Jorge Espinel / June 2, 2010
This past Monday, Apple announced that they had sold two million iPads worldwide in less than 2 months. I am not surprised. When the device first came out, many tech reviewers were disappointed that it did not include many of the features of the iPhone, such as a camera or USB port. Others complained that it was too big to fit in a pocket. Many skeptics also questioned the iPad’s ability to succeed in the niche between the iPhone/iPod Touch and a laptop.
My reaction was a bit different. For me, an iPod Touch with a bigger screen was an instant winner. My thinking was the result primarily of the dominant role the iPod Touch had on my media consumption behavior. It is the superiority of the iPad experience relative to laptops and netbooks, however, that makes this device a game-changer.
In the past, I have discussed how I enjoy watching TV shows/movies, listening to radio, and browsing on the Touch. This device had become my main media consumption companion. While I enjoy watching TV, I constantly found myself multi-tasking with the Touch. The TV had increasingly become simple wallpaper. I believe it is the highly personal nature of the Touch experience, which has led me to make it a key part of my daily routine. The Touch was with me before going to sleep, right after I woke up, at the gym, when traveling in trains and planes, and even at the pool during vacation. Over the past two months, since the arrival of the iPad, all these behaviors have intensified. Needless to say, the multi-tasking update will likely increase my usage even more dramatically.
I expected this to happen. However, what I did not expect was how quickly the iPad was going to make my home laptop obsolete at home and how much less I would be using the one at work. In advance of the launch, people questioned whether or not the iPad would replace laptops. After two months of iPad joy, I would say that the right question is why many users would need a laptop if they have an iPad? The iPad surpasses the laptop experience for numerous use cases. The iPad offers an instant on. It does not crash. It works like an iPod with no instructions required. Its battery life is long enough that it does not require to be plugged into an outlet. More importantly, it does not burn one’s legs when lying on the couch. For many users, the iPad will come to replace laptops in the home.
It has been said that the iPad is a great “consumption” device but not a great “input” device. I expect that forthcoming iPad apps will challenge that assertion over time. I have found that buying airline tickets, booking hotels, making restaurant reservations, and shopping are use cases in which the iPad can put up a great fight, if not beat a PC outright. Just as the iPhone app universe has drastically improved the iPhone experience, new iPad apps will provide a similar boost. We need to remember that we are still in the early stages of the iPad application development cycle. Most developers had taken a wait and see attitude prior to the launch. It is now clear to developers that this platform is here to stay, and we should expect an avalanche of iPad apps.
The most liberating aspect of the iPad experience is the versatility of the device. It fits well everywhere. It gives you a glimpse of the kitchen of the future when lying opened to Epicurious on the counter. It seems made to measure when lying on my nightstand playing Stitcher or on top of the treadmill playing a TV show. It also has proven a good companion during meetings opened to Alley Insider, AllThingsD and Pulse, and during my subway ride when I can read The Wall Street Journal.
The iPad will enable a new series of experiences, which will reshape our ecosystem of devices and media products. Laptops will have to redefine their value. TVs will have to offer more flexible experiences. Magazines will rethink their experiences (some have already begun to do so). Video providers will likely experiment with new types of experiences (e.g., real-time, instant on demand, shorter form, etc). True multi-media experiences will likely become the norm. Consumers will increasingly seek video, text and audio solutions (NPR app offers an early example).
It is incredible the level of innovation that a small change like adding a larger screen to an iPod/iPhone will likely generate.