Beyond iPad Yadda Yadda

The iPad signals a fundamental change in software -- and you, as CEO, should know about it.

You're going to hear a lot of conflicting babble about what Apple's new device means. Most of the talk will be about iPad's impact on the media world...death of The New York Times, blah, blah, the future of movies and books, blah, blah, will Verizon offer their network, blah, blah. You may be tempted to tune it all out. 

Don't. Because the iPad has meaning for you and your business.

Your company runs on software. Whether it's the word processor you use to write memos, or your factory's supply chain software, or your customer Web site, your company wouldn't last for 17 minutes without the stuff. 

iPad signals the future of software. There are two old software models. The first is where the software runs on your laptop -- this is the Microsoft model embodied by Office. The second is the software as a service/cloud model with the software running on a server somewhere out on the Internet -- this is the Google and Salesforce.com model. I'm simplifying, but in the former, the software runs on a local device. In the latter, the software sits out on the network.

iPad (and the iPhone before it) elegantly combines the two models.  Software on a powerful device seamlessly (that's the key word) cooperates with services available out on the network. 

A hypothetical example would be a Wal-Mart store manager using the iPad to design shelf space. "Hey, I think I'll put the DVD players next to the DVDs..." (swipe with finger on the iPad and change the location of DVD players on a map of the store). The software goes out onto the network, accesses Wal-Mart's database of shelving best practices, and comes back with a message: "No, we've tried that before, and it confused customers and lowered the sales of DVD players by 22% -- a better location would be over here..." -- a section of the store map on the iPad lights up over by the flat screen TVs.

On the iPad you don't know or care where the software is running -- the experience is quick, easy, intuitive. And it doesn't depend on the antiquated browser model -- the Wal-Mart application is running over the Internet, but it's not Web browser-based. The Web was really about shuffling pages, not running software.

What should you do? Nothing substantive at the moment. But as CEO, you should be aware of the possibilities that the iPad is presenting you -- to change how software works within your company and to change the way your customers will connect to your company (Hyundai is already pursuing the latter). The first could lower cost and promote efficiency; the second could increase revenue.

Actually, there is something you should do. I would go out and buy three iPads (get the ones with 3G networking and lots of memory). Keep one for you to experiment with. Give the second one to your CIO. And give the third to your head of application development. Use them for four or five months. When September comes around, sit down with your executives and ask a simple question: "Can we use this device to improve our business?"

Forrester has also analyzed the iPad for Consumer Product Strategy Professionals -- you can check it out here

Comments

All digital information, not just apps, becomes local and online

The iPad is another proof point in an emerging shift from data and apps on devices, to having data and apps hosted as services and distributed to the right device, place, and context for seamless, intuitive use with a local application. I called this idea the Personal Cloud and published it here:
http://www.forrester.com/rb/Research/personal_cloud/q/id/54839/t/2

... a disposable device for local info?

Frank, I read your research. As unfortunately the concept of the CLOUD is as clear and transparent as its natural namesake, we can call anything we want a cloud. Is Facebook now a 'cloud' application? Then every website is one? I thought it was meant as a computing facility that would host my application remotely and distributed and assign resources to it as needed. Now we have finally a concept that will not become obsolete because we can expand its meaning endlessly. This buzzword frenzy is getting more silly by the day.

I am not necessarily disagreeing with you about what the user can get from this future but I am wondering about how it will play out technically. I propose that the device will become the CLOUD integrator and not some service provider. The user will eventually want more control of his own data and not less. While he may use some service provider to back up his data he wants integration of all his information in HIS defined way and not some other way. Yes, data integration of all the sites will be the key but it will be local on my device and not as now allowing all the sites to link up and use MY information for THEIR purposes. Because when that happens all the remote wiping is of no benefit. If someone gets into your cloud ... your TOAST!

One thing CEOs should do

I completely agree that CEOs should all get an iPad for themselves, just to be aware of this technology and get at least a little familiar with it. But, there is one other thing they should do immediately. Look at their own customer-facing Web sites to see if/how they work on the iPad. Big media companies are ahead of the curve on this, but other companies shouldn't get too far behind.

Nix Cloud Computing. App Stores are the future!

George, we absolutely agree. I'm glad to hear that. I said exactly the same thing at my last keynote. But I am taking it a bit further and propose that cloud computing will never be as dominant as it is proposed now. That's what I wrote on my http://www.real-world-process.com blog a month ago:

"Therefore, it is the customer ownership through the iTunes Store that is Appleā€™s dominance and not the devices as such. The compatibility of the apps from the iPhone gives the iPad the largest library of applications a device ever had at its launch. The concept of the AppStore is simply genius. I have been asking for something like that for ages from Microsoft and IBM. The concept of the locked-down AppStore that links the software developer securely with the user, will change the software world! ... That concept ensures that there are no malicous apps and no viruses. More than anything does the concept ensure that every licence sold is paid for. There is no further intermediary. There is no media to be created. The user can get much more direct updates and bug-fixes. The development and testing environment is by a magnitude easier to use than any other mobile device. Therefore software can be much cheaper than in any other environment or infrastructure! ... AppStores are the future! Nix Cloud computing! Everyone will have his own application after all."

What does that mean for businesses? A lot! But it is not the end, because neither cloud computing nor AppStores empower the user with peer-to-peer collaboration and user defined functionality. That is where I the see the next necessary step and it is the core concept of the Papyrus Platform that I conceived in 1997 and first installed in 2001. The Papyrus model to distribute applications to users from a central repository provides what the AppStore does for consumers for business. In difference to Apple, Papyrus runs on all major PC and server operating systems and includes mobiles such as iPhone, Symbian and Windows Mobile.

One last thought: Apple's stuff is neither OPEN nor STANDARD. It just proves my point that true innovation is held back by those. Later, once the innovation is accepted, it may become a standard in itself or others copy the concepts to standardize it.

App Store

I agree with your statement about the strength of the App Store. There is one aspect of Apple approach that is very difficult for a software develop. It is very difficult to have a successful beta test of the product due to the difficulty in distributing software prior to having it in the App Store. I wish Apple would add an aspect to the store that would be allocated to beta or early release software. For the iPad launch we will find that much of the software is buggy due to difference between the hardware and the simulator. It would be nice to be able to warn users of the fact that the software is early release and needs further testing. Apple doesn't really provide for this capability and it is left to the developer to hold very small beta tests prior to going into launch.

Overall I love the concept of the App store for all the reason you mentioned. I am simply stating it could be better if Apple would focus on simplifying the developer experience like they have the user experience.