Saturday, January 30, 2010

iPad scorecard and some thoughts

The iPad is finally out. If I look at my predictions of six months ago, I think I scored pretty high. I should start investing in the stock market or play the lotto ;-)

Things I got right:
  1. the name iPad. I had some doubts, but they actually picked the name I suspected in August. Too bad for the jokes, they might just add some color to its success (or lack thereof)
  2. built on the iPhone OS vs. Mac OS
  3. one button device
  4. price point "around $599, maybe even less". It starts at $499, which surprised many
  5. wi-fi and 3G, but with wi-fi more prevalent and 3G as an afterthought. Let's check back in a year and see how many bought the 3G models: I bet wi-fi will beat 3G by 80% vs. 20%
Things that surprised me:
  1. lack of webcamera. I can't believe it. It prevents me to give it to my mom, who is the perfect buyer for the device (but she can't live without videochat). I am so shocked that I think they will add it shortly (check the image on the right from the actual iPad, the address book app supports taking pictures...). Maybe even in the first release in March. A "one more thing" delayed joke
  2. the holder on the portrait side. If this is a video device, I just do not understand why I can't watch videos when the device is charging. I don't get it. May I repeat it: I don't get it. Still, it would not be a good reason not to buy the device
That said, the most interesting element of the entire iPad story is its positioning.

I thought "Kindle-killer" was the easiest one. Look at the New York Times demo they gave. Astonishing. The newspaper is so good looking, you want to throw away the paper for good. When they show the picture in the middle of the page becoming a video, you realize the Harry Potter newspaper is not far. This is the future of newspapers. The best of both worlds: a full page with articles, with the articles being alive.

Instead, they positioned it as "the best way to experience the web, email and photos". Books and newspapers are not mentioned in the tag line, not even video. Email is. Email??? Email???????? Email is dead, it is a relic in the enterprise. Social networks are the future of messaging. That is what kids do. Email is not a consumer feature anymore. The iPad is for consumers, right?

More: they talked about iWorks. Who do you think would work on a spreadsheet sitting on the couch? Anyone in the enterprise? Holding the device with one hand? Why? Why???

There is always a why. Steve Jobs knows the market better than anyone. Definitely better than me.

However, there have been times when I was right and he was wrong. When he positioned the web as the ultimate SDK for the iPhone, for example. I said "no way, developers won't go for it, not now, it is too early". He announced an SDK a few months later... A super U-turn. And the SDK is what made the iPhone the success it is. The App Store is what makes the difference today with other OSs. The super U-turn made the difference.

Or maybe he was not wrong. He knew it, but they were not ready with an SDK. He was just pretending there was no need because they could not deliver it.

What is clear is that he did not position the iPad against the Kindle. Probably because he believes that is just a niche. He positioned it against the netbooks. At the top of the netbooks price range, as Apple usually does.

Netbooks are not bought by you and me (unless you are a geek who needs two laptops). They are bought by people that have a desktop and need something to move around their data. Or that do not even have a desktop.

In that category:
  1. my daughter (7 years old). She loves my iPhone. She will prefer an iPad over a netbook a million times. She is the perfect user for it. It does everything she likes (browsing, watching pictures, gaming). And she does not have to sit on a chair to use it, which kids rarely like
  2. my mom (more than 60 years old). She loves my iPhone. Same as above, only that she cares about browsing, watching pictures, email and video Skype. The lack of the camera kills it, but as I wrote above, it is going away in no-time.
  3. my wife (less than 40 years old). She has a laptop and she would not give it up (it is a Mac, btw). However, what she does on that device is browsing, email, social networks, pictures and music, plus video Skype. She also reads books and the New Yorker. She has only one spreadsheet, which would be easily managed by the iPad. She won't buy one, until her laptop breaks. But when it does, she will be ready. She even bought a thing recently to be able to use her laptop on the couch. If you have that thing around in the house, it means you are also ready for the iPad
Look at the list above. It is a very large chunk of the population. The non-geek, non-enterprise crowd. It is not us (sorry, if you read this blog and you are an unemployed non-geek, you have some problems). It is them. The other 90%.

The iPad is a new paradigm of human-computer interaction. The desktop is gone. The folders are gone. The documents live inside the app. The device transforms itself in the object it becomes. It is a non-object. It is what you want it to be. One touch on an icon, it is a calculator. No folders, no files, just numbers as if you were holding a calculator. One touch and it is a notepad. One touch and it is a picture frame. It is the future of computing.

The iPad is the replacement of the home desktop computer.

Look at your parents staring at a computer. They can't do double-click. They will never master it. They do not like the mouse. Look at how they never really understood the folder metaphor. They are scared in front of the machine. Clicking with panic. Always at a distance. No love. Just need.

Now give them an iPad. No panic. No fears. They will touch everything. It is so easy. So fast. With my fingers! And when I am wrong, just one click at the one button and it is back home. Safely. A pleasure to use.

The rest is left for us geeks. The concept of operating systems, folders, Unix, everything we learned. Forget IT Managers for the home, it is going away (now we'll need network managers :-)

Bottom line: whatever pundits say, the iPad is going to be the start of a revolution. I have a feeling it won't sell in large quantities, but it is going to fill a niche after another. Those that want interactive books in color, then gadget freaks, then kids, then moms, then grandparents. Year after year, Apple will improve the device and make sure all the niches will be served.

The iPad is the future of computing for the masses, as the iPhone has pushed the mobile computing model to what it is today. Thanks to the iPhone, 66% of phones sold by Verizon last quarter were smartphones (not even one iPhone). The iPhone showed the world what people could do with a small tablet with one button, connected to the mobile network outside the home. The iPad is going to do the same, inside your house.

Trust me, I am good at playing the lotto.