Apple iPad: The Best iPod Touch Available

I have a weakness. I like to think big. And when we heard so many juicy rumors about the Apple tablet device, now named the iPad, I knew that with Steve Jobs at the helm, I could afford to think big. So big did I think, that I suggested the iPad should take media consumption to the next level and create an entirely new category of device.

At first, Jobs appeared ready to confirm my suspicions. He said seductive things like, "Everybody uses a laptop and or a smartphone. The question has arisen lately. Is there room for a third category in the middle?" I was sitting on the edge of my seat, ready to hear Jobs demonstrate that new category of device. But he didn't.

Instead, what Apple debuted today was a very nice upgrade to the iPod Touch.

Don't get me wrong. I love the iPod Touch and I was this close to getting one for myself. Now that the iPad has arrived, I can finally get one, the new, big one. But it's not a new category of device. It doesn't really revolutionize the 5-6 hours of media we consume the way it could have. It doesn't even send Amazon's Kindle running to the hills for cover. In fact, the competitor likely to take the biggest hit from the arrival of the iPad is Apple, in the form of fewer iPod Touches sold and fewer MacBook Airs sold.

In the end, no innovations in user experience have been offered that will take that media experience to the next level for consumers. With no integrated social media for sharing photos, recommending books, and sharing home video, the iPad misses a big piece of what makes media so powerful. And with no new source of video content or no innovative business model for delivering any type of content, including books, it’s hard to see the 6 million people who intended to buy a Kindle or the Sony reader this year won’t go ahead and buy it. And netbook buyers will largely stay on their $200 course. 
 
Sure, there are minor pluses and minuses to hammer out -- battery life is better than expected, keyboard dock is genuinely cool, hands-on gaming apps rock, at the same time, however, the lack of an SD card slot, even the lack of a USB port (you have to have an adapter!), no camera option, no HDTV dock, all suggest that Apple stayed in its comfort zone on this one. Expect at least 2 million to sell in the US before the end of 2010, no more than 3 million.

As far as its category ambitions, by relying on the App Store as the single most important draw of the device besides its attractiveness and large size, the iPod Touch is a significant step toward finally making tablets respectable. But making tablets respectable should have been the least of Apple’s ambitions. It had (and still has) the opportunity to create a new media experience in consumers’ lives. As it stands, a quick, well-structured response from Amazon in the next version of Kindle could easily be a contender here. 

 

That’s why my most withering response is this: the iPad is priced lower than expected, because it is less revolutionary than expected. In answer to the rhetorical question Jobs offered in summary, "Do we have what it takes to establish a third category of products?" Answer: Yes, but you left some of it home.

Comments

re: Apple iPad: The Best iPod Touch Available

I agree that the iPad isn't "complete" yet. It's cool, and it will be exceptional for some applications (sales/marketing, eHealth, etc.) but version 2 of the iPad will be the real killer - when those missing pieces are added.

re: Apple iPad: The Best iPod Touch Available

I am not sure what you expected in terms of innovation, but I think that it is predominantly the software that will test how revolutionary the iPad truly is.

I do not really understand what is it that suggest that it is somehow unfit for SM - isn't that more a function of the software, and predominantly apps, than the hardware? I think they do have a good business model for delivering books - it may not kill the physical book, but I don't think that is truly a measurement of success.

re: Apple iPad: The Best iPod Touch Available

Heard on NPR this morning:

"For example, imagine you are in Paris with the family. You want to send photos to grandma back in New Jersey. McQuivey was hoping Grandma could turn on her iPad and voila — there would be pictures."

Is that really an accurate representation of what you said?

re: Apple iPad: The Best iPod Touch Available

Some thoughts:
1 - I agree software will be the best way to deliver the experiences I'm hoping for from Apple. Though I did expect Apple would do some or much of the software innovation itself rather than leaving it all to the app store. For example, I think the only way to integrate media consumption and social networking is at the level of the OS, rather than having separate apps for those things.
2 - That is what I said on NPR, though it was part of a larger discussion about where personal media devices eventually get, this was not described as a reason not to buy an iPad. But it is a realistic scenario down the road, where your docked iPad taps directly into the online photos offered by your favorite friends. In reporting -- broadcast especially -- I've learned to live with the way a long conversation gets edited.

re: Apple iPad: The Best iPod Touch Available

In part I agree with James. This is not the revolutionary third category. Yet. But it will become so.

Jobs and Apple will get the market to respond and build these market-driven features into the 2nd Gen iPad. Was the original (non 3G iPhone) a game changer?

Nope.

How many apps were did the App Store have in July 2007?

None. It wasn't even launched until July 2008.

But the original iPhone was a very talented child, who, under the right tutelage, became the 3GS.

The iPad will grow into the third category. I'm even looking forward to its adolescence.

re: Apple iPad: The Best iPod Touch Available

Marc, parse out my harsher comments and you'll see I agree with you. I said Apple (still) has what it takes to create this new category. And I think they'll gradually get there. But my disappointment came from the fact that this device isn't sufficient to start that revolution on its own and maybe it will take intelligent responses from others players like Amazon, Sony, and Google in order to push Apple to do the right thing and use its assets to finally make it happen.

re: Apple iPad: The Best iPod Touch Available

That technology does exist already on the iPad through applications. If Grandma belongs to facebook and you upload your photos onto facebook, then she can use the facebook app automatically to look at them. Or simply go to the facebook website. I do something similar with the iPhone right now.

I'm sure other social media apps will do similar things - why should Grandma have to belong to an Apple social media service to accomplish this?

re: Apple iPad: The Best iPod Touch Available

Andy, you can see why it's sometimes frustrating to have a minor quote from a larger discussion elevated to the level of soundbite, because contrary to what the quote suggested, I agree completely with your assessment of how this can already be done today. However, the picture I was painting was one in which Apple does all of this for you: Grandma doesn't have to belong to Facebook and you don't have to upload photos to Facebook. Instead, Grandma's device has automatic permission to pull pictures from your device without anyone logging into or uploading anything. That doesn't even have to be an Apple social media service (heaven knows we don't need another one), but Apple can provide the elegant experience that automates the synchronization and delivery of your media assets through whatever logins or social media relationships you currently have. If that helps.