Many reporters, analysts and industry luminaries have already commented on the upcoming tablet. The iPad has finally arrived and I have decided to add my comments to the millions that already exist. I must say, I liked the name iSlate better, but what do I know about branding for a $50B business. First, there were many impressive statistics:
• Apple sold over 250 M iPods.
• Apple now has 284 stores and last quarter stores had 50m visitors.
• The app store has over 140k apps and over 3b apps have been downloaded.
• Apple has 125 million accounts with credit cards online
• Jobs states 75m people already know how to use the iPad because of how many iPhones and iPod touches Apple’s shipped
I won’t bore you with the stats. You can view them online here. http://www.apple.com/ipad/design/ Suffice it to say that the only thing that was missing was a camera. Reporters mentioned the lack of voice support. If it can run all the iphone apps, it should be able to run Skype. Voice …done. Not that I think this is a killer app but I was hoping for Skype video on the tablet. After the millions of articles, there were still surprises, such as:
• Apple decided to go with its own chip. The iPad sport the new Apple A4 chip. Apparently, Apple didn’t think Intel had the goods in terms of speed and battery life. If you want 10 hours of battery life, you weren’t going to use the existing technology.
• Prepaid monthly contract, cheap plans…and AT&T. Despite dashing our hopes of multi-carrier coverage, Apple signed an aggressive deal with AT&T. Given the amount of data this device could push, it is no surprise that a “comes with data plan” was not an option. However, the ability to buy with or without 3G and to get a prepaid plan is a win for consumers. Many complained about the Kindles lack of Wi-Fi because consumers don’t necessarily want to pay yet another bill. For others, prepaid with a cancel at any time policy provides the flexibility to turn it on when needed (i.e. such as for the month of March when I am constantly traveling)
• iWork for iPad. I consider iWork more of a laptop application but I can see the relevance if you want to bring one device. Also, the data entry keyboard in Numbers (the spreadsheet ap) is a great usability feature.
Not so surprising, but relevant:
• iBook store. During the CES demo of the pre-release version of the Skiff reader, its CEO said there are 65 million people who are classified as readers in the US. (A reader is a person that buys 6 books a year.) It appears that Apple has decided that the ebook market is worth getting a piece of after all but only as part of a broader media solution. What was pleasantly surprising was the choice of EPub, a standard open book format. Hey, maybe I will finally be able to download books from the library….coolness.
• Still missing flash. It looks like Apple and Google are aligned. Both companies want to advance to HTML5 and skip flash altogether.
• Iphone apps work seamlessly on the iPad. What’s the big deal? Well, it means that with a small change in SDKs, all iPhone developers are also iPad developers. This makes the iPhone O.S. a more strategic development platform, because developers have the opportunity to develop for devices of multiple screen sizes. Will Google’s Android follow? If so, it could be interesting. Perhaps Chrome will not be the Netbook OS of the future. And it looks like Netbooks as we know them will be changed forever.
Who wins? Who loses?
• Media companies. Print publications now have a platform that can encourage consumers to subscribe to new digital models. The iPad helps print media bridge the gap between static and interactive content. It also preserves the brand attributes of print media such as newspaper sections and typography. And like Amazon, Apple provides media companies with a frictionless commerce engine that will reach at least 125 million consumers. I’m not saying the business model will be without challenge but it is nice to see innovation in this space.
• Education. CEO Terry McGraw stated that McGraw Hill has 95 percent of its materials in e-book format. Unfortunately, Amazon’s Kindle DX made few inroads into the $5B plus textbook market. It looks like the iPad is poised to take advantage of this market.
• App developers. The new mobile app development market has allowed numerous small shops to quickly come to market. This new army of developers now gets a now have the opportunity to build for the iPhone and the iPad. It also extends the market opportunity beyond today’s standard $1.99 app price points.
• Carriers. Yes, we could say carriers will benefit from getting more customers to subscribe to data services and that is true. However, the reality of what they get are more bits following over already clogged wireless pipes. AT&T’s network was already swamped. I can’t imagine how poor my connectivity will be once the iPad is out. Also, I’m not clear everyone will opt for 3G. It makes great sense in a phone where you need the data for maps etc. but it is not a necessity for a tablet.
• Netbook markets. Netbooks started out with the goal of creating the category between a smartphone and a laptop. But Steve Jobs nailed it when he said “Netbooks aren’t better at anything”. While this market is meant to be a stripped down laptop, the definition of a connected device continues to evolve and Apple just moved the needle.
• eReaders and E Ink. I must’ve seen hundreds of e-Readers at CES in January. They all look like outdated paperweights as of today. Truthfully, they looked lame compared to the Kindle as well. While I still like the “book-like” feel of E Ink, I believe it will be hard for E Ink products to compete with richness of the backlight LCD. The iPad has also raise the bar for Amazon and should bury the Nook.
In summary, Apple now owns three digital storefronts: books, apps and media. Apple is well positioned to take advantage of a new era of digital content. Apple has yet to replace the set-top box but stay tuned.