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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Apple iPad - Revolutionary Device?


Apple calls their long anticipated and hyped iPad "...a magical and revolutionary device..." and expects to outsell their iPhone as they manufacture a million a month beginning in March. The iPad is almost completely made up of a 9.7-inch LED-backlit IPS color display and one button on its face. The tablet is all monitor controlled by a multi-touch display and runs the iPhone operating system (currently being upgraded for iPad) which means it can run the 140,000+ apps sold on the Apps Store.

Is it revolutionary? Tablets or slates have been around a long time and failed to capture the computer using public imagination. IBM ThinkPad was introduced to the companies line of computers back in 1992. Bill Gates heralded a new era of tablet computing back in 2001 and reiterated his belief they'd become popular in 2005 but they've only reached 1.3 percent of the computer buys in the marketplace. But the problems with tablets in the past is they tried to simply be another form of the laptop or desktop with a different device form factor. Gates insisted they have stylists but that never caught on as stylists have never worked for PDA's, Smartphones, desktops or laptops.

What Apple proposes to introduce is a new category of device that is coupled with a content delivery system that never existed back in 1992 or 2001. Perhaps more revolutionary than the device itself is the ability of an iPad owner to download books, movies, music, magazines, multimedia, still photos, the web and email all through one simple a clean source - iTunes, the Apps Store and iBook. Even more significantly, Apple introduces users to a whole new world of software developers who write solution specific apps with a small and efficient footprint and low or reasonable cost to the user. This represents a significant challenge to bloatware and high priced licensed software companies who came to dominate the market.

Again, it's about simplicity and and elegance not hardware over-burdened with design or bloatware. Apple has stripped away all the ports, slots, keyboards, buttons, pens, trackpads, drives and drivers and by so doing, as David Carr said, has negated the "deviceness" of the iPad. It has become simply a window to content.

At its base, the iPad is simple a reader, a video player, a consoleless game device. and a rich application environment for thousands of developers to launch their fame and fortune from their basement or garage just as Jobs and Woz did back in the late 70s. Making the decision to run iPad on the iPhone OS as opposed to the Mac OSX was a significant revolutionary statement to the software development world.

The critics who say the iPad is simply a iPhone too big for your pocket really missed the boat. They don't get it but their boat is sinking. Rumors are, of course, that iPad may one day be upgraded to Mac OSX but never at the expense of the huge iPhone apps development community. What Apple did by backing iPhone apps developer is to bring hobby computing and software designers (at the core of Apple's founding) back to the software industry.

All along the critics of the iPad have taken the tack that it fails to emulate current stock of computing devices in the marketplace - comparing it to smartphones, laptops, netbooks. tablets, or the features of a desktop (keyboards, full-fledged operation systems, ability to run bloatware apps, etc.). As usual. they've completely missed the point - the iPad is not just another iteration of the old. When Apple rolls out new and innovative products like they did with iPod, iPhone, and even the Mac itself, they search consumer users needs and invent a whole new category of computing device for viewing content. The risk is, as it has always been for Apple innovation, is the marketplace ready for a new device and content delivery system?