The iPad is set to revolutionize how we interact with multimedia content and computers. There are a number of reasons that make the hardware and software standout. First and foremost, it is affordable cutting-edge technology. The $499 price point means that it is not out of reach for average consumers who are interested in an updated “all-in-one” computing device. All 9.7 inches of the screen are multi-touch, which will allow software developers to create very interactive applications. Star Trek, Avatar, and other science fiction movie computer interfaces can finally be realized on a large multi-touch screen. The device is connected, which allows the consumer to use it anywhere. Lastly, the device will provide the ultimate responsive user experience.
Home Entertainment Revolution
Apple now has the ability to revolutionize the home entertainment market. They are provided a multi-media portal, which will change the way we use our TV’s, computers, and music players. Imagine controlling a TV from the couch without attaching any wires. A user might want to watch “Batman Begins” on their 42” HDTV. A few touches will open iTunes and start the movie. I mentioned the TV, how does that fit into the picture? The movie streams wirelessly in HD from the couch to the 42” TV. Gone are all the cables, remotes, and hassles. Don’t bother with power cable, since the device will play content for 10 hours straight. The entertainment cabinet can be cleaned out. Throw out the VCR, CD player, DVD player, Blue-Ray player, cable TV, satellite TV, and digital antennas because they are not needed. Apple will be the one stop remote control into all media content and it will be seamless to use and control.
A few years back, in 2007, Amazon set out to take over the digital books arena. They did a pretty good job at providing access to books, but that is about all they did. The Kindle DX costs $489 and is just a digital book reader. It has limited processing power and storage space. The main attraction is the e-ink technology that is supposed to be easier to read. Overall, the device is nice, but is very limited in the target audience and lacks multi-media capabilities like an iPhone. Apple worked hard to set the price point of the iPad as close as possible to the Kindle, because they are directly competing with Kindle’s e-book market. For $10 more one can get a fully color display that can play videos, music, games, display e-books, and run applications. Apple did a wonderful job in selecting a set of features that could be combined for a relatively low price point. The device is slightly more expensive than other eBook readers and net books, but not overly expensive.
Large Multi-Touch Screen
For the longest time computers were something that required skill to use. However, this learning steep learning curve is almost no longer the case with the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. The iPhone revolution brought capacitive multi-touch screens to the public. In English this means that a user just touches, not “presses,” the screen to perform actions. iPad is riding on that revolution wake and it is taking it step further by increasing the size of the screen. This technology is not foreign; it is mainstream and it is here to stay because it works. If a user knows how to use an iPhone or a laptop track pad then the transition is smooth. The touch screen is key, because it allows people to interact with a device just like they might interact with a microwave or a washing machine. A user physically touches, taps, and slides controls around that directly mirror the physical world. The iPad is a natural user interface and it is what most people what, but do not know how to ask for.
Software is Key
The main attraction with any working piece of hardware is software. People want to use a piece of hardware that is customizable. At any given point the device can assume different roles, because it was built to be extensible. In one instant it is an email program, movie player, music player, and then an entire college library. Apple has created a platform that provides many inputs and outputs that software developers can hook into to provide new and novel user experiences. The software development kit (SDK) has given developers direct access to technology that was locked down or too expensive to use. Developers can use a digital compass, accelerometer, multi-touch screen, microphone, and motion sensors to interact with a user in astonishing ways.
The iPhone provided the all-in-one experience because it can double as a music player, movie player, email program, Internet browser, and eBook reader. It was small, but it had the ability to execute each of those tasks. It has those abilities because of the Wi-Fi and 3G data connections. These connections make it possible to see content beyond the walls of a single hard drive. It provides a much richer experience to user. The iPad takes these same tasks and now makes it better by providing a bigger experience. Users can use these connections in a larger form factor and can be more productive. For most users a simple Wi-Fi connection will be all they need from the couch in the living room. Some users might be active and on the go, so they will need a 3G wireless connection. Apple has realized this connection issues and separated both technologies to reach different consumers needs. Users can get the Wi-Fi by itself, or combine Wi-Fi and 3G if they need to always have a connection the the internet.
Users want fast responsive devices, not sluggish devices. A lot of users complain that they cannot run multiple applications (multi-tasking) on the iPhone, but what they do not realize is what they have to give up for multiple applications. Running anything in parallel on a mobile device means that it is dividing computing resources and power among applications that are invisible in the background. These resource hogs will slow a device down and drain a battery.
Traditional multi-tasking is not what users want. Apple supports multi-tasking, but only to first party applications. In restricting access, Apple has complete control of the user experience. Third-party multi-tasking is not supported for a few reasons.
- Window’s Task Manager is a power user feature that is unnecessarily complicated. On a Windows Mobile 6.x device, task manager is a terrible experience. For example, pressing the ‘X’ on an application is not guaranteed to close the application. The button may only minimize the application, in which case it is still using computing resources and draining the battery. The ability to manage open applications is a power user feature on a mobile device and should be hidden from a typical user.
- What is the difference between running an application in the background and running an application one at a time if the transition from one application to the next is fast and seamless? Does the experience have to differ solely from a technicality? iPhone applications can save state from the last thing they were doing when they are closed. For example, if a user is composing an email about a trip on an iPad. They need weather information and decide to check the weather with the following steps.
- Press the home button.
- Touch the weather application.
- Press the home button.
- Touch the email application.
- Resume composing the email with the updated weather knowledge.
- Running applications in the background allows companies to directly compete with Apples multimedia business. iTunes is one of the few applications like Mail and Messages that run in the background. A user can play music through iTunes while using different applications. If a user could use Pandora for music in the background, then they would have a smaller reason to stay on the iTunes platform. I do not see Apple changing this policy, since it is not in their best interest.
The iPad will simplify the experience to download new movies, games, music, books, and utility applications. There is no doubt in my mind that Apple will continue to innovate on this new iPad platform to further simplify and connect the multimedia experience in every persons home. The iPad is magic and just works.