand the significance of today’s announcement, we need to focus on the OS and not the hardware for now.  Originally, I was hoping the iPad would feature Mac OS X so it could replace my Macbook Air.  So, when Steve Jobs announced the iPad and it running iPhone OS, I was initially very disappointed.  “Man, this is just a big iPod Touch,” I thought.  But we started to ask the question, why didn’t Apple put Mac OS X or even a hybrid OS on the iPad.  The iPad has 1024×768 resolution which is notebook/desktop quality screen.  So to run just iPhone OS seems counterintuitive.  Isn’t iPhone OS for the iPhone and iPod Touch?
But I think the answer lies in this.  When compared to each other, the iPhone OS is a better OS than Mac OS X.  And the iPhone OS is the OS of the future.  iPhone OS will grow to dominate Apple’s computing world.  Apple believes in iPhone OS.  Here’s why.
Fundamentally, the iPhone OS is a 2.0 kind of OS.  When I say “2.0” I say it with reference to Web 2.0 being defined by Tim O’Reilly: “Chief among our insights was that “the network as platform” means far more than just offering old applications via the network (“software as a service”); it means building applications that literally get better the more people use them, harnessing network effects not only to acquire users, but also to learn from them and build on their contributions.”
iPhone OS is all about the apps.  On the iPhone, the OS mysteriously disappears as you are plunged into the interactive experience of individual apps.  And these apps form a network of apps called the AppStore, that gets better and better with more users and developers.  The iPhone OS harnesses the power of the world community of developers, and it just gets better and better with the mind-boggling apps that keep coming out.  Apple recognizes this, and with today’s announcement they are saying that they’re taking the iPhone OS and applying it to a new market, the tablet/netbook market.  But the tablet/netbook market is so similar to the notebook market (and the desktop market), if the iPad succeeds then it could potentially replace people’s notebooks and become the device of choice.
For teenagers and college students (and some others), the move to the iPad as their only computer will be relatively simple.  Most teenagers and college students are using mostly cloud-based apps, ie., email, facebook, web browsing, and media functions like music, movies, etc.  So, the iPad will probably suffice for most, especially with the 3g internet option with internet access most anywhere.
However, business user typically rely on traditional software for their work, ie., Photoshop, Group Collab software, etc.  And if the iPad doesn’t have comparable software, then it’s difficult to make the iPad your only computing device.  But here’s where the iPhone OS as a 2.0 OS comes into play.  The world of developers will provide apps with the functions of traditional software, thus making it possible to replace your notebook computer quicker than you’d might expect.  Give developers 6-12 months, and you’ll see some mind-boggling iPad apps.  These apps will let you edit photos/movies/etc, manage tasks and projects, and let you do all that you did on your notebook/desktop but on the iPad, and it might even be better.
I applaud Apple for choosing the better OS, an OS that gets better with more and more users, because with more and more users there comes more and more apps from more developers.  Apple has chosen the next evolution of the operating system and has left Mac OS X as second priority.  I think we’ll still see Macbook Pros and iMacs for a long time, and the Mac OS X will get better.  But the Mac OS is not the future Apple is banking on.  I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw the ability to run iPhone OS iPad apps on our MacBook Pros and iMacs in the not-so-distant future.  Also, the iPad will just get better and better with time – faster processor, bigger screen, more touch gestures.  And all the while, there will be more and more amazing apps that define the OS and even the device.  Apple will probably have to rename iPhone OS as well.  Maybe they should call it Apple OS.