OPINION: The implication of the iPad's existence-- creating a new product category
29 January 2010

OPINION: The implication of the iPad's existence-- creating a new product category

What does the iPad mean for mobile media? What are the principles used to develop the iPad? and what are the implications for mobile media?

I will be exploring the implications of this new class of hardware that Apple has created. The Tablet is not a new form factor. Microsoft tried to create a tablet by grafting a Tablet OS on top of Windows XP. A touch screen interface depended on a pointing device, which frequently were lost or dropped. Not a great user experience. Apple held back for years because they understood that building a tablet right meant rethinking the fundamentals of the device:

  • The OS needed to be reworked to be completely touch enabled.
  • A pen or pointers device was not an option, a finger was the best pointing mechanism.
  • The software for the device had to be redesigned from the ground-up with a User Interface (UI) that was fine tuned specifically for the new device. Interacting on a tablet using a finger required a rethink of the UI.
  • Cellphone network (3G) and Wi-Fi connectivity were both required so the device had the freedom to be connected everywhere.
  • The device has a broad range of mobile apps.
  • The tablet needed to become a fully functional eBook reader device. A simple way to download and buy these eBooks was imperative.
  • The device needed an totally intuitive and natural touch based way of interacting.
  • Battery life is crucial - 10 hours was the battery life Apple was able to achieve with their advanced battery and microprocessor technology.
  • Animation, transitions, and visual effects matter. These create a natural and fluid experience when using the device.

The OS needed to be reworked to be completely touch enabled.

Apple has written the OS that runs on the iPod to be 100% touch enabled. Microsoft hacked together their Tablet version of Windows XP using an add-on approach. They layered some touch elements onto the Windows OS and relied on a pen to direct the pointing device. Basically it became a pen that was a mouse rather than a true Touch OS. Apple did it right with the iPad and leveraged it's Multi-Touch technology, developed for the iPhone, and adapted it to the large display on the iPad.

The OS is a hybrid of the iPhone OS and Mac OSX. It looks a lot more like an iPhone, however, because of the screen size there is more real estate to display a more spacious and complex OS. Apple took all the innovations from the iPhone OS and extended the interface naturally to become a new Touch OS for the 2010s.

Implications: Apple and developers will have to redesign their applications to be touch capable and use the new interface designed by Apple for the iPad. Apple will launch with the iWork Suite for iPad, as well as Mail, Calendar, iBook, iTunes, and some core utilities. This is the right way to launch a tablet OS because all applications will be designed to specifically rely on Touch to operate. A really good tablet user experience requires touch to be used as much as possible to achieve tasks. For example, selecting items rather than typing file names. Tapping buttons rather than pulling down menus. The screen keyboard is used as little as possible to complete tasks because it interrupts the flow of the tablet touch experience. Typing on the iPad is also a touch experience with their almost full size (in landscape mode) screen keyboards. The keyboards adapt to the task and changes depending on the operation being completed. This is because the keyboard is projected onto the screen and is totally software driven.

A pen or pointers device was not an option, a finger was the best pointing mechanism.

Apple fully committed to the finger as the pointing device. This innovation has many implications for tablet computing. Apple has developed it's sophisticated Multi-Touch technology and it's patented and proprietary and it works very well. Multi-Touch combines two technologies to accomplish the magic you experience when using a multi-touch device. (1) A glass multi-touch display with over 1,000 sensors that detect finger capacitance. (2) Sophisticated software that analyzes the data from the touches on the screen and converts them into gestures that can be interpreted by the iPad. Only Apple has this technology and it is only a matter of time before it is copied by the competitors. In the interim, Apple is the market leader and has the innovation advantage that significantly puts them ahead of any of the competitors

Implications: Apple is the market leader with touch technology so the implication of this is clear-- Apple will be offering the best touch user experience available on the market today. This will propel their iPad product forward because the technology works. Mutli-touch is well thought through, proven on the iPhone, and has the intuitiveness that makes using their touch devices an absolute dream.

Because there is no pen or input device required, the iPad will be much more usable. A finger is always available and is attached to your body so there is no pointing device to lose. This is the advantage of multi-touch. It is intuitive to point rather than having to stop, pick up a pointing device. The experience is taken further by Apple's gesture sensing software that maps finger movements with animations on the display. This smooth and intuitive connection between the real world and the digital world makes iPhone and iPad flow seamlessly with the movements of the person using the device.

iPad

The iPad was announced by Apple on Jan 27 2010. The product is revolutionary and will change the face of tablet computing. It marks a new class of product that is sandwiched between the Smartphone and the Laptop and opens new opportunities for application development and mobile services. This article explores the implication of the iPad's existence.
 

Apple made a surprise announcement on January 27 2010 to launch of the new Tablet called the iPad. All the product details are available on the Apple site so I won't be spending time in this article reviewing the specifications. Click here to read more on the Apple site.

Cellphone network (3G) and Wi-Fi connectivity were both required so the device had the freedom to be connected everywhere.

Apple has made the iPad not just a Wi-Fi device but there is an option to buy the device with an integrated 3G cellular network radio. The 3G connectivity is an option, available for a premium, but this is one of the first tablet devices with 3G integrated into it. This positions the iPad to compete with the iPhone in some areas such as app usage, data and email tasks etc. The iPad will not be a cellphone, although if Skypes supports the iPad there are voice options that will evolve for the iPad over time.

