So I was completely wrong about the iPad sporting a nifty ZUI. Reading some of the “expert” commentary regarding the newly announced Apple tablet, it appears that there is a great deal of disappointment in the device due in large part to a seeming lack of innovative technology. Steve Jobs didn’t convince a lot of folks about the need for the iPad – he positioned it as being better at a variety of things, but I believe people were wanting it to be great for at least one thing, and it’s not clear yet if it is (or will be).
That being said, I think the potential is there with the tablet, but that a lot will depend on the user experience (no surprise there) and how Apple improves the product over time (both through software updates and hardware enhancements). My biggest disappointment is that there is no camera – it seems a little bewildering that Apple would push out such a device without the capability for video chat and conferencing, not to mention the use of a camera for recording presentations and other imaginative uses. Otherwise, I’m actually enthused about the device, if the user experience lives up to expectations. Beyond the cool factor, a few things stand out as important:
* Apple has managed to work a carrier deal that doesn’t lock you into a contract. Sure, it’s AT&T, but I’ll take AT&T without a contract over anyone else if they are going to require me to be locked in. At least for now.
* eBooks – Yes, the books are priced higher than Amazon, but still in the paperback price range. The important thing here, I think, is that Apple is supporting the ePub format. While it remains to be seen if they allow other ePub content to be uploaded to the device (using music on iTunes as a precedent, I’d guess they will), this is a win for consumers and for libraries. I believe the integration of the iBook application and bookstore into the device itself is enough advantage for Apple that they do not have to look at locking users into a proprietary format as well.
* With the iPhone and iTouch, Apple found success in building an integrated function device. The leap they are taking with the iPad is that they can replicate that success with a different combination of functions. This isn’t a Kindle killer (or a Nook killer or a netbook killer); in fact, this isn’t really even about the hardware itself – the hardware is just the gateway to the real prize, and that’s the app / music / movie / eBook distribution channel, i.e. the App store. I’ve stated in the past that Amazon’s goal with the Kindle wasn’t to have the best eBook reader out there; it was to produce a good enough device to move the eBook industry forward and to allow Amazon to become the majority or sole provider of eBooks. In Apple’s case, I believe they do want to make the best device, and use their hardware as leverage to the real cash cow, the App / iTunes store. The most important announcement in yesterday’s Apple event wasn’t the iPad; it was the fact that in 18 months, over 3 Billion apps had been downloaded from the app store. Even if 3/4 of those are free apps (and I’m guessing the percentage isn’t quite that great), that’s still huge. That’s beyond huge, actually; it’s stunning.
* Finally, as much as many pundits expressed disappointment in regards to the iPad’s features, lack of innovation, name, etc., I’m still left with the feeling that people want this. They want this bad. Even if Apple doesn’t come out of the gate with it quite right, there is no one else out there who’s anywhere near as close.
So, my verdict? I’d love to have one, but I’m a gadget guy. That being said, even if I wasn’t, my money’s on Apple on this one.