Implications: By making the iPad a 3G device, Apple has ensured that the iPad can be constantly connected anywhere. This has massive implications for the device and tablets. Once a tablet is constantly connected to a very fast network the device becomes highly real-time in the tasks it can accomplish. The iPad can replace your laptop for email and productivity tasks with the iWork software product and integrated email and calendaring applications. The business market can use an iPad with a 3G network to work throughout the day and this introduces new ways to conduct your work throughout the day.

The iPad becomes a portable entertainment device that is always connected. YouTube, iTunes, Internet radio and any digital media that is on the Internet becomes instantly at your fingertips. This has huge implications for broadcasting. The iPad is a broadcasting hub device that can tune into all types of broadcast Internet content.

The device has a broad range of mobile apps.

iPad Apps

Apple has the iPhone app store. There are thousands of iPhone apps already written. Apple ensured that all these Apps can run, without modification, on the iPad. The iPad uses pixel doubling technology to expand the screen size of the apps to the higher resolution and larger iPad display. The iPad has a SDK to allow developers to create applications specifically for the iPad. Over time there will be wealth of new applications for the iPad. By making iPhone apps available for the iPad, at launch, the device will have a range of useful software to draw upon. Apple will allow users to install apps they already purchased for their iPhone on their iPad without having to repurchase the software.

App Store

Implications: Any new device category needs software to attract users. Apple will launch with a suite of applications and provide access to iPhone apps. This positions the iPad as device that has a large software base to draw upon that will attract customers. The iPad SDK is available today and this will fuel the developer frenzy that will take place over the next few months. A robust and active developer community is crucial to the success of any new mobile device. Apple has built the strategy that will ensure this will happen and will significantly contribute to the success of the iPad.

The tablet needed to become a fully functional eBook reader device. A simple way to download and buy these eBooks was imperative.

Amazon Kindle

Amazon pioneered eBooks with the Kindle. Steve Jobs even commended Amazon for their advancements in this area, putting up a screenshot of the Kindle in the Keynotes presentation. In some ways this was strategic because the Kindle does not have the visual appeal of the iPad and resembles a device from the early 2000s with it's drab enclosure and black and white display.

By some estimates, Amazon sold as many as two million Kindles last year, giving it an e-book market share in the U.S. of almost 60 per cent.

Amazon is clearly enjoying Kindle's current dominance in the growing e-book sphere. But this week's announcement by Apple of its iPad tablet device raised immediate debate over whether it would be a "Kindle killer."

 

iPad eBook

Apple has a colour high resolution display and the iPad has a wealth of other capabilities beyond being a dedicated eBook reader. The touch experience offered by the iPad allows pages to be turned intuitively using your finger. The integrated iBook store offers immediate, fast, one-click access to a complete library of eBooks that can be downloaded and read immediately. The demo at the Keynote address by Steve Jobs demonstrated clearly the amazingly simple, clean, fast, intuitive eBook purchasing experience from the iBook store.

Implications: The implications of the iPad for eBook purchasing is clear. The iPad offers the best eBook experience and the easiest purchasing process available on the market today. Combine this with Apple's expertise and experience with iTunes music selling, and you can clearly see that Apple is poised to become the dominant eBook source for the 2010s. Amazon's Kindle will remain, however, the Kindle will need to evolve significantly to compete with the iPad. The iPad is lightyears ahead of the Kindle and the level of polish and sophistication the iPad offers will eclipse the Kindle rapidly.

 

Battery life is crucial - 10 hours was the battery life Apple was able to achieve with their advanced battery and microprocessor technology.

The iPad boasts a new custom built microprocessor by Apple-- 1GHz Apple A4 custom-designed, high-performance, low-power system-on-a-chip. Combine this with advanced lithium-polymer battery technology, the iPad offers 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi-Fi, watching video, or listening to music. The battery life with 3G enabled is not provided by Apple. I am guessing this will have an impact on battery life but more information is required before the battery life of the iPad with 3G is known.

Implications: Tablets need to offer great performance and long battery life to really succeed. A tablet is a mobile digital notepad and will be carried around all day, because it is light weight and very capable. If the battery life is short then the device will cease to become useful or viable. Plugging in a tablet defeats the purpose of it's portability.

Click here for the exact technical specs from Apple.

Apple designed the iPad from the ground up with battery life and performance in mind. It achieved that delicate balance of battery life and performance using proprietary technologies that they developed specifically for the iPad. This is an impressive engineering feat. The iPad is device that can operate throughout a work day and beyond and this will position the iPad as a laptop replacement.

Animation, transitions, and visual effects matter. These create a natural and fluid experience when using the device.

The iPad offers a fluid, intuitive, tactile user experience that connects the user to the device in a natural and comfortable relationship. Apple understands the importance of design and the power of a fluid user experience. The screen transitions, animation effects, and visual cues built into the iPad OS are critical to the connection the user feels with the device. Apple extended it's research and development for the iPhone and built upon this to create the iPad user experience.

The shape of the device and the feel of the materials are also a crucial element in the user experience. The glass display is easy to clean and smooth to the touch. The curved enclosure fits naturally into your hands. The light weight makes it easy to hold for long periods of time.

Implications: Apple understands the power of the user experience when using a device. They learned a lot from the iPhone and the fluid, intuitive, and entertaining user experience created by Apple for the iPad will be a major factor in the popularity of the device. People like to enjoy interacting with Apple technology because they pay close attention to the power of the user experience. No other mobile device will have the user experience the iPad offers at launch. The competitors will catch up but the iPad pushes the envelop of the tablet user experience to a whole new level. This will be a significant factor that will drive the sales that the iPad will achieve.

iPad Dimensions

Categories

Trends | Opinion Pieces